Question of death penalty unclear in Novack case (NY)

A decision about whether federal prosecutors will seek the death penalty against Narcy Novack and her brother in the slayings of her husband and mother-in-law is still about six weeks away.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Elliott Jacobson said today that he will be seeking a new indictment to add charges of murder in the aid of racketeering, which carries a sentence of either death or life in prison.

Speaking at a status conference in U.S. District Court in White Plains, Jacobson said he has made a sentence recommendation to the Department of Justice but would not reveal what it was. The question of the death penalty is reviewed by a committee and then by the deputy attorney general before Attorney General Eric Holder makes the decision.

Narcy Novack and Cristobal Veliz are charged with racketeering, money laundering and interstate stalking and domestic violence, accused of masterminding the 2009 slayings of Ben Novack Jr. and his mother, Bernice Novack.

Narcy’s husband was beaten to death with dumbbells and his eyes gouged at the Hilton Rye Town on July 12, 2009. Three months earlier, Bernice Novack was beaten to death in her Fort Lauderdale home, a death the medical examiner initially blamed on a series of falls and didn’t classify as a homicide until last summer after arrests were made in Ben Novack’s killing.

Ben Novack Jr., the son of the founder of the famed Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, owned Convention Concepts Unlimited and had an estate valued at between $5 million and $10 million. He and his wife were at the Rye Brook hotel the weekend he was killed organizing an Amway convention.

Each of the victims were killed by two people allegedly hired by the defendants. One man who has admitted taking part in both killings, Alejandro Garcia, has pleaded guilty and is cooperating. Denis Ramirez, the father of two of Veliz grandchildren, has also pleaded guilty, admitting that he drove Garcia and another Florida man, Joel Gonzalez, to and from the hotel the morning of the killing at Veliz’ behest. Gonzalez is also believed to have pleaded guilty. The second killer in the Bernice Novack slaying has not been publicly identified.

Narcy Novack and her brother are accused of trying to bribe and threaten Gonzalez into claiming that it was her daughter who had set up the killings. The widow is also accused of taking $105,000 from her husband’s company the day after he was killed and laundering $95,000 of it.

Jacobson revealed that the “vast bulk” of the $95,000 was eventually used to pay her lawyer, Howard Tanner.

Jacobson said Tanner did not do anything wrong and that federal authorities were not seeking forfeiture of that money. But because that issue would be raised at trial, he and Tanner agreed that jurors would only hear that the money was paid to an attorney. That way they could not speculate that Tanner did something wrong and hold that against his client.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas adjourned the case until June 23.

Veliz will have a new lawyer by then after writing to Karas that he was dissatisfied with his current one, Stephen Lewis. Karas met with the two after the court session and agreed to replace Lewis, the lawyer said.

Lewis said the judge made the right decision but declined to comment further.


Question of death penalty unclear in Novack case
Jonathan Bandler
May 6, 2011