Joseph Grippo, charged with second-degree murder in the June 6 death of 38-year-old Robert Casado of Montauk, remains behind bars, even though his attorney says he was at work at the time of the crime.
Grippo, wearing green county jail coveralls, remained handcuffed and silent during his arraignment in Riverside Friday, June 28, but his attorney, Daniel Russo, who entered a not guilty plea on Grippo’s behalf, said he would wage a vigorous defense.
Russo said Grippo “was never in Kirk Park or anywhere else committing a crime” at the time Casado was beaten, stabbed, and left to die on a trail at the Montauk park. Russo said Grippo, 47, was at work at the time of the attack and said his employer, who was not identified, would vouch for that.
Suffolk County Justice Stephen Braslow cut Russo off. “We are not trying this case today,” he said before setting a July 29 conference date for both sides to return to his courtroom.
Braslow concurred with the request of prosecutor Daryl Levy that Grippo be held without bail as a “violent offender.” The assistant district attorney noted that Grippo had served time in prison after being convicted of a violent robbery 21 years ago.
He also cited the violent nature of the attack on Casado as good reason for keeping Grippo in jail. Levy said Casado died as the result of “blunt force trauma” and “sharp force trauma” to the head and face shortly after being ambushed on the trail behind Second House and the Montauk Indian Museum at about 7 AM on June 6.
Prosecutors say Grippo used a pickaxe and knife to kill Casado in a dispute over a woman. Grippo was arrested in Montauk two weeks after the murder.
Russo argued in vain that Grippo should be released on bail. “Twenty-one years ago, he committed a robbery for which he accepted responsibility for his actions,” Russo said, noting that Grippo, who served 15 years in prison for that crime, had turned his life around. “For the last five years, he has gone to work every day,” he said.
Relatives of both men were in court. About a half-dozen of Casado’s family members gathered in the hallway after the short proceeding to talk with Levy. Some wore t-shirts with Casado’s picture and nickname, “Panda,” on the front and RIP 1980-2019 on the back.
Levy cautioned them that the court proceedings may seem to drag on at times, but that’s just because both sides want to present the best case possible. He also told them that if it appears the judge is favoring the defendant, it’s only because “his job is to make sure this guy gets a fair trial.”
Levy said the family can rest comfortably that Grippo will not be released on bail. “There’s no amount of money that could get him out on bail,” he told the family.
Gary Swanson, a friend of Casado’s father, Benny Garces, said the family was crushed by the murder. “It’s a horror,” he said. “The devastation fans out and is bleeding into the family, bleeding into their friends, and bleeding into the community.”
Casado’s brother, Rolando Garces, also spoke briefly. “We’re hanging in there,” he said. “We know we have to be strong for each other.”
He said he had driven past the scene that morning in June and wondered why so many police were at Second House and Kirk Park. It was only when he spoke to another family member that he learned it was his brother who had been killed, he said.