BARRE — Joseph Palmisano is in legal trouble, but it isn’t the once-prominent bankruptcy lawyer in central Vermont who employed a Ponzi scheme to drain the life savings of dozens of investors and used their money to bankroll his lavish lifestyle before being sent to prison in 1996. It’s his son.
Joseph P. Palmisano was arrested in Tempe, Ariz., last month and accused of shooting a man in a parking lot not far from his own law firm, where he practices criminal defense. The son grew up in Barre and worked for his father for a time.
The younger Palmisano, 48, has not been indicted or arraigned in connection with the April 18 incident, but court records indicate he was arrested for attempted second-degree murder and kidnapping “after he allegedly shot the ex-boyfriend of a woman he is dating in a business parking lot in Tempe.”
Jerry Cobb, a spokesman for the Maricopa County attorney’s office, said in an interview Thursday that a preliminary hearing in the case has yet to be scheduled and it is unclear whether an indictment will be issued. However, Cobb said, Palmisano remains in custody, having failed to post the $180,000 bond that was set two weeks ago, and prosecutors have taken the steps to charge him with aggravated assault and kidnapping.
Both charges are “dangerous felonies” and stem from a bizarre confrontation that was partly recorded by the accuser, Ryan Hall, according to court documents obtained by The Times Argus.
According to those documents, Hall, 25, was sitting in his car shortly after 8:30 a.m. April 18 when Palmisano approached him holding a loaded .357-calibre handgun and ordered him out of the vehicle. Tempe police this week released the video a few seconds long that Hall recorded on an iPhone, which shows Palmisano approaching a car with a gun in his hand.
Records indicate Hall “grabbed the barrel of the gun and attempted to duck under and away from Palmisano” when he was shot in the back.
According to court documents, Hall, who was hospitalized with a gunshot wound, claimed Palmisano stood over him after the shooting and said something to the effect of: “Do you feel that … (T)hat’s you dying boy.”
Several witnesses reportedly said they saw Palmisano walk away from Hall carrying a gun and enter his nearby office. Some local news accounts suggest Palmisano called 911 and turned himself in. Although court records don’t confirm that, they do indicate Palmisano was taken into custody without incident and say he waived his Miranda rights and freely answered questions.
Police said Palmisano admitted driving to his office with a loaded gun to confront Hall, who he believed had hacked his personal and business computers and tapped his telephones. Records say Palmisano also admitted pointing the gun at Hall, who was in the driver’s seat of his car, and ordering him to get out of the vehicle and accompany him into the office. When Hall refused, Palmisano allegedly shot him.
According to court records, Palmisano, who is married and lives with his wife and daughter not far from Tempe, also admitted having a six-month romantic relationship with his secretary, Catelyn Foster. Foster is identified as Hall’s ex-girlfriend and the mother of his child.
Palmisano could be sentenced to five to 15 years in jail if he is convicted of aggravated assault, while a conviction on the kidnapping charge would carry a sentence of seven to 21 years.
Palmisano’s father, Joseph C. Palmisano, is now living in Arizona, where he just entered the final year of his supervised release after having spent 13 years in federal prison.
The elder Palmisano, now 74, pleaded guilty to 44 counts of a 45-count criminal indictment in 1995 and was committed to the federal prison system March 11, 2006. He was released April 27, 2009.
An FBI-led investigation revealed that Joseph C. Palmisano persuaded more than 90 people to invest roughly $7.9 million with him during a five-year period that ended in late 1992. Many of the investors lost their life savings in a scheme that promised tax-free returns of 20 percent to 30 percent a year.
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