Taxpayers will foot the bill for a makeup artist to cover up some potentially offensive tattoos on the face and neck of a neo-Nazi during his First Degree Murder trial scheduled to begin next week.
Attorneys for John Allen Ditullio Jr. aren’t taking any chances when it comes to the 23-year-old’s homemade tattoos inked since his arrest three (3) years ago.
“This on the side says ‘f— you’ (and) is very offensive regardless of whether he had it (at the time of the crime) or didn’t have it,” defense attorney Bjorn Brunvand argued in a Pasco County courtroom Friday.
Circuit Judge Michael Andrews said he would allow a licensed cosmetologist to be brought in an hour before each day’s proceedings to cover up Ditullio’s tattoos. Ditullio is charged with the March 23, 2006, fatal stabbing of 17-year-old Kristopher King.
In a previous hearing in Pinellas County, Chief Judge Thomas McGrady authorized spending up to $150 per day for the cosmetologist, but only if Andrews — the trial judge — ruled that it was necessary, court spokesman Ron Stuart said.
Brunvand told the St. Pete Times that Ditullio, while in jail, acquired a tattoo that looks like a barbed wire going down one side of his face. He also got a swastika on his neck, too high up to be covered by a shirt collar.
The problem, Brunvand said, is that the average person on a jury might be “either offended or intimidated and maybe frightened by these tattoos.” Brunvand is concerned the tattoos — not the evidence — might lead jurors to suspect Ditullio is guilty.
In other words, the tattoos could prejudice a jury, even though they “have nothing to do with the facts of the case,” Brunvand told the St. Pete Times.
Brunvand argued in court Friday that the neo-Nazi group Ditullio was affiliated with wore uniforms but “that doesn’t mean you have to wear it in court.”
Ditullio, who attended the court hearing, wore a red jail uniform issued to “high risk” inmates. Dituillo is classified as such because he once was caught trying to escape.
For more information on that foiled “Shawshank”-styled attempt to escape, check out this previous story from Bay News 9.
The tattoos are in black ink. So that begs the question: “How did Dutullio, who was never free on bail, get them?”
Sheriff’s officials say inmates have many ways to tattoo themselves in jail. Sometimes they sharpen a staple or a paper clip on concrete and dip it in ink from a ballpoint pen.
“There are a lot of things you can put in your body to make a tattoo,” said Pasco sheriff’s spokesman Kevin Doll. “If we find them, we confiscate them.”
Assistant State Attorney Mike Halkitis said the makeup should be limited to tattoos obtained after Ditullio’s arrest in the 2006 stabbing. He argued that prejudice wasn’t a good enough reason to cover all of Ditullio’s tattoos.
“Everything he did that day was prejudicial,” he said.
The tattoos that Ditullio had before his 2006 arrest — including small crosses under both eyes — will not be covered up. Halikitis also asked that tattoos on Ditullio’s knuckles be left exposed because photos of scratches on his hands are being used as evidence.
Ditullio faces charges of First-Degree Murder and Attempted Murder. Deputies say he put on a gas mask, broke into neighbor Patricia Wells’ home in west Pasco County, stabbed her and killed 17-year-old Kristopher King, who was visiting Wells.
The state is seeking the death penalty. Jury selection is to begin Monday.