Krivak was acquitted of child rape and murder after 24 years in prison

Krivak was acquitted of child rape and murder after 24 years in prison

Andrew Krivak, who spent 24 years in prison for the rape and murder of 12-year-old Josette Wright, was acquitted Monday after jurors determined he signed a six-page statement implicating himself in 1996 in what was a false confession coerced in Putnam County. Sheriff’s investigators.

Krivak sat stoically at the defense table as the jury returned a four-woman not guilty verdict of first-degree rape after less than six hours of deliberations that began Friday afternoon. The jury did not vote on the top charge, second-degree murder, because it required a conviction on the rape charge.

Andrew Krivak, surrounded by his attorneys, listens as a jury acquitted him of the rape and murder of 12-year-old Josette Wright on Feb. 27 in Putnam Court. Krivak was retried after a judge overturned the original conviction, for which he spent 24 years in prison.

Josette’s mother, Susan, left the courtroom as soon as the verdict was announced. As Judge Robert Prisco excused the jury, Krivak hugged his lawyers Oscar Mikkelen and Karen Neuwirth, then turned to hug his father and sisters in the front row.

A technician arrived to remove the ankle monitor that was a condition of Krivak’s bail following his release in October 2020, a year after his conviction. Later, he walked out of the Putnam County Courthouse, a truly free man.

“It’s about time,” he said, calling his ordeal “torture” and thanking the jury for “seeing the truth.” “Now is the beginning of the rest of my life.”

Andrew Krivak has an ankle monitoring device removed after he was acquitted of the rape and murder of 12-year-old Josette Wright in Putnam Court on Feb. 27, 2023.

Andrew Krivak has an ankle monitoring device removed after he was acquitted of the rape and murder of 12-year-old Josette Wright in Putnam Court on Feb. 27, 2023.

The verdict is the second major setback for the Putnam District Attorney’s Office in one of the county’s most notorious crimes after prosecutors were convicted in the case a quarter of a century ago. In 2016, Krivak’s co-defendant, Anthony DiPippo, was acquitted in his third trial. DiPippo, who lives in Florida but returned to Carmel for sentencing, also spent more than two decades in prison.

After separate trials in 1997, Krivak and DiPippo were convicted of the first count of rape and murder and each sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. DiPippo had his conviction overturned a dozen years later because his trial lawyer had not previously revealed that Howard Gombert, both male sex offenders represented, was Josette’s real killer.

DiPippo was barred from presenting evidence about Gombert at his 2012 retrial and his subsequent conviction. He was acquitted after a third trial in 2016.

Death of Josette

A missing child case that began on October 4, 1994 turned into a homicide investigation about 13 months later when Josette’s skeletal remains were discovered by a hunter in the woods off Fields Lane in Patterson.

Within days, sheriff’s investigators turned their attention to both DiPippo and Gombert. But they focused on DiPippo after a series of interviews with a friend of his who detailed DiPippo’s comments on Josette’s case.

The friend, Dominic Neglia, testified this month that his statements were pressured by investigators and that he made up details he thought would make him crazy enough to leave him alone.

The prosecution’s theory in the case — that Josette Krivak and DiPippo raped Krivak in Krivak’s van on October 3, 1994 — took shape in April 1996 when a friend of theirs, Dennis Rose, told investigators Patrick Castaldo and William Quick that he was among the investigators. Van when it happened.

Andrew Krivak hugs his father, Andrew Krivak Sr., after a jury acquitted him of the rape and murder of 12-year-old Josette Wright on Feb. 27 in Putnam Court.

Andrew Krivak hugs his father, Andrew Krivak Sr., after a jury acquitted him of the rape and murder of 12-year-old Josette Wright on Feb. 27 in Putnam Court.

She described a game of spin the bottle in which, after Josette asked Krivac to stay away from her, he took off her clothes, tied her hands, put her underwear over her mouth to stop her screaming, wrapped her bra around her head to keep her from screaming. He raped her by covering her mouth. DiPippo then raped her, according to her account, and when Josette didn’t move after him, the two men threw her into the woods before returning and DiPippo threatening Rose that he would be next if she didn’t keep her mouth shut.

