DiTrapano sentenced to six months in jail

By Chris Dickerson | Oct 11, 2006


CHARLESTON –- Dante DiTrapano was sentenced to six months in prison Tuesday after the embattled Charleston attorney had admitted to using illegal drugs and owning firearms.

Chief U.S. District Judge David Faber also sentenced DiTrapano to three years of supervised release and fined him $10,000.

After having served about three months in jail already, DiTrapano will serve the rest of the sentence at South Central Regional Jail.

"We just want him to get over his addiction and get back to his normal life he used to have," Michael Del Guidice, DiTrapano's attorney, said Wednesday morning. "He's been attending NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meetings in jail."

U.S. Attorney Chuck Miller said one of the primary issues of Tuesday's sentencing hearing was whether DiTrapano was entitled to a sentence reduction because the guns were collector's items. Prosecutors tried to prove they were not collector's items.

"One was loaded, in the bedroom in a holster," Miller said.

Faber said federal prosecutors did not prove the seven handguns found in DiTrapano's South Hills home during an April raid were not collector's items. The prosecutors also failed to show there were drugs at his home then, too, despite initial field tests that said a white powder found on his computer was cocaine. Lab tests later showed it was not.

"Judge Faber said it was a close call, but he gave the defendant the benefit of the doubt," Miller said. "That, in effect, allowed the judge to give him a zero-to-six-month sentence. And he gave him six months."

Miller said Faber did no give DiTrapano a reduction for acceptance of responsibility despite his guilty plea.

"It was the judge's belief that Mr. DiTrapano lied at a bond hearing when he indicated he had not used drugs," Miller said. "Lab results showed he had cocaine in his system."

DiTrapano's recent string of troubles began in March when he and his wife Teri were arrested at the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Hilton 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.

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 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 early June, 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.

In July, DiTrapano pleaded guilty to a federal drug and weapons charge and was ordered into a drug treatment facility until his sentencing. DiTrapano pleaded guilty to a charge that he was a drug addict in possession of firearms, which is a violation of federal law.

After pleading guilty before going to rehab, DiTrapano paid a $10,000 bond and signed court documents agreeing to, among other things, not possess firearms or weapons, not to travel outside the Southern District of West Virginia. He also agreed to submit to random urine tests.

In September, DiTrapano's bond was revoked after an Aug. 29 urine specimen tested positive for cocaine. Just before that, DiTrapano had been put back in jail after violating terms of his home confinement. That was after federal probation officers filed a petition showing DiTrapano violated the home confinement conditions of his bond at least 12 times in the 12 days since he was released from a Huntington drug rehabilitation center.

Also last month, the state Supreme Court suspended DiTrapano's law license after the State Bar's Office of Disciplinary Counsel petitioned for it.

"The (state) Supreme Court acted on an emergency request by the ODC," Del Guidice said Wednesday. "They still have not filed any formal charges against Dante. If they don't, then we will apply to reinstate him."

Del Guidice also said his client hopes to return to the practice of law when he gets out of jail and gets his life back in order.

"His father-in-law, James Coleman, is willing to have him work with him," Del Guidice said. "He's always been supportive of Dante."

As a U.S. attorney, Miller said he's always happy when a case is resolved successfully. But he said he feels sympathy for DiTrapano's situation.

"It's sad when a young man like that ruins his life with an addiction," Miller said. "That's a shame. No one is happy about that. But unfortunately, he ran afoul of the law and had to pay the price."

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