WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — A former Florida escort convicted of trying to hire a hit man to murder her newlywed husband could get up to 30 years in prison when she is sentenced Friday, perhaps ending a drawn-out case that drew notice for its startling videos and salacious characters.
Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley is scheduled Friday to sentence Dalia Dippolito, who was convicted last month of solicitation of first-degree murder. She was recorded on video and audio in 2009 as she plotted to kill Michael Dippolito, telling an undercover detective she was “5,000 percent sure” she wanted her husband dead.
Prosecutors believe she wanted control of the couple’s town house and his savings. The case gained national attention when police video from the investigation went viral on the internet and it was featured on the TV shows “Cops” and “20/20.”
A 2011 conviction and 20-year sentence were thrown out on appeal. A retrial last fall ended with a 3-3 hung jury. This time, it took the six-member jury 90 minutes to convict Dippolito, 34, who had a child last year while under house arrest.
Typically, a defendant cannot be sentenced to more than the original sentence on a retrial because that would punish a defendant for winning an appeal. But prosecutor Craig Williams argued in court documents filed this week that Kelley, because he wasn’t the judge at the 2011 trial, can sentence Dippolito to the statutory maximum of 30 years if he finds the original judge was too lenient.
Dippolito’s actions “are the most ruthless, cruel, inhumane, heartless and deliberate of any case,” Williams wrote. Dippolito “has earned every second of a 30 year prison sentence.”
Lead defense attorney Brian Claypool said in court documents that Dippolito deserves, at most, a four-year sentence with credit for time served in jail and under house arrest. He said in a statement that Dippolito deserves leniency because Boynton Beach detectives railroaded her by playing to the “Cops” cameras in hopes of becoming famous. “Cops” was coincidentally in town when the case broke and turned it into a special episode. It’s the same argument he and co-defense attorney Craig Rosenfeld used during the last two trials.
“To give Dalia a hefty sentence and send her to jail for many years sends a message that it’s OK for police departments to break the rules and break the law and use contaminated evidence to get a conviction,” Claypool said. Her attorneys plan to appeal the conviction.
Using the same strategy that won the 2009 conviction Williams and co-prosecutor Laura Laurie told jurors during the latest trial not to be distracted by the police misconduct allegations and persuaded them that the evidence against Dippolito was overwhelming. During last year’s retrial, they focused heavily on the 23-minute video in which Dippolito told undercover officer Widy Jean she wanted her husband killed and agreed to pay $7,000. She also discussed various plots before Jean said he would kill her husband at the couple’s home, making it look like a botched burglary while she was at the gym.
This time, while the tape remained a key cog in their case, they also called Michael Dippolito, a convicted conman who testified that his then-wife stole $100,000 from him shortly after they got married in February 2009. He also said someone twice planted drugs in his SUV and called police, which could have landed him back in prison for violating his probation. He thinks it was his ex-wife. He has said he met his former wife in 2008 when he hired her for sex. He soon divorced another woman and married her.
Prosecutors also read for the jury X-rated text messages Dalia Dippolito exchanged with a now-deceased lover, Mike Stanley, in 2009 after she got married.
She had Stanley impersonate a doctor, to help her hide the $100,000 theft by pretending to be pregnant, and later a lawyer, to make her husband wrongly think he had completed probation, prosecutors said. She hoped that if her husband stopped visiting his probation officer, he would be found in violation and returned to prison. In one text message, she rejoiced after persuading her husband to put their town house in her name only; in another, she complained after learning she still couldn’t sell it without his signature.