Red Hot NY Lawyer Tacopina Gets Big Chill From Wiseguys Joseph Tacopina, the handsome high-profile


who delivers pithy sound-bites on network TV and backs up his legal banter with successes in court, is flying high these days. And why not? Following his most recent courtroom victory – a rape case that looked like a sure-fire loser to most observers – the smoothtalking Madison Avenue attorney seems well worth the reported $750 an hour that he gets for his talented services these days. Whether it’s an NYPD cop accused of rape, a city councilman charged with bashing and slashing his girlfriend, or a Sopranos actor on trial for the murder of a cop, Tacopina has shown quite convincingly that he has what it takes to turn the tables on the prosecution. But there’s an important segment of criminal justice consumers who have been giving the Brooklyn-born and bred barrister a wide berth. While Tacopina has represented numerous wiseguys and cohorts of at least four New York area crime families in years past, his current roster of clients appears devoid of mob-tied customers, local court databases show. In fact, Tacopina, once a sought-after attorney by mobsters in trouble, handled his last mob-connected defendant when he represented an associate who was charged along with Genovese capos Matthew (Matty The Horse) Ianniello (left) and Ciro Perrone in a 2005 labor racketeering indictment involving the family’s longtime control over a union that represents city school bus drivers. Tacopina’s wiseguy clients appear to have dropped away after he became entangled in a fee-splitting and tax evasion probe of a prominent New York lawyer. That investigation arose out of the federal corruption investigation of a high-profile former Tacopina client, disgraced ex-NYPD Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik. Tacopina later became a cooperating witness against Kerik, a status that was publicly disclosed in court papers three years ago. But sources tell Gang Land that, while the Kerik probe was ongoing, Tacopina told the feds that he had funneled a substantial amount of cash, about $100,000, to attorney Ronald Fischetti from legal fees that he had received from a client whom Fischetti had referred to him in a majorfees that he had received from a client whom Fischetti had referred to him in a major Bernard Kerik John Yannucci

state court prosecution. While technically not a crime, the practice – called fee-splitting – is prohibited and could lead to censure, suspension or even disbarment if charges are lodged with the grievance committee of the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court. But not paying taxes is a crime, and sources say that was the focus of a federal grand jury investigation by the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office. Tacopina would not respond to repeated requests for comment. Neither did his attorney, Michael Ross. Fischetti (right) told Gang Land the allegations were “not true,” but declined further comment. His attorney, Robert Morvillo, declined to comment. “It’s an open secret that Tacopina threw Fischetti under the bus four years ago, and that’s a really big issue for wiseguys – and lots of lawyers too,” said a well-known member of the defense bar. No charges were ever filed against Fischetti, and sources say the probe ended in 2009. While the allegations about Tacopina’s cooperation against Fischetti have long circulated on the criminal defense grapevine, they’ve never been publicly aired before now. But that hasn't stopped some lawyers from choosing sides in the fracas. “I’ve had cases against Ron, and I just don’t buy it,” said one exprosecutor who, like all the attorneys and former prosecutors who spoke to Gang Land about this touchy issue, did so under a promise of anonymity. “He’s been around forever, and has always been a straight-arrow,” he added. “What really irks me,” said one well-known attorney, “is that Ron was a mentor to Joe, showing him the ropes. You know, one ItalianAmerican from Brooklyn taking a younger paesano under his wing, and then getting it in the neck. And I don’t believe (Ron) did it, either,” said the lawyer. One prominent attorney with insight about the probe asked Gang Land not to identify Fischetti as the target of a grand jury investigation since the allegations were not substantiated. Two weeks ago, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals rebuffed a motion by Gang Land to unseal court papers involving the allegations. Still, for our money, the public has a right to know about investigations, no matter the outcome, once they become part of an active criminal case, as was the case here. Sources say Tacopina alleged the fee-splitting took place in 2004-2005, the same time-frame that Bronx prosecutors were looking into allegations that Kerik received $165,000 in benefits from mob connected contractors while he was police commissioner. In 2006,

Kerik copped a misdemeanor plea deal worked out by Tacopina, who continued to represent Kerik as the feds began their own probe. In April of 2007, according to court records, Tacopina dropped Kerik, about whom he had been talking to the feds, as a client. On Kerik, about whom he had been talking to the feds, as a client. On John Yannucci the same day, Tacopina turned over the representation of all the clients who had retained him on indictments filed in Brooklyn and Manhattan Federal Court, including Genovese associate John Yannucci, (right) to an attorney who shared office space with him on the 35th floor at 275 Madison Avenue, according to federal court records. Meanwhile, sources say that a grand jury investigated fee-splitting and tax-related allegations against Fischetti, hearing testimony from lawyers and other witnesses until December, 2009, when prosecutors for U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara ended the probe. An adjunct Professor of Law at Fordham Law School, Fischetti, still spry and feisty at 75, delivered his opening statement yesterday at a multidefendant drug trafficking case that went to trial in Manhattan Federal Court.  

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