Jeff Morganteen, Staff Writer
Published 09:47 p.m., Sunday, September 12, 2010
STAMFORD — The deli owner accused of trying to hire a former gang member to kill his ex-wife is taking his case to trial, his attorney says, arguing that his client did not intend to have his former spouse murdered.
Christopher Esposito, 38, of Trumbull, was charged with attempt to commit murder by solicitation this past March for allegedly asking an employee — who claimed to have been a former Mexican gang member — how much it would cost for him to kill his estranged wife last fall, court records show.
Defense attorney Mark Sherman said the state and his client could not reach a plea deal because prosecutors were unwilling to reduce his attempted murder charges. The case was put on the trial list at state Superior Court in Stamford last week, which means it should be heard before a jury within several months.
Refraining from speaking about specific defenses in the criminal case, Sherman said he would raise First Amendment issues during the trial. Sherman said Esposito did not intend to follow through on his threats of hiring someone to kill his ex-wife.
“I don’t think it rises to the level of murder-by-hire,” Sherman said.
Police investigators tried to record exchanges between Esposito and the former gang member during an interview session in February, but those attempts failed, court records show.
“He never took the bait,” Sherman said.
Authorities accuse Esposito of propositioning an employee at his 80 Atlantic St. deli, called Esposito’s Delicatessen, because that worker was said to have belonged to a gang in Mexico, where he had to kill in self-defense, police said.
Esposito allegedly nicknamed that employee “killer,” court documents show.
The employee, however, did not reply to Esposito, he told police. Instead he told a relative of the wife that he believed the proposition was serious and that he feared for her safety, the affidavit states.
Court records allege Esposito threatened to put his wife into a wood chipper and that other deli employees witnessed him being verbally abusive to her while working.
The couple had been separated since May 2009 and were going through a divorce, yet they continued to work in the deli alongside each other despite her claims that he allegedly made repeated threats against her life.
The wife told police her husband claimed he had ties to organized crime and told her he could “make her disappear” with one phone call, court records show. One employee allegedly told police that Esposito bragged about being connected to the mafia.
The threats were allegedly made in fall 2009, but were not reported until February 2010, records show.
Esposito is free on $250,000 bond.