Original article no longer available
The Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ)
May 28, 1999
Author: Elizabeth Moore; Star-Ledger Staff
A surgical resident at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, accused of hiring a hit man to kill a romantic rival, appeared in state Superior Court yesterday in Paterson and was promptly returned to jail in lieu of $500,000 bail.
Dr. John Pope of Clifton, who appeared yesterday afternoon wearing a jail-issue jumpsuit with his hands shackled, seemed dazed when he appeared before Judge Sylvan Rothenberg in a courtroom packed with television cameras and spectators. Pope, 35, was arrested in the parking lot of a sporting goods store in Clifton Tuesday night after allegedly handing a “hit man” – actually an undercover Clifton police officer – a $500 down payment to kill Dr. David V. Rasa, a Wayne family practitioner who also was on staff at the hospital, and had been dating the same woman as Pope.
“The woman had been involved with Rasa first, then Pope had become involved with her and they had broken up,” said Senior Assistant Prosecutor Bill Purdy, who declined to identify the woman, except that she worked at St. Joseph’s along with the two doctors. Pope, who is estranged from his wife, Dr. Linda Graves, also had a professional grudge against Rasa, whom he believed had influence with his superiors at the hospital, Purdy said. He agreed to pay $2,500 to have Rasa killed, Purdy said, and the undercover officer taped his request.
Pope’s attorney, Adolph Galluccio, was tight-lipped after the arraignment and would not address the charges against his client. He said only that Pope was a good man and that his client was “very concerned” about the charges brought against him. Galluccio told Judge Rothenberg he would not ask for a reduced bail for his client yesterday but would consider it at a later time. “I’m in the process of gathering additional facts and will make an application at a later date,” Galluccio said. Purdy had said the prosecutor’s office became involved in the case when the FBI was alerted by an acquaintance of Pope’s who said Pope wanted to arrange the murders of Rasa and Graves, 44. Pope has been charged with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder only in connection with Rasa.
Rasa’s attorney, Toni Belford Damiano, issued a statement on behalf of his client yesterday: “He’s shocked that this incident was in the works and he’s thankful to the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office. He just wants to go about his business. He’s the victim here.” Rasa, 47, has been licensed to practice medicine since 1984. Graves is one of three daughters of former Paterson Mayor Frank X. Graves, who died in 1990. When Graves died at his Knickerbocker Avenue home of a massive heart attack, it was Linda Graves, then a registered nurse, who phoned an ambulance and performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on her father until he was taken to the hospital. According to a family friend of the Graves who did not wish to be identified, Linda Graves met her husband when both were medical students at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.
Graves graduated in 1994 and is a resident at University Hospital in Newark. Neither she nor other family members could be reached for comment. Pope, who worked as a Newark firefighter while attending medical school, was married previously and had children before he met and married Graves in 1997. He graduated from Montclair State University with a bachelor’s degree in 1991 and graduated from UMDNJ in 1996. Pope received his medical license in 1997.
Purdy said three pipe bombs were found in a garbage can on the property and the Passaic County Sheriff’s bomb squad was called in to remove the devices. Purdy added that large amounts of prescription drugs – including Prozac and other anti-depressants – were found inside Pope’s home.