A man who was sentenced to life in prison for murdering his wife — an NYPD cop — in 1996 could be a free man in a matter of weeks, an appeals judge ruled last week.
The federal appeals court ruled on Aug. 9 that the jury which convicted John Rivera did not have enough evidence to find him guilty of depraved indifference murder in the death of Kimberly Rivera, a 28-year-old scooter cop at the 68th Precinct in Bay Ridge, and tossed out the conviction.
Investigators charged that Rivera shot his estranged wife in January, 1996, during an argument in front of Rivera’s Bath Beach home. Their child, a toddler, was sitting just paces away in a nearby car.
Yet Rivera told another story: he claimed that his unhinged wife shot herself in the head during the argument, claiming that she “couldn’t take it anymore.”
Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes never believed Rivera’s description of events, especially since Kimberly Rivera’s head wound — which was two inches above and behind the right ear — was “inconsistent with suicide.”
“We say [Rivera] put the gun in the victim’s hand,” Assistant District Attorney Kenneth Taub said after Rivera’s arrest. “The evidence will show he shot and killed his wife and tried to make it look like suicide.”
At trial, Peter Antioco, Rivera’s lawyer, said that Kimberly Rivera was suicidal and had emotional problems that were tied to “an abortion, a miscarriage and a lesbian relationship.”
Rivera was convicted of depraved indifference murder and sentenced to life in prison in 1997. When the verdict was read, he swore that he would be “back down on appeal” and spat at the 70 cops watching in the gallery, the New York Daily News noted at the time.
He got his wish: after many exhaustive attempts to have his conviction overturned, the federal court of appeals agreed that the jury which convicted Rivera should never have been given the option to find him guilty of depraved indifference murder.
The federal court of appeals ordered Rivera set free from prison — which could happen in a matter of weeks.
A Hynes spokesman said that the DA’s office was “reviewing its options.”
Mobster pleads guilty
A notorious Brooklyn gangster who federal prosecutors say flouted his bail conditions by showing up to work at the famed Lucali Pizzeria in Carroll Gardens — but did everything but work — hammered out a sweetheart deal with prosecutors on Aug. 10 that will spare him from attempted murder charges.
Reputed Colombo crime family associate Dominick “Black Dom” Dionisio was awaiting trial on a host of crimes when the 41 year old’s attorney worked out a deal in which he would spend a little more than seven years in prison.
The deal called for Dionisio to confess to a strong arm robbery of a Magen David Yeshiva worker on McDonald Avenue in 1991, where he robbed the school employee of $50,000. He also pled guilty to racketeering charges and several other gunpoint robberies in Brooklyn, as well as Baltimore, MD, where he reportedly held up drug dealers.
But the deal ensures that Dionisio won’t have to be tried on how he attempted to assassinate two fellow mobsters from a rival Colombo gang in the early 1990s during what was known as the “internecine war.”
Federal prosecutors alleged that Dionisio and an accomplice opened fire on his fellow mobsters on a crowded Manhattan street in broad daylight, injuring one of them. Several innocent pedestrians were also hit.
Dionisio worked at Lucali’s Pizzeria, which is on Henry Street near First Place, while he was out on bail, although federal prosecutors said in 2009 that he never cooked a single pie.