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Detective: 'Cops' TV presence damaged murder-for-hire case

Associated Press logo Associated Press 12/9/2016 By TERRY SPENCER, Associated Press
Dalia Dippolito sits with attorney Greg Rosenfeld on the second day of her murder-for-hire retrial Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016, in West Palm Beach, Fla. (Lannis Waters /Palm Beach Post via AP, Pool) © The Associated Press Dalia Dippolito sits with attorney Greg Rosenfeld on the second day of her murder-for-hire retrial Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016, in West Palm Beach, Fla. (Lannis Waters /Palm Beach Post via AP, Pool)

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — A former police detective told jurors Friday he believes that having a "Cops" television crew present damaged the Dalia Dippolito murder-for-hire investigation by changing the way investigators did their jobs.

Undercover video of Dalia Dippolito meeting with Boynton Beach Detective Widy Jean, who was undercover posing as a hit man, was shown to the jury on the second day of testimony in Dippolito's murder-for-hire retrial Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016, in West Palm Beach, Fla. (Lannis Waters/Palm Beach Post via AP, Pool) © The Associated Press Undercover video of Dalia Dippolito meeting with Boynton Beach Detective Widy Jean, who was undercover posing as a hit man, was shown to the jury on the second day of testimony in Dippolito's murder-for-hire retrial Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016, in West Palm Beach, Fla. (Lannis Waters/Palm Beach Post via AP, Pool)

Frank Ranzie, testifying for the defense, said he strongly objected to his supervisors about the presence of the reality television show's cameras, but his Boynton Beach Police Department bosses ordered him to cooperate. Ranzie was a sergeant in the detective bureau in 2009 when the investigation into Dippolito's alleged plot to kill her then-husband happened.

Ranzie said the detectives' primary goal should have been to complete the investigation and not produce a TV show. Dippolito's attorneys are building her defense around Boynton Beach police administrators and detectives entrapping her because they hoped to become famous.

"I feel strongly about not having anyone with cameras running around live while we are doing an investigation," said Ramzie, a 24-year veteran of the department who retired in 2012. "It changes the dynamic of how people interact when there is a bright light standing next to you."

He said his major ordered him to sign the contract to appear on "Cops."

"I was told that, 'You are going to have the TV show "Cops" ride with you,' and that's the end of it," Ranzie said.

Dippolito, 34, is charged with trying to hire a hit man to kill her then-husband Michael Dippolito in 2009. The case became a "Cops" special episode. Dippolito's 2011 conviction and 20-year sentence were overturned on appeal because of mistakes during jury selection by the previous judge.

In a videotaped meeting with undercover officer Widy Jean posing as a hit man, she offered the pretend killer $7,000 to shoot her husband, saying she was "5,000 percent sure" she wanted him dead.

She has testified at her previous trial and at hearings that she, her husband and informant Mohammed Shihadeh were acting in an ill-planned video project in hopes of landing their own reality TV show and that Shihadeh threatened her with a gun if she didn't meet Jean.

Michael Dippolito and Shihadeh have denied there was a video project and Shihadeh has denied threatening Dippolito. He did say Boynton detectives threatened him with arrest if he didn't stick with the investigation. Such a threat would violate department policy. Dippolito has not testified at her current trial.

Ranzie said that while no investigation is perfect, Boynton Beach detectives made several avoidable mistakes with Dippolito. He said the lead detective pressed ahead with a meeting between her and Shihadeh at a Chili's restaurant even though Shihadeh's wire failed. He said he offered to drive to a neighboring police department and borrow a wire but the lead detective cursed him out and told him to mind his own business.

Dippolito's attorneys have tried to use that gap to her advantage, suggesting to jurors it was during that meeting Shihadeh made his threat.

Closing arguments are expected by Tuesday.

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