Over the years the defense has attacked Rose’s account as the product of information that led investigators to the van and other evidence that led him to Fields Lane. He gave roughly the same account in all five trials of the case.

Lie detector tests and statements

When Krivak was arrested on July 1, 1996, he denied all involvement with Castaldo and Quick before asking to take a lie detector test, which his lawyers called the biggest mistake of his life. It was led by Senior Investigator Daniel Stephens, who four years earlier had administered a polygraph to a Peekskill teenager, Jeffrey Deskovich, which led to Deskovich’s false confession to the rape and murder of a 15-year-old classmate that was not released until 2006. , after he spent 16 years in prison.

Stephens told Krivak that he had failed the test and sent him back to Castaldo and Quick, after telling him the machine could not determine whether something was done on purpose or by accident. According to investigators, Krivak then asked if the rape was less than murder, and then made a statement that matched many of the details in Rose’s account, saying that he had raped Josette but that DiPippo had killed her.

The statement was written by Quick and signed by Krivak, but the defense maintained that it was not voluntary and that he signed it to avoid pressure on her.

Kyle Sher, a psychology professor who studies confession science, police interrogations and wrongful convictions, testified for the defense that the polygraph was the turning point. He said misinformation and understaffed investigators were risk factors for Krivak’s false confessions, and that he ignored the long-term consequences of immediately coercing them out.

The statement always bothered Krivak, and while his friend DiPippo – who did not make a statement – received two more chances at freedom, he was denied any relief for more than two decades. In 2019, Krivak was convicted and ordered a new trial based on evidence that DiPippo relied on: Joseph Santoro’s account of a jailhouse conversation in which Gombert told him he had sex with Josette and that the two were having a “sexy” time. crime

Krivak remained in custody until he was granted bail in October 2020.

Ironically, the jury didn’t listen to Santoro this time. He pleaded guilty to extortion in federal court in 2021 after Krivak’s lawyers reported that he had threatened to recant his testimony if he was not paid more than $1 million. After Santoro entered a fifth plea this month and refused to answer questions, the defense decided not to read his earlier testimony to the jury.

DiPippo’s response

DiPippo’s acquittal was not mentioned in the latest trial and jurors were told not to speculate on the outcome of his case.

DiPippo, who now lives in Florida, did not attend the trial until the case went to a jury.

Although he has been free for seven years and settled a federal wrongful conviction case against Putnam County for $12 million, the latest ruling is seen as further vindication for him. The indictment accuses Krivak of acting in concert with DiPippo, and District Attorney Robert Tandy — who criticized the county’s settlement of the civil case — argued in his summation last week that both men were responsible for Josette’s death.

DiPippo was elated by the verdict, calling it “a complete exoneration of both of us” as 24 jurors now found them not guilty.

‘The jury has spoken’

Tendy, who took the relatively rare step of prosecuting an elected DA’s case, left the courtroom with fellow prosecutor Larry Glasser, saying little.

“The jury is out,” Tendy said. “You have to respect their decision, that’s our system.” But when asked if he still thought Krivak was guilty, he said he did.

Which later annoyed Neuwirth. After DiPippo was acquitted, he and Michelen attacked Krivac’s decision to proceed with the trial, saying there was enough evidence to point to Gombert’s guilt and that investigators had coerced a confession.

“I think it’s despicable. It’s a despicable thing for (Tendy) to say,” Neuwirth said, adding that he hoped Poonam voters would send him a message when he ran for re-election. “Two separate juries found otherwise.”

Krivak’s father, Andy, soaked in the sight of his son being interviewed as a free man. “He shouldn’t have been in any of them,” he recalled of all the prisons around the state he had to visit.

“It took a long time to finally find out the truth,” he said.

He said he feels for Susan Wright and her family for losing a child this way. And he understands her frustration with the verdict.

“But he has to put it to the right person,” he said. “It wasn’t two.”

This article originally appeared in the Rockland/Westchester Journal News: Andrew Krivak was found not guilty of the rape, murder of Josette Wright

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