Florida Keys News
Monday, October 29, 2012
Zappulla deal could be in the works

A resolution may be in the works in the computer hacking case against a former Key Largo Wastewater Treatment District finance chief accused of illegally accessing email accounts and board documents after his contract was not renewed.

Salvadore Zappulla was charged in June with 17 felony counts of computer fraud. Monroe County Sheriff's Office detectives say Zappulla remotely accessed documents relating to him on the Key Largo district's computers after his contract was allowed to expire. He then reportedly bragged about it in an interview with a sheriff's detective.

Ray Giglio, attorney for the sewer district, said prosecutors from the State Attorney's Office have asked what type of outcome the board prefers in the case. This, Giglio said, is a common question prosecutors ask the victims of a crime to see if they want a case to go to trial or are open to a plea deal.

Giglio apprised the board of the request at a meeting last week, and the board may make a recommendation in the coming week.

Meanwhile, a Plantation Key judge ruled last week that any wastewater district employees deposed in the Zappulla case may have legal counsel from the district present.

At an Oct. 9 hearing, Circuit Judge Luis Garcia granted Giglio's motion to allow Giglio to be present at all depositions of district employees.

According to documents filed by Giglio last month with the Clerk of the Court, Giglio accused Zappulla's attorney Michael Strickland, a chief assistant public defender, of unprofessionalism during the deposition of Paul Christian, the district's chief information officer.

Giglio accompanied Christian to his Sept. 10 deposition with Strickland. When Strickland told Giglio he was not allowed to sit in on the interview, Giglio cited law saying that victims' attorneys could be present, according to the court papers.

This allegedly prompted Strickland to tell the two men, "Get out of my office," before threatening to have Christian and Giglio arrested. Giglio asked the judge to admonish Strickland.

Strickland told the Free Press he was not unprofessional with Giglio and dismissed Giglio's court filing as lies.

In that court filing, Giglio also wrote that he expects Zappulla's defense to attack the district and its employees.

"[Zappulla] intends to put the district on trial and to harass and intimidate the district and its representatives," Giglio wrote.

Strickland declined to comment on the case, saying he needs to speak with his client. He said it will be up to Zappulla whether or not to proceed with a trial.

Reached last week, Zappulla declined to speak about his case or to say whether a plea deal is being negotiated.

"There's more to come," he said, declining further comment.

jgore@keysnews.com

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