Feds Mulling Death Penalty In S. Fla. Hotel Heir Killings

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CBS4) — Federal prosecutors have been turning up the heat on a Fort Lauderdale woman accused of arranging the 2009 killings of her millionaire husband and mother-in-law.

Narcy Novack and her brother, Cristobal Veliz of Brooklyn, N.Y., were due in court Friday morning for a status conference.She was already complaining last year about how much time she’d spent in jail.

She may be there for many more months before her trial begins.

The potential for several delays arose Friday in federal court in White Plains:

  • The chief prosecutor said the Department of Justice needs six weeks to decide whether to seek the death penalty against Novack, of Fort Lauderdale, and her brother, Cristobal Veliz, of New York, in the 2009 killings. As a result, the next court session was put off until June 23.
  • Novack’s lawyer, Howard Tanner, said that if it becomes a death penalty case, several months of special procedures will be required before trial.
  • And Veliz’s lawyer, Stephen Lewis, said he expects to be leaving the case, which would mean a delay for a new lawyer to get up to speed.

Novack, 53, and Veliz, 57, are accused of hiring others to kill Bernice Novack in her Florida home in April 2009 and Ben Novack in his New York hotel room three months later.

Ben Novack’s father built the Fontainebleau hotel in Miami Beach, and prosecutors claim Narcy Novack was after her husband’s $10 million estate. His mother’s death added to his fortune.

Tanner would not say how his client reacted to the new delays. In December, when Tanner mentioned to the judge during a scheduling discussion that he would be away for a week in February, Novack said loudly, “While you’re away, I’m going to be here locked up.”

Tanner said Friday, “For her, it’s very difficult being incarcerated, the daily grind and hardship. And that is going to continue.

Prosecutor Elliott Jacobson said Friday that he plans to seek a new indictment that would add the charge of murder in aid of racketeering. When prosecutors bring that charge, they have to specify whether they are seeking the death penalty or mandatory life in prison. Jacobson says that’s up to his superiors in Washington.

If the decision is to seek the death penalty, the defense gets to bring in additional attorneys, skilled in the law of capital punishment, to argue against the death penalty — before trial. That can take months. Tanner said he’s no longer confident the trial will begin this year.

The question of who will represent Veliz is unrelated to the death penalty question. Without going into specifics, Lewis said he and Veliz “essentially agree” that Lewis should leave the case. Judge Kenneth Karas met in secret with Lewis and Lewis said afterward, “I believe I will no longer be representing Mr. Veliz.”

Defense attorneys suggested the prosecution was trying to force a guilty plea.

For more stories related to the Novack case, click here.

(© 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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