We see it over and over, again and again, especially in this 24-hour-a-day media world we live in: suspects giving interview after interview on nationally televised news shows—CNN, FOX, and MSNBC, and, if they get the opportunity, The Today Show and CBS's Early Show as well. They are like moths drawn to camera lights. They speak of their innocence, they give details of the crime, and, if they are Drew Peterson, talk about their dating life and send out a few winks to the ladies. All this public attention gets the suspect two possible results: a bad image and/or a prison sentence.
First off, if the person is a psychopath, he or she will not understand that their behavior on-camera is not coming across all that well to the public and a future jury. Scott Peterson? He was cold as ice with a smirk you just wanted to wipe off his face. Casey Anthony? Each time she opens her mouth, she just digs herself a deeper hole. With each interview, they increase the public's negative opinion of them.
The other risk these new television stars run is slipping up in their interviews; a bit of truth may escape or their retelling of the story may not match a previous version, sending up red flags to the investigators. Everything that is said on television can be used against them in the courtroom, so each word spoken is like playing Russian roulette with one's freedom.A good example of a client who should have listened to his attorney's admonition to shut up would be Dino Pantazes. On March 30, 2000, the idyllic life of Clara and Dean Pantazes came to an abrupt end with the discovery of Clara shot to death in their suburban Maryland garage. Their successful life and partnership—a long happy marriage and the booming family business—came to a devastating finale.
Worse yet, Dean Pantazes, known as "Dino" to his friends and family, was arrested a month later and charged with ordering the execution of his wife.Relatives on both sides of the family stood staunchly behind Dino, swearing up and down that Dino would never have committed such a crime. They believed the police had rushed to justice and unfairly condemned a man who dearly loved his wife.
However, Dino was not your ordinary man. He was a bail bondsman, a man who made his living from dealing with some the worst criminals the Washington D.C.-area had to offer. And, being a bondsman, violence and sordid behavior can become normal features of life, criminal behavior can become ordinary.
Did Dino succumb to this world and find his wife a liability? Did he, as police believed, want out of the marriage to enjoy an alternative lifestyle, taking up with transgendered prostitutes like MimiKim Young (pictured left) who would later testify that Dino asked her to kill his wife? Was Clara on to some bad behavior by Dino and wanted a divorce? Or was he the loving husband and family man his supporters believed him to be? The story was heartbreaking.
A former Prince George's County bail bondsman convicted of hiring a prostitute to kill his wife was sentenced yesterday to life in prison without parole, despite his pleas that he was an "innocent lamb" tortured by police and framed by headline-seeking prosecutors.I had met Dino and Clara once when I was working as a private detective. When this story broke, I couldn't really remember them clearly nor did I have any opinion as to Dino’s character. I do remember being stunned that it was the Pantazes that were in the news because they were pretty much fixtures next to the courthouse in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, and the Pantazes name was synonymous for decades with bail bonds in Prince George’s County. So, while I couldn't attest to what kind of guy Dino was, I found it hard to believe, from a distance, that this man would hire a hit on his wife and business partner.
"I am a victim, not only by the loss of my wife, but because of the judicial proceedings," Dean J. "Dino" Pantazes, 46, told Prince George's Circuit Judge James J. Lombardi.
Weeping in the courtroom, Pantazes said that police suspected him of the killing immediately after they arrived at his Upper Marlboro home on March 30, 2000.
Then I read a newspaper story in the Washington Post that changed my mind. Dino had given an interview to the press and as soon as I read his words, I could see good reason for him to be a suspect in his wife’s murder. He had made two fascinating statements that struck me as very concerning. The first was a comment on the killing:
Dino stated: “I had no reason to want her dead. No insurance policy out on her. Greeks don’t get divorced. That’s the ultimate shame, and we wouldn’t have done that. She was my best friend.”
Is there a sentence here that does not belong? What does getting divorced have to do with killing Clara? Dino was admitting that he WOULD have a reason to kill his wife in spite of the fact he said he didn’t have one. Dino is informing us that he could not divorce his wife because that would be the worst humiliation imaginable. One would think murder would be the ultimate shame . . . but, according to Dino, asking for a divorce would be worse.
Dino went on to make the second fascinating statement: “Now I know what O.J. felt like when he was accused of killing his wife," Dino said. "He didn’t do it either and was hunted down for it.”
Huh? Was he the last person in America to believe in O.J.’s innocence? This is a man who had worked on the fringes of law enforcement for years. He knew criminals and he knew evidence. He undoubtedly was aware there was a mountain of evidence against O.J. Simpson. So, why this statement? I believe Dino was already preparing for his defense. He was pandering to his future jury, which in Prince George’s County, Maryland, was bound to be heavily African-American. This bereaved and innocent man was already calculating his trial strategy.
Dino Pantazes should have avoided anyone with a camera or a pen and paper.
Dino got nailed and is serving life in prison. The conviction was based mostly on circumstantial evidence and witness testimony. But, in the end, it was Dino's big mouth that got him caught and put away.