By Rick Pfeiffer
LOCKPORT — The attorney for a Falls man charged with both trying to kill his brother-in-law and then trying to hire a hitman to kill his relative and a witness to the crime, says he'll fight efforts to tie the two cases together.
Defense attorney Earl Key told Niagara County Court Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas, during a hearing Monday, that a move by prosecutors to "consolidate" the two cases against Timothy Depetris was "premature."
"I don't think there are enough facts in the (prosecutor's) motion to support the request (to combine the cases)," Key said.
Key then told Farkas that he was going to ask for separate trials for Depetris on various charges lodged against him in the case relating to the shooting his brother-in-law, in his Hyde Park Boulevard business on March 26.
"I'm going to ask for a severance of several counts in the first indictment," Key told the judge. "So it makes no sense to consolidate (the two pending cases)."
In order to file his motions, Key said he would need to see certain evidence in the case as soon as possible. Farkas pointed out that prosecutors had agreed to share that material with Key very quickly.
Still, Key complained that prosecutors had not stated any "facts" to support their consolidation request. In response, First Assistant District Attorney Doreen Hoffmann told Farkas she would not be fling any additional motions until Key filed his.
"Do the best you can Mr, Key," was the judge's advice.
Farkas disclosed that prosecutors have made a request for a handwriting sample from Depetris. However, the judge also imposed a gag order on the lawyers in the case and barred them from talking to reporters about matters that relate to it.
"There are some sensitive issues in this matter," Farkas said, "and I think we will them confined to the four walls of this courtroom."
Key did signal to the judge that he may seek to have some pre-trial proceedings in the case conducted in private. The judge told him he will have to justify why the public should be kept out of court during those proceedings.
"I need more than, '(Depetris) wants to testify in one case, but not the other.' to trigger an in-camera (private) hearing," Farkas said.
Depetris has pleaded not guilty to four counts of first-degree attempted murder, two counts of second-degree attempted murder, two counts of conspiracy and two counts of criminal solicitation in connection with his attempt to hire a hitman, while he was jailed, to kill his brother-in-law and a witness.
He has been jailed, without bail, since his arraignment, on May 15 on charges of attempted first-degree murder, first-degree criminal use of a firearm, three counts of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, six counts of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon and second-degree criminal trespass in connection with the shooting of his brother-in-law and former business partner in the early morning hours of March 26.
Depetris, the son of the founder of Electrodyn Choke Corp., is accused of shooting his brother-in-law in the doorway of the victim’s new business in the 2300 block of Hyde Park Boulevard. The 56-year-old victim, who had gone to the door for a pizza delivery, was shot in the upper chest, near his shoulder.
At the time, investigators said the shooting was clearly “an attempted murder.”
In addition to looking for a hit man to kill his brother-in-law, Depetris reportedly was also seeking to kill a pizza deliveryman who was with him at the time of the shooting and has since cooperated with police and prosecutors. Investigators have said the pizza deliveryman lured the victim to the doorway.
Prosecutors have turned over two CDs to Depetris' defense team which reportedly contain conversations Depetris had while looking for a hit man at the Niagara County Jail.
Farkas ordered Depetris held in "isolation" at the jail after the hitman plot surfaced.
Prosecutors had previously asked the judge not to set bail in the case because they feared Depetris would try to convert his assets,” estimated in the millions of dollars, and flee.
Key maintains Depetris does not have access to "millions of dollars."
“He is currently going through a divorce and his assets are frozen,” Key said. “He has no prior criminal record and these are only allegations.”
Hoffmann had previously told Farkas that Depetris had "stalked" the victim at his home, before shooting him and repeatedly firing at him inside his business.
“All because of a business deal (Depetris) felt went badly," Hoffmann said.
The victim reportedly pointed investigators to Depetris as a suspect almost immediately after the shooting. A day later, police stopped Depetris as he was driving through the city and found what one investigator called an “arsenal” inside his car.
Detectives said Depetris had a loaded semi-automatic 9-mm Baretta handgun in a holster around his neck and under his shirt at the time he was stopped. Police also recovered a fully automatic rifle and multiple, loaded ammunition clips in the back seat of the car.
At the time of his arrest, Depetris was reportedly living, without charge, in a penthouse at Seneca Niagara Casino. Sources have said over the course of the last year, Depetris had “gambled away over a million dollars” at the casino.