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Inmate pleads not guilty to escape charge

Derek Capozzi
Derek Capozzi

The inmate who prompted a highly publicized two-day manhunt earlier this month pleaded not guilty to an escape charge in federal court in Lexington on Wednesday.

On April 15, Derek A. Capozzi got out of his shackles and escaped from a van in which he and other prisoners were being transported, according to police. Capozzi was being moved from the Grayson County jail to Lexington's Blue Grass Airport for a flight out of the area after being a witness in a trial. He somehow was able to get out of the back door of the van as it was turning onto the Ky. 33 exit off Blue Grass Parkway in Woodford County, according to authorities. Capozzi was arrested after two men spotted him behind Central Kentucky Stair Co. in Versailles.

In federal court Wednesday, a trial on the escape charge was scheduled for June 22 in Lexington. The trial is expected to take three days.

Patrick Nash, Capozzi's attorney, said his client is being held at the Federal Medical Center on Leestown Road in Lexington. Nash said Capozzi obviously has a medical condition, but the attorney said he just met Capozzi before the court proceedings and did not know the nature of the medical condition.

Capozzi, 37, a Boston native who was affiliated with a Masachusetts drug gang, was convicted in 2005 for helping to cover up the killing of a 19-year-old Massachusetts woman. Before the escape, he was scheduled to be released from prison in 2046.

He was brought to Kentucky to testify in an assault case in federal court in London. The assault occurred at U. S. Penitentiary McCreary, a high-security prison in Pine Knot, where Capozzi had been an inmate at one time, Nash said.

"Escapes are pretty rare," Nash said. Sometimes there are very legitimate reasons why a prisoner would take that route."

Nash said he is representing Capozzi as a contract public defender. Of the more than 90 federal judicial districts, the federal Eastern District of Kentucky is one of very few that don't have federal public defenders, he said.

Capozzi, who was indicted on the escape charge by a federal grand jury in London, was brought into the Lexington courtroom wearing tan prison garb, handcuffs and shackles. Three federal marshals, one on each side of him, the third one behind him, kept a close eye on him and the courtroom. Capozzi, standing behind a lectern in front of the judge's bench, chatted with Nash for several minutes before U.S. District Judge Joseph Hood entered the courtroom.

"We just introduced ourselves," Nash later said of Capozzi. "He's a very pleasant fellow."

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