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Tankleff defense: Two more say another man killed parents
BY ALFONSO A. CASTILLO
10:55 PM EDT, November 2, 2007
Before two witnesses came forward to Martin Tankleff's attorneys with new evidence of his innocence, Suffolk prosecutors did not act on the witnesses' claims, Tankleff's attorneys said in their latest court filing.
Prosecutor Leonard Lato said that despite having questions about the new witnesses' credibility, he did follow up on their claims implicating another person in the slaying of Tankleff's parents. Lato said he continues to investigate the claims and has not had his calls returned from the witnesses.
In 1990, Tankleff was found guilty of killing his parents Arlene and Seymour Tankleff at their Belle Terre home. Tank.leff, 17 at the time of the slayings, has said he was coerced by police into confessing. His lawyers have presented evidence they say proves that Seymour Tankleff's business partner, Jerry Steuerman, paid Peter Kent and Joseph Creedon, both of Selden, to commit the killings.
Suffolk County Court Judge Stephen Braslow last year rejected Tankleff's bid for a new trial based on the evidence. A Brooklyn appellate court is now reviewing that decision.
Steuerman, Kent and Creedon have all denied having anything to do with the slayings.
The two new witnesses include an ex-girlfriend of Creedon, Tina Molloy, who in a sworn statement told Tank.leff's lawyers that when she asked Creedon earlier this year whether he committed the Tank.leff killings he responded, "Yeah, I did but they can't prove it ... I am untouchable."
The other witness, Molloy's current boyfriend Dennis Piacente, told Tankleff's attorneys that, while visiting Creedon's mother's house, Creedon showed him the contents of a safe he kept. Inside were a handgun, leg irons, and handcuffs, according to a motion filed Thursday by Tankleff's attorneys.
Tankleff's attorneys say that corroborates testimony from Creedon's son Joseph Guarascio who said his father showed him the same items in the safe and said he would use them on the Tankleff team's star witness Glen Harris if he ever testified.
Creedon's attorney, Anthony La Pinta, of Hauppauge, said he did not believe the new witnesses' accounts "for a second."
Piacente said he later called police, who sent a detective and Lato to interview him and Molloy in August.
Lato never took any notes, nor did he ever follow up with the witnesses, nor tell Tankleff's attorneys about the new information, Tankleff's attorneys said.
As well, Lato never mentioned the new witnesses to the appellate court judges considering the case -- an ethical indiscretion, said Tankleff's attorney, Bruce Barket, of Garden City.
Lato said Friday that he recorded his interview with Molloy and Piacente and that the tape "tells a different, inconsistent story from the one" alleged by Tankleff's lawyers. He added that he had no immediate obligation to inform Tankleff's lawyers about the new witnesses, and that their new claims can not be considered by the appellate judges.