About Us

 

Personal Background

I have tried well over 200 jury trials, including 7 death penalty cases, numerous sex offenses, vehicular homicide, DUI, armed robbery, home and business burglaries, drug trafficking, RICO, internet sex and pornography, animal law, post conviction relief, seal and expunging records, and appeals. I have considerable injury law experience in the area of auto accidents and slip and falls (premises liability). I also handle immigration matters. Numerous news outlets and television programs seek my advice on the notorious cases of today. I have been Bay News 9's legal analyst for over 10 years, appeared regularly with the late Johnny Cochran, Nancy Grace, Court TV, MSNBC, Fox News and Larry King Live.

The two things I always offer to each new client are my undivided time and advice. All telephone consultations are free and you will always be able to speak directly to me.

The hiring of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely upon advertisements. Before you decide, ask the lawyer to send you free information about their qualifications and experience.

I grew up in Wilmington Delaware.  After graduating from Salesianum Catholic School for Boys, the class 67’, I lived in the Bronx in New York City attending Fordham University seeking a B.A. degree in 1971.  Although I was accepted at Fordham law school, I chose to seek my Juris Doctor degree from Georgetown University.  I wanted to live in Washington, D.C. The class of 74' was the first group to occupy the new law school on Capitol Hill. I had the opportunity to attend the London School of Economics and Political Science for 74'-75' school year.  I studied public international law--law of war, international organizations, United Nations, etc. 

This additional year was to prepare me for my great adventure in Ankara, Turkey where I served as a captain and JAG officer for the air force in 1978.  My job in turkey was to assist all US military personnel who were arrested for Turkish criminal offenses. As soon as we learned of an arrest, I was dispatched along with an interpreter and Turkish lire for bond.  Once bonded, we would allow the member to return to the U.S. because their "enlistment had expired”.  The Turks would look the other way just to get the military person out of their country.  The movie "Midnight Express" and Billy Hays had made Turkey look like an uncivilized society.  Americans in their jails were a public relations problem. 

As a result, during my two years in Turkey, we never had any US military personnel spend more than 1 day in jail.  One August night in 1978, I was called to duty as the on call JAG officer.  A sergeant driver picked me up around 9 pm from my Turkish apartment and brought me to the installation about 5 miles from downtown.  After responding to the call, which was a false alarm, the sergeant returned me home and in doing so decided to take the "short cut”.

The pitch-dark back road was a rutted unpaved path restricting travel to 15 miles per hour.  In the headlights of the squad car we saw the first robber holding a small pistol aimed at the sergeant.  I yelled “Gun it!” as I ducked under the windshield, hoping he would plow them over.   Unfortunately, Sarg stopped the car and a machine gun was immediately pointed at his head.  Five thugs jumped in the car and made us drive into an unplowed field.  They ordered us out and beat us with the butts of their weapons. The only guy wearing a burlap hood with two tiny eyeholes cut out put a hand grenade in my face and started yelling "BOMBA BOMBA".  After what seemed like hours they marched us into the darkness.  I was certain I would be killed, but they let us go and we reported the robbery and property taken. 

Two weeks later our military police called and said the Turks had recovered some of my stuff. At the station all five were in custody, wearing the same clothes from that night.  They had just murdered 12 people on a bus using a machine gun.  After they were caught, the apartment search turned up my stuff.  Two years later, I testified at their murder/robbery trial.  They were convicted and hanged.  From Turkey I ended up in Tampa at MacDill Air Force Base as chief prosecutor. The Turkey experience has made me fearless, ready to take on anybody wanting a fight.

 After two years of prosecuting military offenses under the UCMJ, I tendered my regular commission for a reserve slot and transitioned to civilian life.  I served as an Assistant State Attorney in Clearwater (1981-1985) and as an Assistant State Attorney in Tampa (1985-1987).  I tried over 150 trials including six death penalty cases and several capital sex battery cases.  I was a politician for ten years (1982-1992) with unsuccessful runs for Circuit Judge and State Attorney.  During this period I learned how to effectively appear as a  television commentator.  This turned out to be very helpful for my high profile cases as a defense attorney.  In 1987, I started Joe Episcopo Attorney at Law.

