Sunday, July 26, 2009

Long Island wife killer denied new trial

Manhasset wife killer denied a new trial
Sunday, July 26, 2009 By ANN GIVENS

A Manhasset man convicted of shooting his wife to death in front of their two children will not get a new trial, a federal judge has ruled.

In an 85-page decision released late Friday, Judge Arthur Spatt said Nikolaos Kotsopoulos' claim that his lawyer had talked him into an illegal deal, where the lawyer would get an additional $100,000 if Kotsopoulos were acquitted, was just not credible.

"The evidence at this trial was crystal clear," Spatt said, pointing out that Kotsopoulos' own 12-year-old son, George, had testified against him.

Kotsopoulos, 47, was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison after a Nassau jury found him guilty of shooting his wife, Carol, 41, in the face as she was preparing dinner for Greek Orthodox Easter in 2002.

He was granted a hearing this spring after he claimed that his former attorney, Jack Evseroff of Brooklyn, had encouraged him to tell the jury at his criminal trial that an armed intruder had killed his wife because Evseroff had been promised an illegal $100,000 "bonus" if Kotsopoulos was acquitted of all charges.

Kotsopoulos claimed at the hearing in March in Central Islip that he in fact had shot his wife accidentally while he was fidgeting with his gun after an argument. Kotsopoulos said if Evseroff had allowed him to present that story at trial, he might have had a chance at being convicted of a lesser charge, such as manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide.

In his decision, Spatt said that he does not believe there was an illegal deal, nor does he believe Kotsopoulos ever claimed that he had killed his wife accidentally.

"The court finds that he never told Evseroff that it was he who shot his wife," Spatt wrote in the decision. "Only at this hearing, almost six years after his wife's murder, did the petitioner finally admit that he killed her, albeit only . . . when his confession was offered for his own benefit."

Kotsopoulos' attorney, Steven Kartagener of Manhattan, could not be reached for comment late Friday.

Prosecutor Michael Canty said the judge had no reason to believe Kotsopoulos' story, especially after he changed it so radically.

"Hopefully now the family can have some closure, and Mr. Kotsopoulos will go to prison for the rest of his life," Canty said.

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