NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. - John Allen Ditullio is a walking billboard for the neo-Nazi movement: a 6-inch swastika tattooed under his right ear, barbed wire inked down the right side of his face, and a vulgarity scrawled on one side of his neck.
Jurors will never see any of it. A judge has ruled that the state must pay a cosmetologist up to $150 a day during Ditullio's trial on murder charges and apply makeup to cover up the black ink.
Judge Michael Andrews, acting on a request by Ditullio's lawyer, ruled that the tattoos are potentially offensive and could influence a jury's opinion in the state's death penalty case against the 23-year-old accused of donning a gas mask, breaking into a neighbor's home and stabbing two people, killing one of them.
Since his arrest in the March 26, 2006, crime, the self-described neo-Nazi has added tattoos to his body that are prominently displayed and not easily concealed. Ditullio doesn't have the money to pay to have the tattoos covered up, said his public defender, Bjorn Brunvand, who was worried that a jury might be biased against his client on the basis of the tattoos alone.
Any tattoos Ditullio had before his arrest won't be covered, such as a small cross under his right eye. Earlier this week, he wore a neatly pressed blue shirt and gray slacks yet several tattoos on his hands and wrists were still visible.
As is common with defendants on trial, Ditullio's appearance had been scrubbed clean: his hair was trimmed, and his unruly beard was cut into a neat goatee.
The trial began Tuesday with opening statements. Proceedings are expected to stretch into next week.
Prosecutors allege that Ditullio broke into his neighbor's home and stabbed two people - injuring 44-year-old Patricia Wells, the home's owner, and killing Kristofer King, a 17-year-old visitor and friend of Wells' son.
Wells lived next door to a mobile home that was commonly known as "the Nazi compound," which had large swastika flags flying on the property, authorities said. Ditullio was arrested at the mobile home after a SWAT standoff.
Authorities called the stabbings a hate crime.
Covering tattoos for a trial is rare, said Michael Siegel, professor of law at the University of Florida, especially in a case like this when the content of the tattoos - neo-Nazi symbols - mesh with the facts of the case.
"The defendant did initially make the choice to communicate to the world through the tattoos on his body," said Siegel. "Now he's asking for protection from his own decisions."
What doesn't bother Siegel, however, is the fact that taxpayers will foot the bill for the hourlong makeup session each morning before court proceedings begin.