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Anthony DiPippo

Other Putnam County Cases with Official Misconduct
In November 1995, a hunter found the remains of 12-year-old Josette Wright in a wooded area of Putnam County, New York. Her mother had reported her missing on October 4, 1994, after she failed to return home the night before.

Detectives investigating the murder arrested a teenager named Dominic Neglia on unrelated drug charges. During questioning, detectives claimed that Neglia said a friend of his—18-year-old Anthony DiPippo—and several others were involved in the rape and murder of Wright.

Neglia, who later recanted his statement, implicated DiPippo, Andrew Krivak, Adam Wilson, Bill McGregor and DiPippo’s then-girlfriend, Denise Rose, in the crime.

In July 1996, DiPippo and Krivak were arrested on charges of murder and rape. They were convicted in separate trials in Putnam County Supreme Court in 1997, based largely on the testimony of Wilson, McGregor and Rose. They testified that they were in DiPippo’s van when Krivak and DiPippo picked up Wright, ostensibly to give her a ride, and instead raped and strangled her and then took her into a wooded area. Rose testified that they tied Wright’s hands in front of her.

DiPippo testified and denied any involvement in the crime.

On July 11, 1997, the jury convicted DiPippo of second-degree murder and rape and he was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. Krivak was also sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

Krivak’s conviction was upheld on appeal, but the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court vacated DiPippo’s conviction and ordered a new trial in 2011. The court held that DiPippo’s trial lawyer was ineffective because prior to DiPippo’s trial, he represented Howard Gombert on a rape charge. Gombert, according to evidence presented at an evidentiary hearing, was a suspect in Wright’s murder.

The attorney had been provided reports prior to DiPippo’s trial showing that a witness reported seeing Wright get into a car, driven by Gombert, at 4 p.m. on the day she was last seen. Police had dismantled the car, which belonged to Gombert’s girlfriend, but found no evidence that linked Gombert to the crime.

The appeals court noted that not only did DiPippo’s lawyer fail to reveal that he had previously represented Gombert in an unrelated criminal case, but the lawyer made no attempt to present any evidence pointing to Gombert as the real killer. The appeals court noted that the lawyer “did not conduct even a minimal investigation into Gombert.”

DiPippo went to trial a second time in the spring of 2012. Wilson and McGregor—DiPippo’s friends—recanted the testimony they gave at the first trial that they were present in the van when Krivak and DiPippo raped and killed Wright. McGregor and Wilson said detectives threatened to charge them with the murder if they did not implicate Krivak and DiPippo.

Rose again testified that she was present in the van and that DiPippo and Krivak raped and killed Wright.

The state’s forensic expert testified that Wright had been hog-tied with the rope – her hands and feet were bound together behind her back. The expert said that the skeleton was found face down and that when the flesh and organs deteriorated, the bones collapsed. Because of this, her hands appeared to be in front of her, when actually they were behind her. The expert said that the victim’s underwear was found near the head in a position that suggested the underwear had been shoved down her throat.

The defense argued that the forensic expert’s testimony contradicted Rose’s claim that Wright’s hands were tied in front of her body and suggested that police fed her that detail during her interrogation.

The defense sought to present testimony from Joseph Santoro, but the judge did not allow it. Santoro was incarcerated in Connecticut with Gombert, who was serving a sentence for rape. Santoro had provided a sworn affidavit saying that in April 2011, Gombert admitted that Putnam County police were “trying to get him for the killing of two girls” in Putnam County. One of the girls was Wright, but Gombert wasn’t worried about that case because “they already convicted some other suckers” for that crime.

Santoro said in his affidavit that Gombert told him that he had met Wright at his former girlfriend's house and was attracted to her. According to Santoro, Gombert said that the only way he could get Wright into his car was to ask her to babysit for his daughter. After that, Gombert said he had sex with her, but he had to “persuade her” because she did not want to have sex with him. Santoro also said Gombert made statements regarding a second missing girl, whose body he claimed would never be found. Santoro said he interpreted Gombert’s statements as boasts that Gombert had killed both girls. The defense also was barred from calling several women who were prepared to testify that they had been sexually molested by Gombert, and that he had tied them up and stuffed clothing in their mouths. One of the witnesses was the victim in the case that led to Gombert’s imprisonment in Connecticut.

On May 9, 2012, DiPippo was again convicted of second-degree murder and rape. Once more, he was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

In March 2016, the New York Court of Appeals reversed DiPippo’s convictions and ordered a new trial. Although the court said the evidence was "arguably overwhelming," the defense should have been allowed to present Santoro’s testimony about Gombert’s admissions as well as testimony from the women who said Gombert sexually assaulted them in a fashion similar to the attack on Wright.

