The New York Daily News by Henrick Karoliszyn, Edgar Sandoval and Corky Siemaszk - September 4th 2009
A Queens cop who prosecutors say couldn't handle that his ex-wife was dating a firefighter was charged Friday with hiring a hit man to kill her. Officer Anthony Battisti looked down and said nothing as his lawyer pleaded not guilty on his behalf in Nassau County Criminal Court. "He can't believe that he is being indicted," attorney Stephen Scaring said after Battisti was led off in handcuffs. "He can't believe this is happening." Scaring said Battisti had an "unblemished record" and insisted the officer was set up by his handyman Timothy Gersbeck - the alleged hit man who plunged a screwdriver into Patricia Battisti's neck on Jan. 23. "We're talking about a guy who openly committed a crime and then looked for the easiest way out," the lawyer said. "The easiest way out was to attack a police officer, accuse him of it." Scaring also said Battisti had no motive for murdering his ex because he was getting custody of his kids and "everything was working in my client's favor."
Prosecutor Michael Canty said the fact that Battisti is a police officer "makes these charges all the more egregious." "He conspired with another individual to execute his ex-wife," Canty said. Battisti, 42, faces life in prison if convicted of attempted murder, conspiracy, assault and criminal possession of a weapon charges. He was marched off to the Suffolk County jail in Riverhead, where he will stay until Wednesday when he returns for a bail hearing. Battisti's ex was not in the courtroom and could not be reached at her home in Franklin Square, L.I. Shocked neighbors said Battisti also served as a volunteer firefighter and often plowed their driveways during snowstorms. "I'd like to think that he is not that kind of monster," said a 65-year-old neighbor named Judy. "I would like to think he would not do that. I would see him, drop off and pick up the children. He seemed nice." Another neighbor, Rene Abbananto, called the 44-year-old stabbing victim "a sweetheart." "She is a great mother," said Abbananto, whose husband is an NYPD cop. "She is a great person who did not deserve this. It was pretty vicious." On the job for more than 17 years, Battisti was suspended in January, soon after Gersbeck claimed the officer paid him $5,000 to kill his ex-wife. Gersbeck, 34, was arrested after cops say he stabbed Patricia Battisti in the neck with a screwdriver outside the home she once shared with the officer. A tattooed thug who served 60 days in jail three years ago for running a scam to collect thousands in unemployment insurance, Gersbeck has also been charged in connection with the alleged attempted hit. He told investigators Battisti ordered the rubout because he was jealous of his ex-wife's new love interest - a city firefighter. Scaring questioned why prosecutors waited nine months to charge Battisti. "If this was a real case, they would have brought it a long time ago," the lawyer said. "We're going to trial. We expect to win this case." email@example.com