GOSHEN — A Brooklyn rabbi charged with orchestrating the deaths of two local men has not yet made a final decision on whether he'll try to represent himself at his first-degree murder trial, and he wants to ask the judge for a change of venue.
Victor Koltun, 43, is awaiting trial in the Nov. 4, 2010, shooting deaths of Frank Piscopo, 49, a former Lloyd cop, and his 28-year-old nephew, Gerald Piscopo of Highland. Two codefendants pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in 2011, but the case has been delayed by competency and health issues. Most recently, the case has been stalled by Koltun's desire to represent himself at trial and his filing of a federal discrimination lawsuit accusing his first two lawyers in the case, local cops, prosecutors and Judge Jeffrey Berry, among others, of participating in an anti-Semitic conspiracy against Koltun.
Koltun is now represented by Glen Plotsky, his third lawyer in the case. Despite that, Berry said in court on Thursday, Koltun has filed his own papers asking that the trial be moved to another jurisdiction because of "too much prejudicial news coverage of his case."
Berry told Koltun that no request for a change of venue will be considered until jury selection, At that time, if the court is unable to seat an impartial jury, the defense can ask an appeals court for a change of venue.
Plotsky said Koltun has also drawn up legal papers asking the judge to recuse himself; Plotsky had not decided if he'll adopt those papers and submit them for his client.
Berry reminded Koltun that he — like other judges — does not accept self-filed legal papers from defendants who have lawyers.
Berry also put on the court record that he has not been served with Koltun's lawsuit. He said he can be fair and impartial in the criminal case, but if Koltun serves him, he'll likely have to remove himself from the case.
Plotsky said Koltun has applied to the federal court to have U.S. marshals serve Berry with the civil suit. At this point, according to the federal court civil docket for the case, Berry and Newburgh city Judge B. Harold Ramsey are the only defendants who haven't yet been served.
Berry adjourned Koltun's case to July 31. Koltun remains jailed in lieu of $1 million bail or $5 million bond.