CIVIC CENTER — The "son" of a jeweler to the stars was indicted in connection to the murder of a Hofstra graduate in a Sutton Place apartment, according to a spokesman for the Manhattan District Attorney's office.
James Rackover, 25, tried to hide his connection to the murder of Joseph Comunale, a Connecticut man who disappeared after attending a party at Rackover’s Sutton Place apartment on Nov. 13, according to prosecutors. Comunale was found three days later in a shallow grave on the Jersey Shore.
The DA charged Rackover and his suspected accomplice, Lawrence Dilione, with evidence tampering, hindering prosecution and concealing a body during an arraignment in criminal court last week. Neither man was initially charged with the murder.
The grand-jury charges against Rackover were sealed until his Supreme Court arraignment on Dec. 13.
Dilione, who told police where the body was buried, was not indicted and is due back in court on Dec. 5, according to a DA spokesman. His lawyer, Michael Pappa, said he's expecting his client to be released on bail in the next couple of days.
Bail was set at $300,000 for both Dilione and Rackover.
Comunale was last seen alive in the early hours of Nov. 13, when he was captured on surveillance footage at Rackover’s apartment building returning to the apartment with Dilione after briefly leaving with Dilione and three unidentified women.
He was reported missing on Nov. 14, and police found his partially burned body in a foot-deep grave behind a flower shop in Oceanport, New Jersey on Nov. 16, hours after Dilione told police where to find the body.
Rackover meanwhile, has insisted he has no idea what happened to Comunale, telling police that Dilione came over early on Nov. 13 with some women and a man he didn’t know, according to a criminal complaint. In a jailhouse interview with the Daily News, Rackover said Dilione, Comunale and the women left around 7 a.m. and that he went to bed.
He was initially picked up on Nov. 15 on misdemeanor traffic charges, and held for nearly two days before learning about the real reason for his arrest, according to Rackover's lawyer Maurice Sercarz.
Sercarz declined to discuss specifics of the case, but told reporters on Monday that he suspected there was doubt among investigators about what really happened to Comunale.
“It’s apparent that the district attorney’s office is struggling to come to some kind of conclusion as to what happened and led to the grisly discovery of the body in New Jersey,” he said. "This is precisely the kind of case where a pressure to prosecute can lead to a hasty or erroneous conclusion.”
The case has also drawn attention to Rackover’s past.
Rackover, who has a string of convictions including burglary and driving violations in his native state Florida, was initially reported to be the son of Jeffrey Rackover, a jeweler to the stars with clients including Jennifer Lopez, President-elect Donald Trump and his wife Melania. But the relationship has become murkier in the days since the younger Rackover’s arrest.
The jeweler told friends that James Rackover, then known as James Beaudoin, had turned up at his door and told him he was the son of a woman with whom Jeffrey had had a brief affair years ago. Rackover took him in as a son, and James eventually took the jeweler’s name, according to friends of Jeffrey Rackover.
Whatever the relationship, the elder Rackover showered James with luxuries, including the one-bedroom apartment at 418 E. 59th Street where prosecutors say Comunale was last seen alive, sources told DNAinfo.
After a brief court hearing on Monday, Sercarz told reporters that he was not sure if the jeweler had managed to speak to his "son" after the arrest, and Sercaz declined to specify who was paying for James’ defense.