DiPippo, represented by attorneys Mark Baker and Marc Agnifilo, went to trial a third time in September 2016. Rose again testified that she was present in the van when Krivak and DiPippo raped and killed Wright.

In addition to Santoro, the defense presented several other new witnesses:

Gennaro DeSimone, a mechanic who had performed work on cars owned by Krivak’s father, testified that at the time of the crime, the van that Rose said was at the scene of the crime was in fact parked at Krivak’s house with flat tires, no license plates, and was not operable.

Allyson Clokey testified that she saw Wright at the Danbury Mall on October 7, 1994—four days after Rose said the crime occurred. Lorraine McLoughlin, who had been one of Wright’s teachers, testified that she saw Wright on the Poughkeepsie mall on October 8—five days after Rose said the crime occurred.

The defense also presented evidence that during an interview with law enforcement prior to the third trial, Rose admitted she said the crime occurred on October 3 because the detective who was interrogating her told her that was the day that Wright was reported missing. In attacking Rose’s testimony, the defense noted that Rose also admitted that she had smoked crack cocaine more than 10,000 times and that she maintained an intimate relationship with DiPippo for several months after the murder.

Santoro testified about Gombert’s admissions to having killed Wright and another girl. Two women testified that Gombert raped them—one of whom was seven years old at the time.

Dominick Neglia, the youth who had initially implicated DiPippo and Krivak, recanted that statement, saying that at the time he was 16 years old and had never been arrested before. He said detectives repeatedly showed up at his school and his job and threatened him with prosecution for drug crimes. Neglia said, “I started with a small story and dug myself a grave.” He said that he thought if he told a big enough lie, the detectives would realize it was false and leave him alone.

On October 11, 2016, the jury acquitted DiPippo and he was released. After the verdict was announced, DiPippo embraced Jeffrey Deskovic, who DiPippo had sought out for support. Deskovic was wrongly convicted in 1990 of the rape and murder of a classmate when he was 17 years old. Deskovic had been coerced to falsely confess by Daniel Stephens, a Putnam County Sheriff's investigator who also was involved in the investigation of DiPippo. After Deskovic was exonerated in 2006, he founded The Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice, which fights wrongful convictions and assists the exonerated.

In August 2016, a few months before DiPippo’s acquittal, a legal team headed by Adele Bernhard, who oversees the Post-Conviction Innocence Clinic at New York Law School), filed a petition on behalf of Krivak seeking a new trial. The petition cited the evidence of Gombert’s involvement in the crime. The petition also cited Stephens, who administered a polygraph examination to Krivak and falsely told Krivak he had failed and that he should confess. Krivak claimed that his confession was false and coerced. The motion was denied in December 2016.

Stephens, the petition noted, was involved in similar scenario in 1990—five years earlier—when he interrogated Deskovic. After Stephens questioned him for hours and told him that he had failed the polygraph, Deskovic falsely confessed to killing his classmate. Deskovic was exonerated by DNA testing. In 2014, a federal court jury found that Stephens had fabricated evidence and coerced Deskovic’s false confession.

In October 2017, DiPippo filed a federal civil rights lawsuit seeking compensation. Separately, he received $2.9 million in compensation from the New York Court of Claims in 2018. In August 2020, Putnam County agreed to settle the federeral lawsuit for $12 million.

In May 2019, Krivak was granted a new trial.

In April 2021, Santoro was at the Putnam County jail on robbery and assault charges. When one of Krivak's lawyers, Oscar Michelen, met with him on April 23, for an interview in anticipation of Krivak's retrial, Santoro demanded a new truck, $100,000 and a Louis Vuitton bag within five days, as well as $1.5 million in an offshore bank account to give the same testimony that he gave in DiPippo's trial. He said that if he didn't get it, he said he would go to the prosecutors.

The FBI was notified and recorded a conversation between Michelen and Santoro's girlfriend, Melodie Montefusco, during which she said Santoro felt underappreciated and wanted to be compensated before helping Krivak. She said Santoro wanted $3.3 million and that the SUV and some of the initial $100,000 were for her.

On April 28, 2021, Santoro and Montefusco were charged with conspiracy and extortion. On September 10, Santoro pled guilty to extortion. He said his testimony about Gombert was true and that he was trying to get money by threatening to recant. Montefusco was still awaiting a resolution of the charges against her. Sentencing for Santoro was set for December 2021.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 11/5/2016
State:New York
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Rape
Reported Crime Date:1994
Sentence:25 to life
Age at the date of reported crime:18
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No