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Monday, May 15, 2017

Brooklyn man arrested for 1980 murder by Mob Cop seeks new trial


A Brooklyn man doing 25 years to life for the murder of a cabbie says he suffered in silence — and innocence — until he found out the detective who busted him moonlighted as a Mafia hit man.

Paul Clark had no idea who notorious Mob Cop Stephen Caracappa was until his lawyers, James Henning and Craig Phemister, dug into his case and unearthed the rogue detective’s name.

The discovery sparked a hope in the 54-year-old Clark that he might finally walk out of prison free, and vindicated.

“I was like, ‘Wow!’” Clark told the Daily News in an interview at the Green Haven Correctional Facility in Beekman, Dutchess County. “This is unbelievable. Here you have a guy who is 10 times worse than me. And I’m stuck in here because of him.”

Clark has been behind bars more than three decades, but until late 2015 he had no idea that the cop who helped put him away was so dirty. Caracappa and his partner, Lou Eppolito, were busted in 2005 and later convicted of committing eight murders for the Luchese crime family.

Paul Clark speaks about his case inside the Green Haven Correctional Facility in Beekman, N.Y. on May 4.

Clark remembers Caracappa as the ruthless detective who arrested him in the April 1980 shooting death of cabbie Oswen Fraser on Jay St. in downtown Brooklyn. The taxi driver, 60, died in what appeared to be a botched robbery.

By the time Clark crossed paths with Caracappa, he was already imprisoned for a murder he admits he did commit in his East Flatbush neighborhood. Clark, 18, shot a 17-year-old, Keith Thomas, at a block party four months after Fraser was killed.

But he did not, he told Caracappa, kill Fraser. Clark told the cop he was with his family in the apartment he shared with his mother and other relatives.

“I was home, asleep,” Clark remembered saying. “I don’t live around that area, I don’t have friends in that area — nothing. He was callous.

Former NYPD Detective Stephen Caracappa (l.) was convicted of committing eight murders for the Lucchese crime family. He died in federal prison on April 8 at age 75.

“He didn’t want to hear what I had to say.” Now, Clark hopes to be heard. His lawyers plan to file a motion Monday asking that Clark’s conviction be set aside so he can get a new trial.

“All the evidence in this case came from a detective who was a serial killer for the Mafia,” Henning said. “That alone is enough to warrant a new trial.”

But there is much more, the lawyers said — most notably the troubling inconsistencies provided by witness Veronique Dowie, an NYPD office worker who testified at Clark’s 1984 trial.

Curiously, the police file for the Fraser murder is missing, according to the lawyers from the Napoli Shkolnik firm and the Brooklyn district attorney’s office. But Henning and Phemister pieced together a chunk of the case based on documents from the district attorney’s file.

Ex-New York City cop Louis Eppolito (r.) with his partner Stephen Caracappa in an undated photo taken in the 63 Precinct in Brooklyn. 

Dowie, who worked a midnight shift at a warrants office in lower Manhattan, was heading home after 4 a.m. As she pulled up near her building, a yellow cab sped past her in reverse, jumped the sidewalk and crashed into a fence bordering a small cemetery near the Cathedral Basilica of St. James, she told police at the time.

Fraser was dead behind the wheel. But many details of her account, including the number of suspects, what the gunman did after getting out of the cab, what he was wearing and what he looked like, are different from what other witnesses saw — and changed from the time of the shooting to her testimony at trial.

Caracappa got involved in the investigation in September 1980. In a pretrial hearing, he testified that when he met Dowie in 1982 she claimed to have reported to police six months earlier that she’d seen a wanted photo of Clark that was distributed after the block party shooting.

She realized, Caracappa said, that Clark had also killed Fraser.

Paul Clark is incarcerated inside the Green Haven Correctional Facility in Beekman, N.Y. He has been behind bars for more than 30 years.

But Clark’s lawyers said there is no record of any such report. They’re also suspicious that Caracappa didn’t bother with the other witnesses and decided he could lock Dowie into a story that would stand up in court.

“Her insistence on things that didn’t happen reeks of coercion,” Henning said. “And he closed up shop as soon as he got Veronique Dowie. As soon as she came in with the wanted poster, before she’s even viewing photographic arrays, he’s calling up the DA’s office, saying, ‘Let’s do a lineup with this guy, Paul Clark.’

“No followup investigation.”

The conviction review unit for the Brooklyn DA’s office has been reviewing Clark’s case.

Paul Clark's lawyer, James Henning, said a new trial is warranted because all the evidence came from a cop who was a hitman for the Mafia.

The NYPD, meanwhile, didn’t answer questions about what steps it took to review the cases of Caracappa and Eppolito after they were busted.

Dowie died in June 1991 at age 47. Caracappa died in a federal prison in North Carolina on April 8. He was 75.

Clark, who was sentenced to 331/3 years to life for the block party murder, could conceivably be free on parole now if not for the Fraser conviction.

If he does get out, waiting at home will be the woman he married in prison — they met when she was visiting another inmate — a 36-year-old daughter from an earlier relationship, who was born shortly after he was first convicted, and his mother, whose dream is to live long enough to see him walk through the front door of her Crown Heights apartment.

Barbara Willis, 80, speaks about her son, Paul Clark, on May 9. She said her dream is to see him walk through the front door of her Crown Heights apartment.

“I hope and pray,” said Clark’s mom, Barbara Willis, 80. “I’ve been praying every day.”

For his part, Clark says he’s moved past his rage.

“I was angry for a long time,” he said. “But I’m a man of faith now. I’ve got to forgive.”

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/brooklyn-man-busted-mob-1980-murder-seeks-new-trial-article-1.3165724


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