Former Colombo family consigliere Joel "Joe Waverly" Cacace of Deer Park was acquitted Tuesday of the notorious 1997 execution of NYPD Officer Ralph Dols after jury deliberations in Brooklyn federal court lasting less than five hours.
Cacace, 72, was accused of ordering the ambush of Dols out of jealousy over his marriage to the mobster's ex-wife, Kim Kennaugh. The Justice Department originally sought the death penalty but dropped that part of the case before trial.
Imprisoned until 2020 on an unrelated racketeering case, Cacace hugged his lawyers before he was led out of the courtroom by marshals. "I'm glad they got the right answer," said his son Steve leaving court. "Truth prevailed."
But some of Dols' relatives were in tears as they left. "It's very upsetting," said his mother, Maria. Kennaugh did not testify and did not appear at the courthouse during the two-week trial.
Dols, then 28, was gunned down as he exited his car outside his Brooklyn apartment on Aug. 25, 1997. He had once worked for Cacace at a local gym, according to testimony, where he met Kennaugh. They had a baby daughter.
Prosecutors leaned on testimony from two informants, Dino Calabro and Joseph Competiello, both formerly of Farmingdale, who said they were part of a three-man crew that shot Dols. They said their boss, Colombo captain Tommy Gioeli, also of Farmingdale, told them Cacace had given the order.
But there was little direct evidence of Cacace's involvement, and no testimony that he was angry about Kennaugh's remarriage. A jury in the 2012 racketeering trial of Gioeli, after hearing from the two informants, found that Gioeli's role in the Dols hit was not proved.
Susan Kellman, Cacace's lawyer, argued to the jury that the prosecution had a theory of a motive but no proof of it, and two witnesses named Cacace because bringing down a Mafia bigwig would enhance their own chances for leniency.
"In an American courtroom, there's nothing like having evidence," she said after the verdict. "When you don't have evidence, the jury can tell. The government asked them to substitute 'common sense' for evidence, and instead they used their common sense and acquitted."
Cacace pleaded guilty in 2004 to a racketeering charge that included ordering the murder of federal prosecutor William Aronwald. The mob shooters assigned the job instead killed Aronwald's father, George Aronwald, 78, an administrative law judge, by mistake in 1987.