CARMEL, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A Putnam County man was saddened, but not angry as he sat down to reflect after 20 years in prison or a crime the courts now say he did not commit.
Anthony DiPippo talked exclusively with CBS2’s Lou Young in his attorney’s office, three days after a jury in Putnam County found him not guilty of the 1994 rape and murder of Josette Wright, 12.
When asked if he killed Josette, DiPippo said, “Absolutely not.” When asked if it hurt even to answer the question, he said, “Yes.”
DiPippo went behind bars as a 19-year-old troublemaker. But he insisted he was never the killer authorities once said he was.
“I was a street kid. I was dumb as a box of rocks,” he said. “Though I didn’t commit this crime, I was a criminal thinker in my youth.”
DiPippo said he was picked up because he was one of the usual suspects.
This was his third trial for the same crime. Each previous conviction was overturned, and on Tuesday, he was acquitted.
The primary witness against DiPippo was a former girlfriend who said she saw the attack, only this time her story didn’t convince the jury.
“What we learned at this trial is that the eyewitness wasn’t credible,” said DiPippo’s attorney, Mark Agnifilo.
In the third trial, the defense was allowed to suggest that another man, Howard Gombert, is the real killer. He was seen with the victim shortly before her disappearance, and is currently in a Connecticut prison on sex assault charges.
That apparently turned the tide, but the Putnam County District Attorney isn’t backing down. He insists a verdict of not guilty is not the same as innocence.
“I was disappointed in the verdict. I’m confident we prosecuted the right person, and we just have to live with the verdict. There’s nothing we can do about it,” said Putnam County DA Robert Tendy.
DiPippo said he would like the state Attorney General’s office to look at his and several other Putnam County convictions dating back to the 1990s.
Jeff Deskovic, who spent 16 years in prison for a similar Putnam County crime and was exonerated, believes the system too often tries to protect itself.
“That’s just wanting to uphold the conviction and not want to admit the error,” Deskovic said.
CBS2’s Young asked DiPippo if he was angry about the 20 years he spent behind bars.
“No. I should be. I’m saddened by the fact that I lost a significant portion of my life, but I look forward to what I have left, and I’m going to make the most of it,” he said.
DiPippo said he is thinking about law school as part of his new life.
Another defendant in the Josette Wright murder case remains in prison. Andrew Krivak is convicted of taking part in the crime, and is now seeking a new trial based on his former co-defendant’s acquittal.