Haredi Rabbi Accused Of Double Murder-For-Hire Asks To Fire Attorney, Represent Himself At Trial
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Rabbi Victor “Naftali” Koltun is charged with double first degree murder. But Koltun has infamously delayed his trial for several years by repeatedly firing attorneys; feigning psychiatric illness; by accusing the judge, prosecutors and police of anti-Semitism; and by allegedly trying to arrange the murder of the judge and district attorney.
Thursday, Koltun argued in Orange County, New York Court that he should be allowed to fire his third attorney and represent himself at trial.
The 44-year-old rabbi is charged with leading a murder-for-hire plot that resulted in the murders of Frank Piscopo, 49, and his nephew, Gerald Piscopo, 28, on Nov. 4, 2010 in Newburgh, New York.
On Thursday, the trial’s second judge, Nicholas De Rosa – the first judge, Jeffrey Berry, recused himself after Koltun’s threats to kill him became known and Berry could have been called as a witness in any case that would arise from those threats – tried to explain jury selection to Koltun. But Koltun responded by insisting that the case against him is based on anti-Semitism, and told De Rosa that he will renew his motion to have the case moved to another friendlier jurisdiction — perhaps Brooklyn.
"I don't believe I can have a fair trial in Orange County, because of pervasive anti-Semitism," Koltun reportedly said.
Koltun told De Rosa that he had previously represented himself in civil court.
"You will be held to the exact same standard as an attorney," De Rosa reportedly said, and went on to explain some of the pitfalls of a defendant representing himself in court.
"I have invested more than three years of my life into this case. I believe I can represent myself better than anyone else,” Koltun insisted.
"Your exposure here is life without parole. We're not talking about a $15 civil case," De Rosa responded.
"It is my life. I understand,” Koltun said.
On Friday, the court reconvened and De Rosa again went over the pitfalls of self-representation. And then he asked Koltun the question one more time.
"Do you want to proceed pro se [i.e., do you want to represent yourself], or do you want Mr. Plotsky to represent you?" De Rosa asked.
Koltun asked De Rosa for time to think about it and offered to answer the question Monday.
De Rosa denied that request.
“Let Mr. Plotsky [his court-appointed attorney] do it,” Koltun said, answering De Rosa’s question.
De Rosa scheduled jury selection for 9 a.m. Monday.