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Dippolito lawyers claim lead witness should be thrown from case

Mohamed Shihadeh almost smiled on the witness stand Tuesday as he recalled what he says a Boynton Beach Police detective promised him when he agreed to help police investigate his claims that Dalia Dippolito was looking to have her husband killed.

“No one will ever hear about you or know about you,” Dippolito’s former lover said the detective told him.

Instead, nearly six years later, Shihadeh sat in a crowded courtroom where everyone knew his name, having turned — unwittingly, it appears — into one of the co-stars in what has perhaps become one of the most highly publicized alleged murder-for-hire plots in local history.

A jury in 2012 convicted Dippolito of solicitation to commit first-degree murder four years ago in a trial surrounding the alleged plot caught on video and circulated throughout the world through both YouTube videos and an episode of the television show “Cops.” An appellate court later overturned Dippolito’s conviction and 20-year prison sentence, clearing the way for a retrial scheduled to begin in May.

Dippolito’s new legal team, however, is hoping the case doesn’t get that far.

In the latest twist in her case, Dippolito’s attorneys are calling her the victim of a civil rights violation from Boynton Beach Police detectives, who they say pushed Shihadeh so hard to cooperate with their undercover investigation that at one point Shihadeh threatened his former sex partner at gunpoint in a restaurant and told her he’d kill her family if she didn’t order Michael Dippolito’s murder.

Shihadeh, whose testimony Tuesday marked the first time he’s testified publicly about the 2009 alleged plot, is the main witness in a quest from Dippolito attorneys Brian Claypool and Mark Eiglarsh to have her charges dropped or Shihadeh’s testimony thrown out of the case.

Before this, Shihadeh’s only claim to stardom was having once appeared on an episode of the USA network series “Burn Notice.” He repeated several times on the witness stand that he would have never called police about his fears that Dippolito was looking for a hitman if he’d known in would have culminated with a detective posing as a hitman, a staged crime scene and criminal charges for the former love he used to only know as “Delilah.”

“It went overboard a little bit for me,” he said. “It shouldn’t have happened.”

Shihadeh said he went to police because she told him she was looking to kill Michael Dippolito because he’d been abusing her, and he hoped that they would both scare her off any thoughts she had of killing him and rescue her from her allegedly violent relationship. Neither of those things happened.

Still, Shihadeh shook his head and laughed openly when Assistant State Attorney Craig Williams questioned him Tuesday about the defense claims that he threatened Dippolito at gunpoint inside a Chili’s restaurant.

“If I pulled a gun in a restaurant, I’m pretty sure the people eating there would’ve called 911,” he answered.

The point, Claypool said after the hearing, is that there’s no evidence of what happened during that meeting because detectives say Shihadeh’s recording device failed. Claypool and Eiglarsh hinted that detectives hid or destroyed the recording because it didn’t benefit their case, saying the malfunctioning equipment story was a lie because records show no one from the Boynton Beach police department ever sent a single recording device in for repairs in the entire year of 2009.

The attorneys say that recordings that should have been made of hundreds of phone calls between Shihadeh and Dippolito either never happened or have gone unaccounted for, and Shihadeh himself said detectives installed video cameras in the Lexus he was driving at the time without his knowledge.

He said he only learned of those recordings when they surfaced on YouTube.

At the time he went to police, he only knew Dalia by the name “Delilah” and didn’t know her last name. He said he also didn’t know she and Michael Dippolito were married. Police, he said, initially laughed at him.

“That should tell all of you in the public that this police department never really took seriously Ms. Dippolito’s alleged threat to kill her husband,” Claypool said, adding that detectives violated a number of their own department’s policies in the case.

Although Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley heard Shihadeh’s testimony Tuesday, he has yet to hear the attorneys’ arguments on the motion to dismiss, nor has he heard from any other scheduled witnesses.

That will happen at the scheduled sequel to the hearing on Feb. 23. At that time, Dippolito’s attorneys promised, Dalia Dippolito will take the stand herself and relay her claims that Shihadeh threatened her.

Dippolito didn’t testify in her first trial, where defense attorney Michael Salnick argued that both she and her husband were in on the fake plot as a ploy to get their own reality TV show. But Dippolito will be taking the stand in her next trial, her attorneys said, and will be speaking after the next hearing.

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