David Weinstein was an eccentric and highly effective criminal defense attorney throughout the 1980s. He was well known for his confidence and swagger, both in the courtroom and in his dealings with prosecutors. He was an energetic bulldog of an attorney, and by his own admission often fueled by cocaine and alcohol.
Weinstein is woven throughout the fabric of the Julie Monson case, from his representation of several of the prosecution’s witnesses to the revelations that a mysterious caller tipped him off to the location of the body. Both Paul Carbonaro and James Vargason, who served as district attorneys, worked in Weinstein’s office — Vargason before he became DA and Carbonaro after he left the position. And Weinstein said in 1998 that his arrest on federal drugs and weapons charges were related, at least in part, to an investigation into deeper, more sinister allegations — allegations that he’d played a part in wide-spread corruption in the Cayuga County criminal justice system.
Weinstein represented Carbonaro’s star witness in the Bianco trial, Thomas Calescibetta, and said in published reports that by the time he met with his client he already had several statements from others that Calescibetta implicated Bianco in Monson’s death. Calescibetta testified before the grand jury, but was later jailed for perjury after a former girlfriend accused him of hiding information during his testimony.
Weinstein offered a polygraph test to prove Calescibetta was telling the truth. Calescibetta took two such tests. He knew details only the killer would know. According to Weinstein, the lie detector showed Calescibetta was telling the truth.
“Either the murderer told him, or he was there,” said Weinstein. “And the polygraphs indicated he wasn’t there.”
Calescibetta testified at Bianco’s trial, but later recanted, accusing Weinstein and Carbonaro of coercing him to testify by threatening him with jail time if he didn’t cooperate. Again, Calescibetta took a lie detector test. The results were inconclusive.
In perhaps the strangest twist in the case, Weinstein told reporters after Bianco was convicted that he’d been told the location of Monson’s body some three months before she was discovered. A mystery caller told Weinstein that Bianco showed her where Monson had been hidden at the Montezuma Wildlife Refuge. Weinstein passed that information to authorities, who searched but came up empty handed. When Monson’s body was eventually found, police knew the caller had been correct.
The caller was later identified as Mary Katherine Wilson, a former girlfriend of Bianco’s. Weinstein and Carbonaro later produced a statement from Wilson, where she claimed Bianco pointed out the location of Monson’s body. She had moved to New York City, she said, to escaped Bianco, who she claimed was physically and sexually abusive.
Weinstein’s career came to an abrupt end, when in 1998 he was sentenced to 16 months in prison on federal drug and weapons charges. Federal agents had staged a surprise search of Weinstein’s home and office, discovering a small amount of cocaine and several illegal firearms.
Weinstein claims the government was looking for much more: Proof that he was involved in widespread corruption in the county’s judicial system. And Grant Jaquith, a U.S. Attorney who prosecuted the case, alluded to as much at Weinstein’s sentencing:
“The cynical view of the legal practice, while certainly widespread, has reached a cynicism of a different and far lower level in Cayuga County than elsewhere,” Jaquith said. “I think Mr. Weinstein bears a lot of blame for that”
Weinstein said in an interview with the Post-Standard that he told investigators everything he knew.
“You couldn’t convince the feds and the state that I was telling the truth,” Weinstein said. “The thinking behind this was there was corruption and I knew about it, period. I’m a lawyer and I had my lawyer with me. They tell you they have charges, they can put you in prison for 20 years…You’ll say anything. You’d sell your mother. You’d sell your soul, because you’re so afraid. Everything will go down the drain when they put you in that hot seat. I wasn’t
going to lie.”.