NEW YORK – Federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against a former suburban New York police officer charged in the kidnapping and murder of four men in 2016.
The decision the court this week is the second capital prosecution announced by the Southern District of New York in the past six months and comes as federal prosecutors across the country are seeking the death penalty more often.
The former Briarcliff Manor police officer Nicholas Tartaglione, is charged in what authorities described as the “gangland-style” the death of four men from Middletown, New York, who disappeared during a cocaine-related dispute in a bar in Chester.
Prosecutors say that their bodies were found buried on a Otisville property linked to Tartaglione. The authorities have said that one of the men appeared to be involved in a drug conspiracy, but that some of the victims “were just at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Prosecutors are expected to outline the reasons for seeking the death penalty against Tartaglione in a court filing in the coming days. A spokesman for the U. S. attorney’s office confirmed the decision, which is already a few months in the making.
Tartaglione’s lawyer, Bruce Barket, said he was “extremely disappointed” in the decision of the government. The capital case, he said, could cost taxpayers “millions and millions of dollars” and is not appropriate, given the uncertainty of the evidence.
“In the best light for the government, it is unclear who did what to whom,” Barket told The Associated Press, adding his client maintains his innocence. “You run the real possibility of executing someone who here for crimes which other people are involved.”
New York state no longer has the death penalty, but Tartaglione eligible for the penalty because he was charged with murder in federal court.
The U.S. Department of Justice has sought the death penalty in more and more cases under a President Donald Trump, a staunch supporter of the death penalty after a moratorium on such prosecutions of President Barack Obama’s last term.
In September, federal prosecutors in New York announced that they would seek the death penalty against a man charged with using a truck for the killing of eight people on a New York City bike path.