WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — A former Florida escort convicted of trying to hire a hit man to murder her newlywed husband was sentenced Friday to 16 years in prison, perhaps ending a drawn-out case that drew notice for its startling videos and salacious characters.
Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley imposed the sentence on 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 have Michael Dippolito killed, telling an undercover detective she was "5,000 percent sure" she wanted her husband dead.
Kelley said Dippolito acted in a "cold and calculated manner."
"This particular crime was committed not in an unsophisticated way, but in a sophisticated way in a calculated fashion," Kelley said. "There was a plan put in place by Dalia Dippolito to kill Mike Dippolito." He said the evidence showed that Dalia Dippolito may have been manipulating two other men in her effort to kill her husband.
Neither Dippolito nor her family showed any reaction when the sentence was handed down.
A 2011 conviction and 20-year sentence had been 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.
Prosecutors believe she wanted control of the couple's town house and her husband's savings. The case gained national attention when Boynton Beach police video from the investigation went viral on the internet and was featured on the TV shows "Cops" and "20/20."
Boynton Beach's cooperation with "Cops" had been a key part of the defense, as Dippolito's attorneys argued detectives manipulated her and their investigation to play to the cameras. Kelley said that while "theater" should not be part of law enforcement and the investigation wasn't perfect, he believes the detectives saved Michael Dippolito's life.
"The evidence supports that Miss Dippolito wanted him killed," Kelley said. While prosecutors argued for a 30-year sentence, Kelley said he agreed with the previous judge's sentence but gave her four years credit for the eight years she spent on house arrest.
Michael Dippolito, a convicted conman, testified Friday that his wife's actions ruined his life. He said her unsubstantiated claims of spousal abuse as the reason for her actions still haunt him. He said that when he was arrested for stock trading fraud, he plead guilty and accepted his prison sentence and she should have done the same.
"People will say, 'You're really lucky to be alive,'" Michael Dippolito said. "I guess but I can't get to that because I had to deal with this nonsense for nine years," referring to the three trials. He testified he met his ex-wife in October 2008 when he hired her for sex, but they hit it off so well they were married in February. Within a month, he said, she was stealing money from him and trying to get his probation revoked by planting drugs in his truck and, he believes, spiked his ice tea with antifreeze in an attempt to kill him.
Prosecutor Craig Williams called Dippolito "a master manipulator" who needed to be imprisoned "to protect society."
"If she wants something, first-degree murder is not enough for her," Williams said. "She'll do whatever it takes."
Defense attorney Craig Rosenfeld unsuccessfully argued for probation, saying Dalia Dippolito had lived an "exemplary life" and she should not be judged by "the worst moment of her life." After the hearing, he said he respected Kelley's sentence but an appeal is planned.
Williams and co-prosecutor Laura Laurie argued during the latest trial that the evidence against Dippolito was overwhelming. They played a 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.
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.