A Queens criminal defense lawyer has been arrested for alleged witness tampering in a Long Island murder case in which two innocent men were gunned down by a Crips gang member, sources said Tuesday.
John Scarpa, 65, a former prosecutor, is facing charges in Brooklyn Federal Court over accusations he meddled in a 2015 double homicide trial in Suffolk County. His client was convicted in spite of his illegal efforts, prosecutors said.
Scarpa has been indicted along with 56-year-old felon Charles Gallman, who authorities have called a “pseudo legal assistant” with a history of bribing witnesses.
“Gallman used that reputation and his connections in the criminal underworld to contact and intimidate potential witnesses — a skill that his attorney partners called upon to undermine prosecutions,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Lindsey Gerdes wrote in a letter to the court arguing for Scarpa’s detention.
“And no criminal defense attorney worked closer with Gallman than Scarpa.”
Scarpa represented Crips member Reginald Ross, who was tried in 2015 for two murders. The lawyer allegedly worked with Gallman, a convicted killer who was on his payroll and worked out of his office, to pay off Ross’s co-defendant in one of the hits in exchange for his lying in court.
“So this guy is willing to do whatever?” Scarpa asked Gallman in one recorded exchange prior to the court proceeding.
“Whatever you need, John. Whatever you need,” the crooked case fixer said, according to prosecutors.
Gallman also told the lawyer that Luis Cherry, the witness, would go along “whichever way you wanna play it.”
Gallman promised Ross’s girlfriend that what the witness would say “is gonna blow everybody’s mind,” according to court papers filed Tuesday by federal prosecutors.
Prosecutors at the Ross trial grilled Cherry about his hour-long prison pow-wow with Gallman and he and Scarpa then conspired to cover up their dubious efforts.
Cherry, on the witness stand, told the probing prosecutor they “just talked about bitches … and your mom.”
The pair were allegedly discussing how he would retract his original confession implicating Ross and instead swear under oath he acted alone.
The testimony they paid him off for was glaringly implausible, court papers say.
At one point Cherry claimed that Ross wasn’t there for the slaying and he fired off two guns at once – an assertion that was easily disputed by forensics, prosecutors say.
Cherry also had a bogus explanation for why he drove Ross’s car to the murder scene, supposedly in Ross’s absence.
Ross and Cherry actually gunned down irrigation foreman John Williams in October 2010 on his way to work, mistaking him for his brother. Williams was a married father of two.
It was a callous plot to try to lure another man to town to attend a funeral so they could execute him over a drug debt.
Ross was also tried and convicted in the May 2010 killing of road crew flagman Raymond Hirt — who he felt had disrespected him when they argued about traffic the job was causing.
Prosecutors say Scarpa is a sellout of an attorney who traded his ethics for a cheap advantage and paired up with Gallman, a known cheater previously caught for the same conduct.
Scarpa was collared early Tuesday morning and is expected to appear before a judge in the afternoon.
His attorney Thomas Kenniff said his client has been “defending the rights of the accused” for decades and denies the charges.
“In his 36 years practicing law, as a former prosecutor and then as a defense attorney, Mr. Scarpa has carried that charge with dignity, integrity and zeal,” Kenniff said.
“We’re confident that when all the evidence comes out, he will be fully exonerated and his otherwise unblemished reputation restored.”
“As alleged, the defendants bribed a witness to commit perjury in an effort to help Scarpa’s client, who had committed two execution-style murders, escape justice,” U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue said in a statement.
“This Office and our law enforcement partners will never tolerate the rigging of a trial and will vigorously prosecute attorneys or anyone else who seeks to undermine the integrity of the judicial process by witness tampering.”