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No Murder Charges in Sutton Place Party Killing, Prosecutors Say

By  Kathleen Culliton and Noah  Hurowitz | December 13, 2016 6:21pm 

 Lawrence Dilione, left, and James Rackover, right, both are accused of burying Joseph Comunale's body in a shallow grave on the Jersey Shore.
Lawrence Dilione, left, and James Rackover, right, both are accused of burying Joseph Comunale's body in a shallow grave on the Jersey Shore.
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DNAinfo/Kathleen Culliton

CIVIL CENTER — A celebrity jeweler’s “surrogate son” pleaded not guilty to charges he helped bury the body of a Connecticut man murdered in his Sutton Place apartment in November — but prosecutors have yet to charge anyone with the victim's murder.

James Rackover, whom jeweler Jeffrey Rackover once claimed as his son, was charged with moving 26-year-old Joseph Comunale’s body from his apartment at 418 E. 59th St. to a shallow grave near the Jersey shore on Nov. 13.

But Rackover faced no murder charges in Manhattan Supreme Court Tuesday — despite blood having been found in Rackover's home, the trunk of his car, and evidence that Comunale's body had been stabbed 15 times and his body burned.

A search of the apartment and the site of Comunale's burial also turned up identification for Comunale, along with syringes, unspecified "alleged drugs," knives, and cleaning supplies, according to court documents.

Rackover was previously arraigned in criminal court in November and held on a $3 million bond or $300,000 cash bail, but it was reduced to a $1 million bond Tuesday after his attorney Maurice Sercarz argued it was more than his client’s family could afford.

When the judge asked for a clarification on the defendant’s relationship with Jeffrey Rackover — an affluent jeweler whose clients include Jennifer Lopez and Donald and Melania Trump —  Sercarz said the senior Rackover was not his client’s biological parent but thought of him as “the son he never had.”

Nevertheless, the elder Rackover did not appear in court and, according to Sercarz, will not be posting bail money, which will instead be raised by Rackover’s mother who intends to mortgage her Florida home.

Sercarz asked for “a modest bond for modest middle class people.”

Before the arrest, Rackover had lavished his pseudo son, who legally changed his last name from Beaudoin to Rackover, with expensive cars, watches, Hamptons rentals and European vacations.

Lawrence Dilione, 28, who is also charged with burying Comunale, also pleaded not guilty to similar charges.

Comunale’s body was found after Dilione confessed to detectives that he had helped bury the body behind a flower shop in Oceanport, New Jersey.

But Dilione’s attorney Michael Pappa refused to comment on whether his client would provide any more information to investigators.

“We’re just sitting back and waiting to see what happens,” he said.

Both men face up to seven years in prison if convicted, prosecutors said.