Neo-Nazi takes lawyer after all in murder case

Published March 1, 2007

NEW PORT RICHEY - John Ditullio trudged into court with a chain around his waist. He was charged with capital murder. The authorities said he had wounded a woman and killed a teenage boy. Someone would have to build a defense.

Ditullio had two choices. He could continue representing himself, armed with a ninth- grade education and a borrowed typewriter.

Or he could put his fate in the hands of Bjorn Brunvand, the veteran defense lawyer whose Web site resides at www.acquitter.com.

Wednesday, at a pretrial hearing before Circuit Judge Thane Covert, Ditullio announced he had chosen the latter.

"Mr. Ditullio," the judge said, "I must say I think you've made a wise decision."

Ditullio is a neo-Nazi, 20 years old, with a dark tuft of hair that is more than a goatee but less than a full beard. Late last March, authorities said, he burst into his neighbor Patricia Wells' house on Teak Street, wearing a gas mask and holding a knife.

Once inside, according to an indictment, he cut Wells and stabbed her guest, 17-year-old Kristofer King, several times in the face. King died from his wounds. His mother told the St. Petersburg Times she believed the attacker was after Wells' 18- year-old gay son.

Ditullio was indicted on capital murder and attempted murder charges in October. He decided to represent himself because he thought no one else would fight for his life like he could. He submitted handwritten motions. He refused to waive his right to a speedy trial. It was scheduled for April.

Then Ditullio asked for standby counsel, an attorney to instruct him on such things as objections and cross-examinations. Brunvand, the former president of the Pinellas County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, is on a rotation of attorneys who handle capital cases for defendants who can't pay. It was his turn.

He met Ditullio for the first time Wednesday. After they spoke, Ditullio decided he needed help.

Brunvand will need time to review the case, which means the trial is delayed for several months.

"Mr. Ditullio," Covert said, "now that you have counsel, your counsel files your motions."

"Yes, your honor," Ditullio said.

"Unless," the judge said, "you want to fire him."

Brunvand has a record of success. But the lawyer behind www.acquitter.com said that in 10 capital cases, he has never won an acquittal.

Thomas Lake can be reached at tlake@sptimes.com or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6245.