Charles Campbell Family Attorneys Write Governor Opposing DiGuglielmo Application for Commutation of Sentence
NEW YORK, NY — December 26, 2013 — The family of Charles Campbell, an African-American man shot and killed in the parking lot of the Venice Deli in Dobbs Ferry, New York, on October 3, 1996, by the deli owner's off-duty police officer son, are opposing Richard D. DiGuglielmo's application to Governor Andrew Cuomo to commute his 20 years to life prison sentence. DiGuglielmo was convicted of second degree murder in 1997 following a seven week trial and testimony from thirteen witnesses. According to longtime Campbell family attorney, Randolph M. McLaughlin, the family was advised last week that DiGuglielmo had filed an application with the Governor's office seeking early release. In a letter to Governor Cuomo opposing the application on behalf of the Campbell family, McLaughlin and his partner Debra S. Cohen, said that the application should be denied in the "interest of justice" and that if DiGuglielmo is released prior to serving his full sentence, "It will raise questions in many people's minds as to why he has been afforded special treatment." According to the letter, "the interests of justice require that Richard D. DiGuglielmo be treated no better, and no worse, than any other person convicted of murder in what has been adjudged by numerous courts to have been a fair process.
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December 26, 2013
The Honorable Governor of the State of New York
Mr. Andrew M. Cuomo
Albany, New York 12224
Dear Governor Cuomo:
We have represented the family of the late Charles Campbell for seventeen years. Mr.Campbell's family was very disturbed to learn recently that Richard D. DiGuglielmo has submitted an application seeking commutation of his sentence for murdering Mr. Campbell onOctober 3, 1996. They have asked us to communicate to you that they strongly oppose this application and to explain to you why.
Since the day he was killed, Mr. Campbell's family and friends have vigilantly sought justice. They initially thought it had been obtained when, in October 1997, a jury in Westchester County convicted Richard D. DiGuglielmo of depraved indifference murder. The conviction came after a seven week trial where thirteen witnesses to the shooting, and/or the events leading up to it, testified as to what they saw and heard. However, since his conviction, DiGuglielmo and his family, friends and supporters have engaged in a relentless campaign to distort the events as described by these many witnesses in an attempt to disparage the memory of Mr. Campbell and absolve DiGuglielmo of responsibility for his actions.
On the day of the murder, Mr. Campbell drove to Dobbs Ferry, New York to pick up a pay check at St. Christopher's School, a residential facility for at risk youth where he was a popular recreation counselor. Mr. Campbell was also at the time employed full time by the City of White Plains Department of Sanitation. At approximately 5:00 p.m., Mr. Campbell parked his car in a space in front of the Venice Deli and walked across the street to get a slice of pizza. The deli, the two story building where it was located and the parking lot in front of the building were, and are, owned by the applicant's parents, Richard B. and Rosemarie DiGuglielmo. Their son-in-law, Robert Errico was also working in the deli that day. Their son, Richard D. DiGuglielmo, was employed at the time as a New York City Police Officer but was off duty and visiting his father at the deli when Mr. Campbell arrived. Unbeknownst to Mr. Campbell, there was a long history of incidents at the Venice Deli wherein the DiGuglielmos verbally and physically attacked people who parked in their lot but then patronized the pizzeria located across Ashford Avenue. A list of 20 prior incidents is annexed hereto as Attachment 1. The list was compiled from incident reports on file at the Dobbs Ferry Police Department. Several of the complainants were interviewed by us in preparation for a civil lawsuit and some testified at that trial.
While across the street in the pizzeria, Mr. Campbell saw DiGuglielmo, Sr. affixing an illegal yellow sticker to the passenger side window of Mr. Campbell's new sports car. He left the pizzeria and began running towards his car only to be met in the middle of the parking lot by the elder DiGuglielmo, his son Richard D. DiGuglielmo and his son-in-law Robert Errico. The three men beat Mr. Campbell to the ground, held him down, and struck him repeatedly about the head with their fists and with Mr. Campbell's cell phone. The fight was witnessed by, and testified to by several witnesses at the criminal trial.
