Manhasset man admits he killed wife – by mistake

Author: Ann Givens
Date Published: 03/28/2009

A Manhasset man finally admitted killing his wife Thursday, six years after he was convicted of her brutal murder.

Until now, Nikolaos Kotsopoulos, 47, has insisted that an armed intruder killed his wife Carol, 41, as she was preparing dinner for Greek Orthodox Easter in 2002.

But Thursday, in an attempt to get a new trial, Kotsopoulos told a federal judge he shot his wife accidentally as he was fidgeting with his gun after a violent argument.

“I was taking the bullets out of the gun,” said Kotsopoulos calmly. “Suddenly it went off. Boom. I saw my wife go down. I ran over. I said, ‘Honey, are you all right?’ ”

After the shooting, Kotsopoulos told both police and his own lawyer that a gunman had shot his wife, he said during a court hearing Thursday. However Kotsopoulos now says that a few weeks before his 2003 trial he told his lawyer, Jack Evseroff of Brooklyn, the truth about the crime.

He said Evseroff advised him to stick with his original story – in part because they had made an illegal deal in which Evseroff would get a $100,000 bonus if Kotsopoulos was acquitted of all charges. That would have been unlikely if Kotsopoulos admitted shooting his wife, even accidentally.

Criminal defense lawyers are not allowed to make deals with their clients in which they get extra money if the client is acquitted. That’s because a lawyer who has a financial incentive to get his client acquitted might not ask the judge to let the jury consider lesser charges and might not negotiate a plea that would be good for his client, because it would mean he wouldn’t get his money.

If Judge Arthur Spatt decides after the hearing that an illegal deal was made and that Evseroff provided an ineffective defense because of it, Kotsopoulos could get a new trial.

Evseroff, who is expected to testify when the hearing continues Monday, has denied that he struck any deal with his client.

On the stand, Kotsopoulos admitted that he had beaten his wife on the day of her death, then paused to go upstairs to get a gun “to scare her.”

Kotsopoulos said he then pistol-whipped his wife in front of their two sons, who were 10 and 12 years old at the time. But then he said he calmed down, and was sitting at the kitchen counter nervously removing the bullets when the gun went off. The older of the two boys, George, was the key witness to testify against his father at trial.

“This was the worst mistake of my life,” said Kotsopoulos, a round-faced man with a graying beard and glasses. “I shot the person I love more than anything.”

Nassau prosecutor Michael Canty marched to the witness table and lay an autopsy photograph of Carol Kotsopoulos in front of her husband.

“The love of your life?” Canty replied. “Two black eyes and a bullet hole in the face. That’s the love of your life.”