DiTrapano's bond denied

by Chris Dickerson |
Jun. 20, 2006, 11:03am

Dante DiTrapano

Robert C. Byrd United States Courthouse in downtown Charleston.

CHARLESTON – Bond for Dante DiTrapano was denied Tuesday, leaving the embattled Charleston attorney in custody of U.S. Marshals.

DiTrapano was indicted last week by a federal grand jury on one count of possession of a firearm by a user of controlled substances and another count of giving a false statement when purchasing a firearm. The charges are based on a search of DiTrapano's home in the South Hills section of Charleston on April 6.

DiTrapano was arrested June 15 and appeared in federal magistrate court that day. U.S. Magistrate Mary Stanley denied a motion by DiTrapano's attorney Michael Del Guidice to set bond.

At Tuesday's hearing in Stanley's courtroom, Del Guidice argued that he doesn't believe DiTrapano's case "is a proper case for detention," citing that his client exhibited no violent behavior. Instead of detention, Del Guidice pushed for home confinement or even probation.

But Stanley refused that notion.

"Time and time again, he (DiTrapano) has shown he is not willing to comply with requirements set upon him and has shown a total disrespect for the law," she said. "Frankly, the court cannot think of any combination (of other measures) to ensure the safety of the public."

His trial is set for Aug. 23 in front of U.S. District Chief Judge David A. Faber. Until then, he will be housed at the South Central Regional Jail.

With testimony primarily from Charleston Police Department officers, Assistant U.S. Attorney Chad Noel painted the picture Tuesday of an erratic defendant who could be both polite and "highly agitated."

Charleston Police Detective Tim Palmer testified that he helped execute the arrest warrant on DiTrapano last week at DiTrapano's South Hills home.

Knowing DiTrapano's license was suspended, Palmer said he saw DiTrapano driving his mother-in-laws car in the residential area at speeds of 60 mph. He called other officers to set up a traffic stop at the bottom of Louden Heights Road.

In custody, "it seemed he wanted to talk, so we tried to read him his Miranda rights," Palmer testified. "He insisted he needed to talk."

Palmer said DiTrapano even praised the officer's driving.

"He said he was going to try to elude me if he got across the South Side Bridge," Palmer said. He said DiTrapano even said he planned to take a left on Virginia Street – against one-way traffic – to do so.

Charleston Police Sgt. Jason Beckett testified on May 31 that Rudy DiTrapano -- Dante's father, former state Democratic Party chairman and founder of DiTrapano Barrett & DiPiero -- called to hire an officer to provide security at the firm.

"He was concerned with his son possibly coming to the law firm and damaging equipment and for the safety of the employees," Beckett testified.

Beckett said he drew up an agreement to provide that security at a rate of $34 per hour.

When cross examined by Del Guidice, Beckett said he filled out a report on the matter at the request of another officer working with federal agents. He also said that step is something he doesn't normally do.

"It's just the government creating their case," Del Giudice said after the hearing.

Patrolman Raymond Coleman was the officer assigned to the detail at the law firm.

"Dante was coming into town and he (Rudy DiTrapano) didn't know his son's state of mind," Coleman testified. "I saw Dante pass by the firm, but he didn't come in."

Court documents also hint at the strained relationship between Dante DiTrapano and the law firm led by his father.

In a motion for detention hearing filed June 15, Assistant U.S. Attorney Monica Dillon wrote that the law firm of DiTrapano, Barrett & DiPiero entered an agreement with the City of Charleston on May 31 "to hire out the services of an off-duty Charleston police officer based on the concern that defendant would damage the building or equipment and out of concern for the safety of the employees of the firm."

Dillon also wrote that DiTrapano, 43, "has a history of drug abuse and on information and belief is continuing to abuse controlled drugs."

In testimony Tuesday, an official with United Bank told of recent hostile visits to the bank by Dante DiTrapano.

Brad Ritchie, market president of United Bank in Charleston, said DiTrapano visited the branch on June 2. He was upset about the way a transaction was being handled.

The tellers "were concerned," Ritchie said. "I wanted to get him out of the lobby to calm him down."

In Ritchie's office, DiTrapano spoke of how he felt he was being treated unfairly by his former law partners and by law enforcement officials.

"He was upset, agitated, highly aggravated," Ritchie testified of the June 2 incident. "He left without incident."

On June 9, there was a similar incident at the bank.

"Dante again was highly agitated," Ritchie said. "I told them (the tellers) to abide by banking regulations, and they couldn't do what he was asking them to do."

DiTrapano left the bank, but soon returned.

