An outburst during closing arguments Tuesday by Cristobal Veliz, Narcy Novack's brother and co-defendant in their murder trial, prompted a judge to threaten to banish him from the federal courtroom in White Plains.
Veliz erupted during the first couple of minutes of assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Dember's closing argument to the jury of eight men and four women. Novack, 55, and Veliz, 58, are accused of arranging the 2009 murders of her millionaire husband, Ben Novack Jr., 53, and his 86-year-old mother, Bernice.
Dember was telling the panel how the two admitted hit men -- Joel Gonzalez and Alejandro Garcia -- were brought to Westchester County to kill Ben Novack Jr. in his suite at the Hilton Rye Town on July 12, 2009, by Narcy Novack and Veliz.
At that point, Veliz interjected, "By May Abad," referring to Narcy Novack's daughter, whom the defense has blamed for the murders.
Judge Kenneth Karas ordered the jury out of the courtroom. Once they left, the typically unflappable Karas lit into Veliz.
"I expect you and everyone else in this courtroom to act with the proper respect," the judge said, repeatedly striking the bench with his index finger for emphasis. "You are not allowed to interrupt ... Is that clear?"
"Yes, sir," Veliz said several times.
Narcy Novack, who is prone to histrionics, sat quietly adjusting her ponytail during the flare-up. The seemingly unfazed jurors returned after about five minutes.
Narcy Novack, a former stripper, is accused of hiring the men to fatally beat her millionaire husband and his mother in separate incidents to get at Ben Novack Jr.'s estimated $8 million fortune. They contend that she feared she would receive a fraction of his millions if he divorced her.
Ben Novack Jr., the son of the founder of Miami Beach's legendary Fontainebleau Hotel, was planning to leave Narcy Novack for a younger woman -- another ex-stripper and adult film actress Rebecca Bliss, 40. Bliss testified that Ben Novack Jr. had paid her rent and other expenses, including a $10,000 tab for DJ equipment, from 2008 until his death.
"How does Narcy Novack react to this?" Dember asked. "She's angry."
The hit men confessed to the slayings and testified against the brother and sister during the trial, which began April 21.
Garcia told jurors that he was hired by Veliz and Narcy Novack to attack her mother-in-law in April 2009. Bernice Novack was fatally beaten with a wrench in her Fort Lauderdale, Fla., home.
Defense lawyers looked to paint Gonzalez as a liar because his account of Ben Novack Jr.'s murder differed from Garcia's.
Narcy Novack, they said, let them into her husband's suite, where they beat him to death with dumbbells and slit his eyes with a knife.
The hit men wore dress shirts, pants and shoes to blend in with the hotel crowd. As the two men walked down the corridor toward Ben Novack Jr.'s suite in rooms 453 and 454, they saw Narcy Novack's head peeking out the door waiting for them, Dember said.
"This was a well-planned-out plot," he said. Ben Novack Jr. was asleep, having worked through the night at the Amway convention his company organized at the hotel.
"She directs them into the room and they inflict a vicious, brutal attack on Ben Novack," Dember told the panel.
During jailhouse interviews, Narcy Novack has maintained that she is being framed and even questioned whether her husband actually was dead. She also said Abad was behind the murders so Abad and her two sons could inherit the family fortune.
In recent months, Narcy Novack has complained in court about her stay in jail while the pretrial process played out -- too slowly for her liking. On the eve of the trial, she whined that she wasn't ready to face a jury because she didn't have enough time or computer access to properly prepare. Her outbursts and calls to media outlets prompted Karas to impose a gag order. She didn't, however, testify, as was expected.
Narcy Novack and Veliz face possible life sentences if convicted of racketeering in connection with the slayings.
Closing arguments are slated to continue Wednesday, and the case should go to the jury later this week.