Police chief murder plot trial begins

Castanga's ex-wife describes marriage: "Horrific"
February 18, 2009 2:49:01 PM PST
The former police chief of Bordentown went on trial today. He's accused of targeting his wife in a suspected murder for hire plot. Prosecutors say that suspended Bordentown City Police Chief Phil Castagna identified himself as a husband and a law enforcement leader and in 2003 blamed his now ex-wife Joyce Leopold for getting a restraining order against him that threatened his career.

That, they say, is why he allegedly conspired to have Leopold killed and her house burned down.

"And once those two things were gone and in his field, taken from him by Joyce Leopold, that ladies and gentlemen furnished the motive, the reason that he wanted his wife dead," Assistant Prosecutor Mike Luciano said.

Prosecutors are relying on tapes recorded by paid informant and convicted felon Gary Hall, who told them he set a fire at Joyce Leopold's house at Castagna's request.

"I assure you, members of the jury that nowhere on those tapes does Phil Castagna tell Gary Hall to kill his wife, murder his wife, harm his wife," Castagna's attorney Robin Lord said.

"I didn't even like to be near either one of them. I was afraid of Phil and Gary Hall," Castanga's ex-wife Joyce Leopold said.

Castagna was arrested in 2003 for making terroristic threats against his then-wife. A conviction on downgraded charges was overturned, opening the door for him to return to his job.

If Castagna is found not guilty, it's still unlikely he'd get his job back as chief. He faces a number of unrelated administrative charges at the police deptartment which were put off until this case is concluded.

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