A lawyer representing one of two defendants accused of killing four young men on a Bucks County farm last summer has been removed from the case and has admitted that he leaked confession tapes.
Shortly after Cosmo DiNardo pleaded guilty to all four murders and Sean Kratz rejected a plea deal — opting to go to trial and risk the death penalty — NBC10 aired excerpts of audio recordings of confessions that the cousins made in separate interviews with investigators. Fox29 also aired excerpts of the tapes.
"I am the individual who made those recordings public," Craig Penglase, who represented Kratz, 21, of Philadelphia, said in a letter to District Attorney Matthew Weintraub released Tuesday.
The release came the day after Judge Jeffrey L. Finley granted Penglase's petition to have an alternate lawyer appointed, citing a conflict.
Niels Eriksen Jr., who had represented Kratz alongside Penglase, said Tuesday that he would remain on the case, in which prosecutors have vowed to seek the death penalty and are likely to introduce the recorded statements as evidence.
"I obviously had no idea of what my co-counsel was doing," Eriksen said Tuesday.
Another lawyer, Keith Williams, has been appointed to represent Kratz as well, Eriksen said.
He said the matter would be discussed at a hearing Wednesday.
"The judge wants it on the record officially that the client's been advised of a situation, that he understands there's a conflict, that he agrees to the removal," he said.
Penglase did not respond to a message Tuesday evening seeking comment.
The Bucks County District Attorney's Office said in a statement that it released Penglase's letter because "some parties have continued to suspect and accuse the District Attorney's Office of releasing the recordings. … We trust that this will eliminate any further baseless accusations about our role in this incident."
Prosecutors have said the recordings are not public record while the case is ongoing. Finley issued an order last week sealing Kratz's interview with police.
Kratz is charged with the shooting deaths and burials of Dean Finocchiaro, 19, of Middletown Township; Thomas Meo, 21, of Plumstead Township; and Mark Sturgis, 22, of Pennsburg. Investigators found their bodies buried in a 12½-foot grave on DiNardo's parents' sprawling Solebury Township farm days after they went missing in July.
DiNardo pleaded guilty to killing those men as well as Jimi Patrick, 19, of Newtown Township, days earlier.
In excerpts of the tapes released by NBC10 and Fox29, DiNardo described shooting and burying the men in a matter-of-fact tone — with graphic and chilling details.
"His head was split the hell open," DiNardo said in describing Finocchiaro's death.
Kratz also admitted to shooting Finocchiaro, according to the NBC10 excerpts. He told investigators he had been afraid of DiNardo, and fired the gun when his cousin told him to.
"I kinda was hesitant," he said in the recording. "I pulled the gun out. I aimed it in the air, closed my eyes and fired a shot."
At one point during the confession, DiNardo cried, saying, "I threw my life away for nothing. All I've done is nothing. I ruined people's families."
DiNardo, 21, of Bensalem, was sentenced to four consecutive life terms in state prison for the murders.
Kratz's trial has not been scheduled. His refusal to accept a plea agreement last week surprised even his own lawyers. Instead of accepting a deal in which he would plead guilty to one of the three murders he is charged with in exchange for a 59- to 118-year prison sentence, his maximum penalty would be death.