Cop Wrongfully Convicted
S. RICHARD BLASSBERG | Posted: Monday, July 18, 2011 5:00 pm
To the Editor:
Every police officer, every peace officer who carries a gun in New York State, whether on or off duty, must examine what has happened to Officer Richard DiGuglielmo at the hands of a self-promoting District Attorney, the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court, and the state Court of Appeals. If Officer DiGuglielmo’s actions, totally in compliance with the Police Manual, were, in fact, second-degree murder, then no armed peace officer should ever draw his weapon to save an unarmed civilian, and no killing in New York can ever be deemed self-defense.
The Chief-Leader (July 8 article) must be applauded for its accurate and unbiased reporting of one of the more outrageous miscarriages of justice in recent New York history, the politically motivated prosecution and conviction of New York City Transit Police Officer Richard DiGuglielmo. Officer DiGuglielmo saved his middle-aged father’s life from a metal-bat-wielding Charles Campbell, a 32-year-old White Plains Sanitation Worker, amateur boxer and body-builder with a substantial rap sheet including numerous instances of violent behavior, some against his own mother.
Campbell, who had responded with seething rage when DiGuglielmo’s father pasted a “No Parking” sticker on his car window, had come running back across the street, fists flying, from a pizza parlor known to be supplying illegal drugs.
Campbell did not expect off-duty Officer Richard DiGuglielmo, or his brother-in-law, Robert Errico, who were at the deli helping out the father, who was recovering from a recent heart attack, to come running out to defend him. After wrestling him to the ground, they unfortunately took Campbell at his word and let him up, believing he would get into his car and drive off. Instead, as Officer DiGuglielmo and Errico went back into the store, Campbell went to his trunk and pulled out a metal baseball bat, striking the elder DiGuglielmo in the leg with such force that one witness would testify, “It could be heard a block away.” He then struck his hand, breaking it. He was swinging for the father’s head when Officer DiGuglielmo fired “three shots to the center mass” as called for, under the circumstances, by the NYPD training manual.
The facts of the case have never been in dispute, only the Dobbs Ferry Police, and Westchester DA’s Office’s misconduct, engineered by Jeanine Pirro and ADA Patricia Murphy. Despite the fact that all three of the only actual eye-witnesses to the tragic altercation–two Cablevision workers and a Teacher patron of the deli–had told the police and media minutes after the shooting, “It was self-defense. He was about to crush the father’s head like a watermelon,” Murphy, upon learning that the deceased perpetrator was a black man, less than 20 minutes after arriving on the scene wrote “murder” in her notes, and Pirro went about labeling it a “bias crime.”
In short, the prosecution was a bogus, self-serving miscarriage of justice from the start. Officer Richard DiGuglielmo never had a chance. And neither did the NYPD investigators who went to Dobbs Ferry to determine if the incident had been a “clean shoot.” DA Pirro and 35-year-old Dobbs Ferry Police Chief George Longworth did everything in their power to obstruct their mandated investigation. Additionally, Longworth and his entire three-man Detective unit harassed and interrogated the three eyewitnesses for four days and nights, pulling them from their employment, treating them like suspects, until two of them gave in and changed their accounts.
Those coercive tactics, and even the fact that they had been repeatedly re-interviewed, were kept from the defense, and in turn from the jury, from October 1996 until 2008, when Judge Rory Bellantoni conducted an unprecedented eight-day 440.10 hearing, at which two of the three witnesses, Jimmy White and Michael Dillon, came forward and exposed the coercive tactics employed to get them to change their testimony.
In that fateful moment 15 years ago, there could be no doubt in Officer DiGuglielmo’s mind as to Charles Campbell’s violent intentions as he swung the bat at his father. He was a man so filled with anger that it had taken three men just to restrain him moments earlier, and he had already struck the elder man twice so hard, “It could be heard a block away.”
The moment every police officer prays he will never face had been thrust upon Richard DiGuglielmo by an enraged, violent perpetrator. And Officer DiGuglielmo was faithful to his 12 years of police experience and the Police Manual that called for “three rounds in center mass.”
Had there been no bat, there would have been no gun! Officer DiGuglielmo committed no crime late that October afternoon when he faithfully and lawfully performed his sworn duty preventing a violent perpetrator, armed with a metal baseball bat and boiling over with anger, from taking the life of an innocent, unarmed man who happened to be his father.
S. RICHARD BLASSBERG
Editor’s note: Mr. Blassberg, a retired Westchester County Probation Officer, is the author of “The Jeanine Machine,” a critical look at Jeanine Pirro’s tenure as Westchester DA.