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United States v. Dipaolo

decided: December 10, 1987.


Defendants moved for a new trial and for a hearing on the motions on the basis of a witness recantation. Judge Thomas C. Platt, Jr., sitting by designation in the United States District Court for the Western District of New York, denied both motions. Defendants appealed. Held, (1) district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to grant a new trial where witness recantation was unpersuasive and unsworn, and (2) district court did not abuse its discretion in denying a hearing on the motions for a new trial. Affirmed.

Oakes, Cardamone, and Mahoney, Circuit Judges.

Author: Oakes

OAKES, Circuit Judge:

Nick DiPaolo and Edward Weather appeal from an order of the United States District Court for the Western District of New York, Thomas C. Platt, Jr., Judge, sitting by designation, denying their motions for a new trial pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 33 and for an order granting a hearing on those motions. DiPaolo and Weather argued to the district court and argue here that Joann Barone, a central prosecution witness at their trial for conspiracy and witness intimidation, had recanted her testimony and that the Government had withheld information favorable to the defendants. They contend that the trial judge abused his discretion in denying the motions for a new trial and in refusing to grant a hearing on the motions. We affirm.


The facts underlying the defendants' convictions and the significance of Joann Barone's testimony are set forth in detail in this court's opinion, United States v. DiPaolo, 804 F.2d 225 (2d Cir. 1986). We provide only a brief review here.

On April 19, 1984, a United States Postal Service contract carrier was hijacked and robbed. In late February 1985 Lucille Barone told two Rochester police officers, Donald Agnello and James MacNamara, that she had information about the robbery. She had met the two officers at the Princess Restaurant where she worked as a waitress and where they ate frequently. Soon thereafter, Nick DiPaolo, her boyfriend, as well as Edward Weather and Paul Snyder, began accusing her of providing information to the police about the postal truck robbery. The first instance occurred in mid- or late February at D.J.'s Lounge, a Rochester bar. DiPaolo told Barone that she could "get into big trouble by talking to the police so much." Weather told DiPaolo in front of Barone to "make sure she understands that [she] could get seriously hurt" if she were a police informant. Snyder told Barone that "this was not a joke." After this incident, Barone stressed to DiPaolo that she was not a police informant.

Barone continued to work at the Princess Restaurant and to talk with the two police officers. DiPaolo, Weather, and Snyder repeatedly warned her against being a police informant, using verbal threats and physical force. In late February or early March, DiPaolo confronted Barone in her home and said that "Mr. Weather and the Hell's Angels would not really appreciate [her] going around blabbing to the police" and that she "could get her legs broken." Barone knew that Weather was a member of the Hell's Angels and that Snyder and DiPaolo associated with members of the Hell's Angels. DiPaolo slapped Barone in the back of her head and said, "We're not kidding. This is no joke."

Several days later, when Barone was home alone, Snyder forced his way into her home, pushing the door open so that it hit her in the side of the face. He said that she was a "cop lover" and that she was not "taking their threats very well about talking to the police." He then raped her, after which he said that "next time he wouldn't be so nice."

During this time, Officer Agnello was meeting Barone on a regular basis attempting to persuade her to discuss the robbery with postal inspectors and to obtain protection for herself and her family. In late February he noticed marks and bruises on her face and neck. On the morning of March 22, 1985, BArone called Officer Agnello at approximately 1:00 a.m., soon after DiPaolo had left her home. She was very scared and crying. Officer Agnello drove Barone to the Ramada Inn Hotel where they discussed the possibility of police protection with several New York State police officers, Rochester police officers, and postal inspectors. Barone returned to her home at 4:00 a.m., with Officers Agnello and MacNamara. DiPaolo and Weather were standing in her kitchen. After they refused to leave the area, Weather and DiPaolo were arrested. On March 22, 1985, Barone and her children entered protective custody.

Later that day, DiPaolo confronted Carol Barone, Lucille's sister, at the Nortonian Nursing Home where she worked. Carol and her seven-year-old daughter, Christie, lived with Lucille and her children. DiPaolo said that he was looking for Lucille Barone but could not find her. He also said that he had gone to "see the kids at school but they weren't there." At trial, a friend of Carol Barone's testified that DiPaolo had never picked up the children from school. On March 23, Carol Barone and her daughter entered protective custody.

Joann Barone, Lucille's sister-in-law, was DiPaolo's next target. On April 15, 1985, Joann Barone was standing in her front yard with her two small children when a tan car pulled in front of the house. DiPaolo exited from the passenger side carrying a screwdriver. He struck Barone's face several times with the handle of the screwdriver. As he was beating her, DiPaolo told her to tell her husband, John Barone, and his brothers "to keep out of Lucille's business." He added that if she told anybody about the incident, he would return and hurt her children. Photographs of Joann's face after the assault were introduced in evidence. Joann Barone filled out and signed a police report wherein she described her assailant as a white male, twenty-five years old, dark complexion, heavy build, wearing jeans, a white T-shirt, and a black jacket. She noted that he had been a passenger in a tan car. Peter Palumbo, a close friend of DiPaolo, later testified that on April 15 he saw DiPaolo in the passenger's side of a tan car near Barone's house, wearing clothes matching the description given by Barone.

Four days later, on April 19, Joann Barone described the assault under oath before United States Magistrate David G. Larimer. On April 21, 1985, four days before DiPaolo's bail revocation hearing, Joann Barone was again assaulted while she was sitting on the porch with her children. The unknown male assailant told her "not to testify against Nick DiPaolo." Thereafter, Joann Barone and her children entered protective custody. She reiterated her testimony before Magistrate Larimer on October 18, 1985, and again during the trial of DiPaolo, Weather, and Snyder on October 23 and 24, 1985.

On October 25, 1985, DiPaolo, Weather, and Snyder were convicted of four felony counts involving conspiracy in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371 (1982) and witness intimidation in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512 (1982). DiPaolo was also convicted of criminal contempt in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 401 (1982). The defendants' convictions with respect to counts three and four of the indictment and DiPaolo's conviction for criminal contempt involved DiPaolo's April 15 assault on Joann Barone. After sentencing, they appealed. On May 23, 1986, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals heard ...

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