prosecutor even demanded additional sentencing because Occhipintirnhad gone to the press proclaiming his innocence.rnThat request was denied by the court. By coincidence, thernprosecutor in Occhipinti’s case, Jeh Johnson, was the manrnwho had closed down Project Esquire and is alleged to be therngodson of Judge Motley.rnEleven months after the trial, Occhipinti appealed his conviction.rnArmed with a new attorney and an 800-page brief, hernwas confident that justice would prevail, The appeal, however,rnwas heard only two weeks after the Los Angeles riots thatrnfollowed the acquittal of four policemen charged with beatingrnRodney King. As Joe Occhipinti and his wife approached therncourt, they were greeted with scores of protesters shoutingrn”No Justice, No Peace!” The protesters clearly threatened to riotrnif Occhipinti’s conviction were overturned.rnThe actual appeal lasted only 30 minutes, and Occhipinti’srnattorney, Stephen Frankel, was allowed only 15 minutes tornpresent his case. During oral arguments, the Dominican Federation’srnprotesters burst into the courtroom—again implyingrnthat a riot or worse would follow if the judges dared to overturnrnthe conviction. According to Occhipinti, the three judgesrnwere so intimidated that they never even read his attorney’srncarefully prepared brief. Within another hour, the verdictrnwas in and the conviction upheld. The press was even told ofrnthe result before the defendant, for the purpose of placatingrnthe threatening mob.rnOcchipinti surrendered himself on June 16, 1992. Thisrn”dangerous criminal” was shackled in leg irons, body chains,rnand handcuffs for 12 hours, transported to Oklahoma’s ElrnReno maximum-security penitentiary, and placed in the midstrnof the general prison population, surrounded by hundreds ofrnconvicted drug criminals, some of whom recognized Occhipintirnbecause they also were from New York. He quickly realizedrnthat his sentence was not 37 months; it was death at thernhands of jailed criminals.rnMe immediately identified himself to sympathetic guards,rnwho were outraged that they had been given no notice of his arrival.rnTo protect Occhipinti, thev placed him in “solitary,”rnwhere he suffered a breakdown. He was transferred to a prisonrnmedical center in Rochester, Minnesota, where he involuntarilyrnended up in a psychiatric ward, a step he felt was taken torndiscredit him. Although doctors at the Minnesota facility recommendedrnthat Occhipinti be transferred to a minimum securityrnprison in Fairton, New Jersey, to be near his family andrnout of harm’s way, the Bureau of Prisons vetoed the recommendations.rnOcchipinti contends that, because they knew hernwould continue working to clear his name, the goal was to keeprnhim away from his family, his supporters, and the media, histead,rnhe was transferred to a military prison at Eglin Air ForcernBase in Florida, where it was difficult to communicate with thernpress.rnNumerous supporters came forward to seek justice for Occhipinti,rnincluding talk-show host Bob Grant, Guardian AngelsrnCurtis and Lisa Sliwa, New York Post reporter Mike McAlary,rnand—in the forefront—former Congressman and current StatenrnIsland Borough President Guy Molinari. An extensive file ofrndocuments compiled by Molinari’s office shows beyond anyrnreasonable doubt that the witnesses against Occhipinti werernengaged in illegal activity and committed perjury, and that twornof them were paid over $20,000 each by the “federation” to giverntheir fraudulent testimonies. Among the evidence compiled byrnMolinari’s office is an affidavit signed by newspaper editorrnManuel de Dios on January 14, 1992. This tough and bravernnewsman and antidrug crusader went undercover and garneredrnevidence of Occhipinti’s innocence. Mimicking theirrnmodus operandus in Colombia and the Dominican Republic,rnthe drug lords assassinated De Dios on March 11, 1992. In Decemberrn1992, Molinari spearheaded a grass-roots campaignrnto convince outgoing President George Bush to commuternOcchipinti’s sentence and grant him a full pardon. In spite ofrnstonewalling by the Justice Department, Bush commuted thernsentence on January 15, 1993, but he withheld a pardon.rnJoe arrived home on January 16, 1993. Though no longerrnbehind bars, he remains a prisoner of sorts. His life in economicrnruin—no job, no pension, depleted life savings—andrnpartially disabled, he still fights daily to clear his name. His newrnattorney, Anthony Pope, armed with exhaustive new evidence,rnfiled an application for a new trial in June, along with a motionrnfor Judge Motley to recuse herself due to conflicts of interestrnand a motion for a change of venue. One piece of new evidencernis an affidavit signed by Alma Camarena, a formerrnassistant in the law firm of Andres Aranda and Jorge Guttlein,rnattorneys for the “federation.” She stated under oath, “I heardrnthem talking about how Occhipinti, then head of the antismugglingrnunit, was putting tremendous pressure on the illegalrnactivities of their Dominican clients. Mr. Aranda toldrnMr. Guttlein that he would like to see Mr. Occhipinti ‘eliminated.’rnMr. Guttlein felt that was not the right thing to do.rnMr. Guttlein stated instead that they should think up a plan tornset Mr. Occhipinti up and have him prosecuted for violatingrnthe civil rights of Dominicans.” Described as a reliable policerninformant, Camarena gave this information to the U.S. Attorney’srnOffice a year prior to Occhipinti’s indictment. She wasrneven interviewed by Jeh Johnson, yvho buried the informationrnand withheld it at the trial.rnThe Occhipinti case earned headlines in New York andrnNeyy Jersey throughout June, as the news media began to reportrnthe evidence confirming his innocence. On June 17, for example,rnthere were front-page headlines yvhen three bodegarnowners yho had testified against Occhipinti were arrested byrnthe NYPD on charges of gambling, narcotics, and attemptedrnbribery. According to Sergeant Frank Perez, when FideliornMedina, Joaquin Checo, and Javier Checo were being cuffed,rnan irate Dominican woman screamed at the officers, “We’rerngoing to do you like we did Occhipinti!” According to Occhipinti,rnthose arrested were relatives of Jose Liberato Checo,rnthe reputed head of the Cibao drug cartel.rnIn the June 17 New York Daily News, police spokesman RaymondrnO’Donnell referred to the “federation” as a “Dominicanrnorganized crime organization.” In June 1991, “federation”rnvice president Erasmos Tavaros pled guilty to laundering $70rnmillion in drug profits. His sentence in the Southern Districtrnwas probation. Occhipinti’s, remember, was 37 months andrnpossible death behind bars. New Jersey Patrolmen’s BenevolentrnAssociation President Frank Ginesi declared “that the evidencernseems to indicate that Occhipinti was intentionally subjectedrnto a selective and malicious prosecution . . . which wasrngenerated by a major Dominican drug cartel that the agent wasrninvestigating.”rnFor the last seven months, devoid of badge and gun, notrnonly has Joe Occhipinti battled to clear his name, but, as thernforemost expert on Third World ethnic organized crime, he hasrnattempted to make his files public in order to enlighten the citizenryrnand law enforcement agents. He is now cooperatingrn28/CHRONICLESrnrnrn