A Show, A Trial and Now the Rerun in ‘Cops’ Murder-for-Hire

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Dalia Dippolito either wanted a hit man to kill her newlywed husband, or she’s the victim of police trying to become famous on the “Cops” television show.

Prosecutor Craig Williams told jurors in a straightforward, 10-minute opening statement on Wednesday that her own words will show she was serious about having Michael Dippolito killed.

She gave $1,000 to an informant to pay for a gun, and then told a detective posing as a hit-man that she wanted her husband dead, Williams said. A police video shows her offering the apparent hit-man $7,000, and then raising the stakes to $10,000 if he timed the killing after her husband’s bank visit.

“What is great about this case is that it is 100 percent based on Ms. Dippolito’s words, actions and intent,” Williams said as the retrial began.

Williams laid out a simple timeline for the jurors, listing events from the alleged death plot’s inception to her meeting with the fake hit man to her leaving home the morning her husband was to be killed in a staged robbery. Just follow the evidence, he told the four-woman, two-man jury.

Defense attorney Brian Claypool presented an entirely different picture in his opening, declaring that the wrongdoing was committed by the Boynton Beach Police Department, which he says went “rogue” and built the case in hopes of finding fame on “Cops.”

Claypool said detectives never believed she was a threat to her husband, but knew the case would make fantastic television.

It all began when the informant, Mohammed Shihadeh, told detectives about Dippolito’s alleged plan just before the show’s production crew was to arrive in town.

“They wanted to script a good TV show,” Claypool said. They thought, “Holy mackerel, we are striking gold!”

“They never carried out a credible investigation in this case. The evidence will show this (perfunctory) investigation had zero — zero — integrity. None,” he said.

Claypool said everything the officers did was made for “Cops,” which eventually aired the case in a special episode. He urged the jury to view the case through the same lens. For example, detectives violated department rules by threatening Shihadeh with arrest if he didn’t stick with the investigation — all to preserve the case for TV, he said.

This is Dippolito’s second trial — her 2011 conviction and 20-year sentence were thrown out on appeal, for issues having to do with jury selection.

Prosecutors have alleged that Dippolito wanted her husband’s $250,000 in savings and their $225,000 town house. If convicted of solicitation to commit first-degree murder, she could be sentenced up to 20 years.

Dippolito has testified previously that she, her husband and Shihadeh were working on their own ill-conceived video project, which they planned to post online in hopes of landing them a reality TV show. She said she too wanted out, but that Shihadeh threatened her and her family if she didn’t meet the supposed hit man.

Claypool has said she may not testify this time, but jurors will see plenty of her — not only in the courtroom, but on TV.

Prosecutors showed jurors an undercover video, recorded inside Shihadeh’s car, showing Dippolito asking him to find her a hit man. Shihadeh expresses concern that if her husband is killed, she’ll be the suspect. She said she would cover her tracks.

“Nobody’s going to be able to point a finger at me,” she said.

Shihadeh and Michael Dippolito, who says he met his ex-wife when he hired her for sex, have denied there was a video project. Shihadeh also denied threatening her, but says Boynton Beach police did threaten him with arrest if he didn’t stick with their investigation. The police have denied that.

The trial is expected to last about a week.

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Follow Terry Spencer on Twitter at https://twitter.com/terryspen. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/author/terry-spencer .

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