Mr. Campbell got to his feet and moved towards his car. He was followed by the elder DiGuglielmo. As DiGuglielmo, Sr. approached him, Mr. Campbell opened his trunk and removed a baseball bat. Witnesses testified that he swung it at the approaching man's calf, striking him in the lower part of his leg. Numerous witnesses testified that Mr. Campbell then backed away from the still approaching DiGuglielmo, Sr. while holding, but not swinging, the bat in a defensive position by his shoulder. Four young boys returning from the local park testified to Mr. Campbell "power walking" backwards away from the deli and his car, across the full length of the parking lot towards the street, as the deli owner continued to chase him. They also testified to seeing the applicant rush out from the deli, stop in the middle of the parking lot and, without any hesitation or verbal warnings, shoot Mr. Campbell three times. In addition to the four young boys, several witnesses sitting in rush hour traffic on Ashford Avenue observed and testified to some or all of the shooting.
Mr. Campbell fell to the ground at the sidewalk along Ashford Avenue after retreating across the entire length of the parking lot and without ever swinging the bat again. The medical examiner corroborated the testimony of the witnesses who testified to Mr. Campbell's defensive posture at the time he was shot. A nurse who was in the deli when the shooting occurred rushed outside to assist Mr. Campbell. At the civil trial she testified that she asked the DiGuglielmos to get her some towels but they refused. The applicant, Richard D. DiGuglielmo referred to Mr.Campbell as a "piece of shit. His father told her, "Get out of here, you didn't see anything."
The gun that Richard D. DiGuglielmo used to kill Mr. Campbell was one of several licensed weapons owned by his father. This particular gun was carried daily by DiGuglielmo, Sr. from his home located a few blocks from the deli in Dobbs Ferry. When deposed for the civil trial, DiGuglielmo, Sr. admitted that neither he nor the deli had ever been robbed or the victim of a crime in the neighborhood. Yet, every day, he carried the gun from home to the deli where it was kept in an open holster hanging from a nail under the cash register.
His son, the applicant Richard D. DiGuglielmo, was no stranger to violence. For example, ten years prior to shooting Charles Campbell, while still on probation with the New York City Police Department, the applicant was charged with assaulting a man in Yonkers, New York, after being asked to leave a party. He was allowed to plead to a lesser count, thus preserving his law enforcement employment. Since Richard D. DiGuglielmo's conviction, he has refused to accept responsibility for his actions. He, his family, and his supporters have engaged in a widespread public relations campaign to paint Mr. Campbell as the aggressor, Richard B. DiGuglielmo as a helpless victim, and Richard D. DiGuglielmo as his father's heroic savior. This mischaracterization of the events of October 3, 1996, is contrary to the testimony of thirteen impartial witnesses and is a classic "blame the victim" strategy that continues to inflict tremendous pain on the Campbell family.
There is no basis in law or fact for Richard D. DiGuglielmo to be afforded the extraordinary relief of commutation of his sentence. If he is released prior to serving his full sentence, it will raise questions in many people's minds as to why he has been afforded special treatment. Is it because he was a police officer? Is it because his family had access to legal and public relations experts not available to most convicted murderers? Is it because his distorted version of the events has enhanced credibility because he is white and Mr. Campbell was black? The interests of justice require that Richard D. DiGuglielmo be treated no better, and no worse than any other person convicted of murder in what has been adjudged by numerous courts to have been a fair process.
On behalf of Charles Campbell's son Vaughn, his family and many friends, we respectfully, but strongly, urge you to reject Richard D. DiGuglielmo's application to commute his sentence. Thank you for your consideration of the family's position in this matter.
Very truly yours,
Randolph M. McLaughlin
Debra S. Cohen
Counsel to the Campbell Family