Dalia Dippolito’s conviction in the murder-for-hire plot against her husband should be thrown out because of her trial attorney’s relationship with beleaguered Boynton Beach police officer Frank Ranzie, a key witness in the 2011 trial, her appellate lawyer claims.
Attorney Michael Salnick pulled punches during the nationally-publicized trial because he had represented Ranzie 10 years before on molestation and witness tampering charges, attorney Andrew Greenlee claims in court papers.
Salnick’s interest in protecting Ranzie was underscored, Greenlee claims, when he represented the sergeant again last year when allegations surfaced that the veteran officer had child pornography on his police-issued laptop. While Ranzie claims the photos were downloaded by his son, city officials are now weighing whether the pornography should cost him his job.
But Greenlee’s incriminating claims about Salnick’s relationship with Ranzie won’t figure into Dippolito’s future anytime soon. Sentenced to 20 years in prison, she is now on house arrest pending her appeal.
While Greenlee told the 4th District Court of Appeal earlier this year that Salnick’s dueling allegiances violated Dippolito’s right to a fair trial, it rejected his request to air them.
“They’re on hold,” he said of his allegations that Salnick didn’t vigorously challenge Ranzie when he testified about his role in orchestrating the faux murder and filming Dippolito’s reaction to the false news that her husband, Michael, was dead.
Before Greenlee can raise the allegations again, the West Palm Beach appeals court will have to address more conventional claims he made in a 57-page motion filed this month.
The allegations against Salnick were never heard by Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath, who called the 30-year-old Dippolito “pure evil” before imposing the lengthy prison sentence. According to court rules, no new issues can be raised on appeal. Greenlee asked the appeals court to send the case back to Colbath so he could review them.
Without giving a reason, the appeals court refused. State appellate lawyers argued that such claims can only be considered after the appeals court decides whether any errors Colbath made denied Dippolito a fair trial. Then, the allegations against Salnick can be raised.
Attorney Scott Richardson, who represents Salnick, said the longtime West Palm Beach lawyer did nothing wrong. “Mr. Salnick acted appropriately at all times, as he always does,” Richardson said in an email.
In response to Greenlee’s questions, Salnick produced a 2009 memo he said he wrote after he told Dippolito he had represented Ranzie in 2001 when the officer was accused of molesting a 13-year-old girl and tampering with witnesses. Ranzie adamantly denied the allegations. He was never charged.
In the memo, titled “conversation with client,” Salnick said he told Dippolito that during the trial he would never be able to ask Ranzie about the molestation allegations. “She understood and had no issue with it,” Salnick wrote. Further, he said, he talked to Ranzie. “I advised him I could not impeach him about the prior arrest and charge being dropped nor could I share anything he told me in confidence.” He said he also told then prosecutor Liz Parker that Ranzie was a former client.
In court papers, Greenlee said Dippolito never knew Salnick had represented Ranzie. She learned of it while reading news accounts of the recent investigation into the pornography found on Ranzie’s computer. Greenlee argues that Salnick’s relationship with Ranzie prevented him from asking questions that would have alerted jurors about Ranzie’s checkered past. Instead, Parker “elicited testimony that created the impression that Ranzie had a long and unblemished career in law enforcement,” Greenlee wrote.