Crime That Pays

The War Against Joe Occhipinti

As a front-line soldier in America's war on drugs, Joe Occhipinti is an American hero. He became one of the most highly decorated federal agents in American history, with 78 commendations and awards in his 22 years of public service. His reward? He was set up by Dominican drug lords on specious civil rights violations; made to stand trial before Judge Constance Baker Motley, who denied him a new defense attorney when his own had a nervous breakdown and became suicidal; given a one-hour appeals hearing wherein the judges did not review the briefs and were intimidated by hundreds of Dominican protesters chanting "No justice, No peace!" and threatening to riot if the conviction was overturned; .sentenced to 57 months in a federal prison and sent, contrary to a court agreement, to an Oklahoma penitentiary where he was placed in the "general population" with convicted alien drug dealers.

Occhipinti is a native of Brooklyn, New York, who became a New Jersey resident 20 years ago. At age 42, he resides in Manalapan with his wife Angela and his three daughters. Occhipinti's interest in community service steered him toward a career in law enforcement. Because he is too short for police service, he joined the U.S. Customs Service in 1972, where he investigated drug trafficking and organized crime. In less than five years, Occhipinti compiled the highest arrest record in Customs Service history. In 1976, feeling he...

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