It is hard to imagine how a dispute over a parking space could lead to the destruction of two families and the death of C4 Corvette owner. CNN covered the legal wrangling surrounding the tragedy that took place on October 3, 1996 leaving one Corvette owner dead and a former NYPD officer in and out of jail. Richard DiGuglielmo Jr. was charged with intentional murder and murder with depraved indifference resulting in a twenty-years-to-life prison sentence. Unfortunately the events of October 3, 1996 are not as cut and dry as DiGuglielmo Jr.’s conviction and prison sentence would seem to imply.
October 3, 1996 started off with DiGuglielmo Jr. stopping by after finishing his NYPD shift to help out at family deli in Dobbs Ferry, New York. DiGuglielmo Jr.’s father, Rich Sr., had suffered a heart attack and was still recovering, so the family pulled together to help run the family business. One thing New York is known for is the serious lack of parking, and when Charles Campbell parked his C4 in a lot reserved for patrons of the building complete with “parking is for patrons only” signage, a series of events was set into motion that would lead to an unimaginable result. Campbell took one of the scarce parking spots during a dinnertime rush, and this would normally not be an issue except that Campbell was not a patron of the building; he simply used the parking lot due to its close proximity to a pizza place across the street.
According to Rev. William Campbell, his brother Charles was an amateur boxer who worked with at-risk youth and lived a very active lifestyle. With this description of his brother, the events that unfolded after the parking incident seem to be out of character for the late Campbell. DiGuglielmo Sr. asked Campbell to park his Corvette elsewhere and Campbell refused; at this point DiGuglielmo Sr. posted a no parking sticker on the window of Campbell’s C4 as police had instructed him to do in the past. Once Campbell saw the DiGuglielmo Sr. adhere the sticker to window of the Corvette, he rushed back to the car and the disagreement with DiGuglielmo Sr. started. Once things got a little out of hand between the still recovering DiGuglielmo and the amateur boxer, DiGuglielmo Jr. stepped in between the men to attempt to calm the situation and protect his ailing father.
What happened next destroyed two families, Campbell struck DiGuglielmo Jr with a series of punches, and others got involved before Campbell stated that he had had enough after being subdued by three members of the DiGuglielmo family. Thinking that the worst was over, DiGuglielmo Sr. walked over to return Campbell’s phone and sweatshirt that had been lost in the scuffle when Campbell retrieved a metal baseball from the car. Campbell struck the elder DiGuglielmo with the bat, shattering his knee and breaking his wrist. DiGuglielmo Jr. witnessed the attack on his father from inside the deli and acted based on his police training, fatally shooting Campbell.
Based on the scenario, DiGuglielmo Jr. assumed that this tragic event would not result in criminal charges that would forever change his life and that of his family. DiGuglielmo Jr. was charged and convicted of two murder charges, resulting in a 20-years-to-life sentence. Two witnesses initially stated that DiGuglielmo Jr. was defending his father from Campbell, but changed their stories after alleged pressure from Dobbs Ferry Police department. According to CNN, “At a news conference, then-District Attorney Jeanine Pirro said a witness — who she didn’t name — reported hearing racial slurs during the incident, triggering a year of racially charged demonstrations and protests outside the DiGuglielmo deli. But during the trial, no witnesses ever testified about hearing racial slurs.”
September 28,2008, some eleven years after the shooting, DiGuglielmo Jr. was released pending a new trial after a judge ruled that his appeal had merit. According to the appeal, the former NYPD transit officer was wrongly charged and the local prosecutors had withheld evidence, which was substantial enough to sway a jury’s decision. Less than two years later, DiGuglielmo Jr.was forced to turn himself in after the New York Supreme Court reversed the 2008 decision of a lower court.
Many supporters of DiGuglielmo Jr. claim that the prosecution had an agenda with this case and that the prosecution’s claims of racial slurs being hurled Campbell were unfounded. Despite the contested rulings in this case DiGuglielmo Jr. continues to serve his sentence while fighting the enormous legal battle. It is hard to believe that a cascade of rash actions led to the destruction of two families, leaving one man dead, another in-and-out of prison, and the justice system on trial over where one man chose to park his Corvette. For those interested in knowing more details of this case, CNN Presents will provide in depth coverage of this murder case on Sunday January 22, 2012 11PM Eastern Time.