WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — A former escort was convicted Friday of trying to hire a hit man to kill her newlywed husband to get control of his money and their town house in a case that was featured on the television show "Cops."
Dalia Dippolito teared up as she turned to look at her sobbing mother when the jury announced its verdict after deliberating for only an hour and a half. She faces up to 20 years in prison when sentenced July 21. Judge Glenn Kelley ordered her held without bail.
Dippolito, 34 and the mother of an infant son, later began sobbing as she sat handcuffed in a corner of the courtroom as bailiffs ordered spectators out. Paramedics were called to the courthouse after she had trouble breathing, but she was later taken to jail. She had been on house arrest for several years.
Her ex-husband, convicted conman Michael Dippolito, issued a statement saying he was "5,000 percent happy" with the verdict. He was referring to a secretly videotaped statement Dalia Dippolito made to an undercover detective posing as a hit man where she said she was "5,000 percent sure" she wanted him murdered.
"The jury could see through the Defense's lies and antics," he said.
Prosecutors Craig Williams and Laura Laurie declined comment. Their boss, Palm Beach State Attorney Dave Aronson, issued a statement saying, "We are pleased that the hard work and perseverance of our prosecutors and staff have led to justice." The three-man, three-woman jury also left without comment.
This was the third trial for Dippolito since her arrest in August 2009. A 2011 conviction and 20-year sentence were thrown out on appeal. A 2016 trial ended with a 3-3 hung jury.
Defense attorneys Brian Claypool and Craig Rosenfeld said they will appeal the verdict, saying jurors should not have heard secondhand allegations that Dippolito once tried to poison her husband.
"It is really hard for jurors to get beyond that and really look at the egregious police misconduct that took place," Claypool said.
The guilty verdict validated the prosecution's reversal in strategy. Last year, prosecutors focused heavily on the 23-minute video in which Dippolito tells 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 piece of their evidence, prosecutors went back to their 2011 strategy. They also called Michael Dippolito, 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 wife. He has said previously he met his wife when he hired her for sex. He soon divorced another woman and married her.
According to The Palm Beach Post, 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, and later a lawyer, to make her husband wrongly think he had completed probation, prosecutors said, adding that she hoped that if her husband stopped visiting his probation officer, he would be found in violation. 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.
Prosecutors also showed video of her interview with detectives at the police station after being made to believe her husband had been killed. She volunteered potential killers, including her husband's former crime partners, and denied knowing Jean when he was brought before her in handcuffs as the killer.
Claypool and Rosenfeld struck hard at the investigation, accusing the Boynton Beach police of playing to the "Cops" cameras in hopes of becoming famous, rather than doing a professional and thorough investigation. They criticized the department for posting on YouTube minutes after her arrest video of Dippolito being told falsely her husband was dead.
Former Boynton Beach Sgt. Frank Ranzie testified for the defense, saying that as a detective on the case, he had opposed "Cops" filming the investigation because cameras make people, including police officers, behave differently.
He also said his supervisors refused to delay a key meeting between Dippolito and their confidential informant, her sometimes-lover Mohammed Shihadeh, minutes before her rendezvous with Jean when Shihadeh's recording device failed. He called that a major gap in the investigation.