It was a scene straight from a made-for-TV movie. Newlywed Dalia Dippolito comes home from working out at the gym to find crime scene tape around the townhouse she shares with her husband of six months Michael Dippolito. A team of Boynton Beach police officers were waiting for Dalia along with a camera crew for the TV show COPS. That’s when police break the news to Dippolito, her husband is dead, the victim of a murder-for-hire plot. In a video that went viral, Dippolito breaks down in hysterics in shock over her dead husband. In a matter of months, it appeared she went from a bride to a widow. But actually, Michael Dippolito was not dead. He was alive, waiting to confront his new wife at police headquarters. It turns out Dalia Dippolito was behind the murder-for-hire plot, according to prosecutors. The crime scene was staged and the video was part of an undercover sting. Investigators say Dalia Dippolito wanted her husband dead, and hired a hit man she promised more than $6,000 to murder Michael Dippolito. But the hit man was an undercover cop. The sting came about after a mystery informant came forward about the plot. Who? Dalia Dippolito’s close male friend, a man Michael Dippolito’s attorney suspected was having a romantic relationship with Dalia Dippolito.
After learning of her new husband’s death, Dalia Dippolito was taken straight to police headquarters still unaware cops were eying her as the mastermind of the unsuccessful murder plot. When investigators confronted her with the allegations and her husband, who was alive, she was arrested and eventually convicted at trial on one count of solicitation to commit first-degree murder. On June 17, 2011 Dalia Dippolito was sentenced to 20 years in prison. But Dippolito has not been behind bars, she’s been on house arrest, reportedly at her mother’s home, on a $500,000 appellate bond while she appeals her conviction to Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal. Dippolito is not permitted to leave the area and must request permission from a probation officer to go anywhere.
Why Dalia Dippolito Wants a New Trial
The center of Dalia Dippolito’s motion for a new trial involves a Boynton Beach police officer, Sergeant Frank Ranzie. Ranzie is the officer seen on the COPS video breaking the news to Dippolito that her husband, Michael Dippolito, is supposedly dead. Ranzie was a key witness at Dippolito’s trial. Back in 2001, in an unrelated case, Ranzie was accused of child molestation of a 13-year-old girl and witness tampering. During the course of the investigation he retained the legal services of Michael Salnick, the same attorney who represented Dalia Dippolito at her trial. Mr. Salnick did not disclose this to Dalia Dippolito at the time of trial, according to Dippolito’s attorneys. In their motion for a new trial, Dippolito’s attorneys cite a memo from her former attorney, Salnick, stating the prosecutor at Dippolito’s criminal trial, Elizabeth Parker, knew of the conflict of interest but never disclosed it to the court. Ms. Parker calls this claim false:
“To attack the integrity of the system and those who are sworn to uphold the law is a desperate (and not atypical) response from a deluded convict. As was proven throughout the entire case, I protected Ms. Dippolito’s rights to ensure that she received a fair trial. For her to now allege that I was complicit in attempting to cover up what she now alleges is a conflict for my own personal gain is preposterous. Any information about Sergeant Ranzie and an internal affairs investigation, not related to this case or an arrest without a conviction, would not have been admissible in the trial under Florida Law.”
Dippolito’s attorney says she discovered the alleged conflict from news reports when Sergeant Ranzie was accused in a child porn investigation in 2012. Ranzie was eventually cleared by the state’s attorney office after their investigation revealed Ranzie used a work laptop to view more than 400 images of porn but concluded none of the photos were of children, they were all from adult websites. Now Dalia Dippolito wants a new trial. Dippolito’s attorney, Andrew Greenlee, says there is a conflict of interest. “We believe that Ms. Dippolito is entitled to a new trial. Ms. Dippolito’s trial attorney, Michael Salnick, previously represented Sergeant Frank Ranzie on charges of molesting a thirteen-year-old-girl and witness tampering. Although Mr. Salnick knew Sergeant Ranzie was a key witness against Ms. Dippolito, Salnick failed to obtain a written waiver demonstrating informed consent to the conflicting representation, in direct violation of Rule 4-1.7(b)(4) of the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct. What is more, because Mr. Salnick owed a duty of loyalty and confidentiality to Sergeant Ranzie, he could not raise the 2001 charges or the other documented instances of Ranzie’s misconduct in his career, even though the State put Ranzie’s criminal and disciplinary history squarely at issue during direct examination. As such, we believe that Ms. Dippolito’s conviction violated her Sixth Amendment right to conflict-free counsel.”
Will There Be a New Trial For Dalia Dippolito?
Before this can even happen, the appellate court must first relinquish jurisdiction to the trial court to consider the motion for a new trial. If the Court of Appeal rules to give up jurisdiction and the lower court takes up the renewed motion for a new trial, we could see Dalia Dippolito back in a courtroom being tried for solicitation of murder for a second time. But will Ms. Dippolito be able to overcome the evidence that took a jury less than 3 hours to convict her on? Evidence, including multiple undercover surveillance tapes in which she admits to wanting her husband killed. Elizabeth Parker, the prosecutor who successfully won the conviction, says: “The evidence was overwhelming against Dalia. The jury convicted her based upon that overwhelming evidence and, to borrow her own words used when conspiring to murder her husband, I stand by that conviction "five-thousand percent."
The Fourth District Court of Appeal is currently reviewing Dalia Dippolito’s motion and a ruling is expected soon.