The lawyer for one of three men arrested in the grisly killing of Hofstra University graduate Joseph Comunale late last year is pointing fingers at the two other suspects, saying that the charges against his client should be dropped.
In court papers filed in Manhattan Supreme Court on Tuesday, attorney Mark Bederow says Lawrence Dilione and James Rackover, the adopted son of celebrity jeweler Jeffery Rackover, are solely responsible for Comunale's death, which Bederow claims was the fatal conclusion of a fight over cigarettes.
Prosecutors say Comunale, of Stamford, Connecticut, was stabbed more than a dozen times in a luxury Manhattan apartment building after partying with the suspects. His body was found buried in a shallow grave in New Jersey on Nov. 16.
Bederow’s 29-year-old client, Max Gemma, of Oceanport, was arrested in connection with the case. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of hindering prosecution and tampering with evidence. Bederow says the case against Gemma should be tossed.
Gemma, the son of former Oceanport mayor Gordon Gemma, turned himself in to police in December. Prosecutors said they believe Gemma was in the apartment where 26-year-old Comunale died and that he changed his clothing and hid evidence.
“We don’t think there is any basis to charge him with any crimes simply because they alleged at some point he changed his clothes,” Bederow told NBC 4 New York.
In the motion, Bederow says prosecutors have no evidence Gemma took part in Comunale’s murder, claiming instead that “Dilione admitted to assaulting Mr. Comunale to the point of unconsciousness after an argument over cigarettes.”
The motion states that Rackover, who lived at the 59th Street luxury apartment where authorities say Comunale was killed, was afraid of being arrested and said, “We have to kill him.”
Bederow contends that “Rackover choked Mr. Comunale before stabbing him in the head with a knife.”
Rackover, of Manhattan, and Dilione, of Jersey City, both pleaded not guilty late last year to concealment of a human body, hindering prosecution and tampering with evidence.
All three men are charged with evidence tampering but not murder because investigators are still working to determine who actually killed Comunale, sources said.
Gemma and Dilione are both out on bail. Rackover remains behind bars.