The tellers "were more concerned then," Ritchie said. "He seemed more aggravated."

Ritchie said one of the bank employees called the Charleston Police Department to ease the situation.

"The tellers that he usually deals with have asked me if I can keep Date out of the bank," Ritchie said. "They feel very uncomfortable with him now."

Del Guidice noted that DiTrapano is supporting his wife Teri, his four children and "others he takes care of."

He said his client is not a flight risk and doesn't have a history of violence.

"He has many ties to the area," Del Guidice said. "The newspapers and the government try to point out flaws in his personality, but he has helped many members of the community."

Still, Stanley decided to remand DiTrapano into custody of U.S. Marshals rather than ordering him to home confinement.

"There is no doubt in the court's mind that if Mr. DiTrapano wanted to get drugs (if he was on home confinement), he would get them … no problem," Stanley said.

Last weekend, DiTrapano was cited with four driving related charges after a State Trooper pulled him over near St. Albans because of an expired state inspection sticker and an expired registration. DiTrapano also couldn't produce proof of insurance or a current operator's license because it already had been suspended. And DiTrapano already had been convicted of driving suspended on Nov. 21, 2005.

DiTrapano "is also believed to be a threat to the safety of the community in that he continues to violate the laws of the state as is evidenced by his arrest on June 11, 2006, for driving on a suspended license and at the time of his arrest for the instant offense was again driving on a suspended license," Dillon wrote in the District Court filing.

Court documents also show that Stanley, the U.S. Magistrate judge, personally saw DiTrapano driving on June 14, the day before his arrest.

"It is apparent that DiTrapano drives whenever he wants to, wherever he wants to without a driver's license," Stanley said in court Tuesday. "And however hw wants to, such as 60 mph in a residential area."

DiTrapano's recent string of troubles began in March when he and his wife Teri were arrested at the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Hilton Hotel and charged with possession of crack cocaine. Both of them were released on bond from Pinellas County Jail. The couple, as well as three individuals from the area, also was arrested for possession and a variety of other charges. Those charges still are pending.

Officials said there were 73 pieces of crack cocaine and 21 grams of powder cocaine in the room when the arrests occurred. Dante DiTrapano told officers he and the others were having one last party before he entered a drug rehab facility there.

DiTrapano was arrested again March 26 in Pinellas County, Fla., on a warrant for failing to appear at a motion hearing in connection with the crack cocaine charges. DiTrapano was in the intensive care unit of a Tampa hospital late in March.

In court Tuesday, Stanley said DiTrapano had been arrested in Georgia just a few weeks after that on charges of felony cocaine and misdemeanor marijuana possession.

In April, federal, state and local agents confiscated guns, ammunition, prescription drugs, drug paraphernalia and other personal items during a six-hour search of the DiTrapano home.

In May, Teri DiTrapano and son Zachary were arrested on misdemeanor charges after State Troopers responded to a call in Charleston's South Hills section.

Zachary DiTrapano was charged with underage drinking, according a criminal complaint filed in Kanawha Magistrate Court. Teri DiTrapano was arrested for obstructing a police officer after she arrived at the scene.

Teri DiTrapano apparently arrived at the scene shortly thereafter and was told her son was under arrest. She reportedly became "loud and agitated" when the officer asked her to leave. When she refused, she was placed under arrest as well, the complaint states. She jerked her arms away as the officer tried to handcuff her, the complaint states.

Also in May, NFL star Randy Moss dropped Dante DiTrapano as his agent.

Moss, a Kanawha County native who now plays for the Oakland Raiders, now is represented by attorney Tim DiPiero, who is a member of DiTrapano, Barrett & DiPiero along with DiTrapano.

Dante DiTrapano's name, however, has been taken off a sign outside the law firm's downtown office and his biography and information has been removed from the firm's Web site.

DiPiero had represented Moss as an agent and attorney since 1995 when Moss was accused of kicking a classmate at DuPont High School. Moss later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery.

After Tuesday's hearing, Teri DiTrapano also had harsh words for Moss, too.

"Anyone want a Randy Moss shirt?" she said as she threw a black shirt with Moss's name into a trashcan.

She also said Rudy DiTrapano is holding Dante's money in escrow.

"They promised him they would take care of his family," she said, adding that she fears her family will lose everything. "Ask him why we're going to lose our house. Ask him why he's holding all of his (Dante's) money from the office. …

"His dad closed out his (bank) account. He's holding it in escrow. We're living on my savings. We have nothing to live on except my savings, which isn't going to go far."

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