 My first high profile case occurred in 1990 with Gladys Mojica.  Gladys was a very attractive deputy sheriff with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.  She formally complained of sex harassment when her supervisor wanted her to go skinny dipping at his house.  He told her that her first formal evaluation could be affected if she turned him down.  After complaining to human resources, she was terminated for incompetence.  Sheriff Walter Heinrich had never lost a dismissal case, but I convinced the Hillsborough County Civil Service Board to reinstate her.  As a result of making front page headlines in The Tampa Tribune, the TV show  "A Current Affair” and Maury Povich contacted me.  I learned one very valuable lesson from this case.    NEVER fear public officials.  When these powerful people do something improper, they should be challenged and publicly humiliated for their wrongdoing.  Elected officials get no mercy from Joe Episcopo.  Even if you have to organize public protests outside their homes-- day and night--you never let up on the pressure.  The greatest fear of the elected big shot is to lose their office and hence, power.
 

Another high profile case that caught much media attention began when, in 1996, three teenage boys were killed at an intersection in rural east Hillsborough County.  They were crushed and slaughtered by a fully loaded 16 wheeler because they failed to stop.  The stop sign was lying on the ground, so they blew right through it.  Not far from the accident scene, Tom Miller and his two roommates had a large stolen sign collection at their rented trailer.  They were arrested and charged with three counts of vehicular homicide, facing 45 years in Florida State prison.  The sign in question was never stolen or missing, even though the media kept erroneously reporting that it had been.  Tom and his roommates were convicted and sentenced to 30 years.  Their lives were effectively ruined.  For the next 12 months I worked with numerous witnesses that protested the convictions,  swearing the sign had been lying on the ground for a week.  I also found a County school bus driver who had reported the sign to County Officials.  Because of my persistence, the appellate court reversed the convictions based on  prosecutorial misconduct.  This case catapulted me into the national media.  I appeared three times on Larry King Live (for the full hour) and Court TV produced a one hour documentary titled  "Deadly Crossroads"  featuring me and my client, Tom Miller.

 Another significant case was the vehicular homicide case of Ricky Del Rio. Ricky was driving home from school one day in 2002 when he struck and killed a 26 year old mother of a newborn baby. She was in the middle of the road pushing a baby carriage that was carrying her one month old child. Ricky did not see her until she hit the windshield. She managed to push the baby to safety just before she was struck. She died instantly even though Ricky was driving only 15 mph in a 25 mph zone. The jury convicted him in 30 minutes and Court TV filmed the trial.   In the most unusual turn of events, I was able to convince Judge J. Rogers Padget to reverse the jury verdict. He declared him not guilty. The accident was a careless act on Ricky’s part, not reckless driving. The difference is a traffic ticket instead of 15 years in Florida State Prison. Never give up on a case, no matter how bad it looks.

Over the years I have become a regular guest on Court TV (now TruTV), MSNBC, Nancy Grace, Cochran & Company, Crier Live, Fox News,  Hannity & Colmes, and Bay News 9.   During the disputed presidential election in 2000, Bay News 9 asked me to be their legal analyst.  Today, I continue to appear weekly on Bay News 9 to give insight to the current hot-topic legal news.  I also appear regularly on local Fox 13 "Your Turn" and “Good Day Tampa Bay”.  I stress this television experience because I believe that if it can be helpful to my client, I will use public relations accordingly.

 Although I retired in 2000 from the JAG  as a Lt. Colonel, I continue to represent military personnel in courts martial and admin boards.  I have participated in over 50 courts martial and numerous non judicial punishment proceedings.  I have successfully achieved military records upgrades and corrections in 5 out of 6 cases.  I have had great success with early discharges from enlistment contracts prior to departure for basic training.  Deserters don't despair.  I can help fashion your admin discharge instead of court martial action. Will travel to any location needed.

 

 
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