A federal prosecutor in Brooklyn on Tuesday charged that a ponytailed Long Island mobster ordered the notorious 1997 drive-by killing of an NYPD officer because he was jealous the cop had the nerve to marry his ex-wife.
Former Colombo family consigliere Joel "Joe Waverly" Cacace, now 72, of Deer Park, who is serving a 20-year racketeering sentence, is accused of arranging for Officer Ralph Dols to be killed in a personal vendetta involving former wife Kim Kennaugh.
"Officer Dols was gunned down for one reason -- because he dared to marry the ex-wife of a powerful member of the Mafia," prosecutor Sam Nitze told jurors Tuesday. "The defendant used the Mafia's twisted code of loyalty to take the life of a 28-year-old officer."
But Cacace's lawyer, Susan Kellman, said in her opening statement that prosecutors were making up a story line based on the word of two hit men who had never spoken to Cacace and had no way of knowing the reasons for the killing.
"There will be nothing but stories," Kellman said. "Fifty percent of American marriages end in divorce. If this theory is true, it seems there are a lot of second husbands in jeopardy. An explanation like that doesn't pass the straight-face test."
Dols and Kennaugh married in 1995 and had a daughter together. He was ambushed while arriving home in Brooklyn on Aug. 25, 1997. Mob experts have long speculated that Cacace didn't like the marriage because Dols was a cop and was Hispanic.
Prosecutors charge that Colombo captain Tommy Gioeli of Farmingdale was ordered by Cacace to kill Dols, and the hit was carried out by three members of his crew -- Dino Calabro, Joseph Competiello and Dino Saracino.
Calabro and Competiello, who have pleaded guilty, testified against Gioeli and Saracino last year. A Brooklyn federal court jury convicted the two of racketeering but found them not guilty of the Dols killing.
Cacace has been serving his 20-year sentence at a high-security prison in Colorado since pleading guilty in 2004 to ordering the murder of federal prosecutor William Aronwald. His father, George Aronwald, 78, was killed instead by mistake in 1987.
In a courtroom filled with members of law enforcement on one side and Cacace supporters on the other, Nitze depicted Cacace as a mobster who could kill with words as surely as if he pulled the trigger.
"He had enormous power, the power to make others do his bidding, the ability to keep his hands clean while having others do his dirty work," the prosecutor said. "They knew that an order from Joel Cacace was an order they had to follow."
But Kellman painted the government's star witnesses as unreliable "animals" and "maniacs" making up a story about Cacace to save their own skins when they were implicated in other crimes.
"It gives me chills," she said. "They have lied on more occasions than most of you have hairs on your head."