The intended victim of a 2012 murder-for-hire plot in Marathon could meet the man serving federal time for organizing the crime on Monday and possibly find out if he was merely the middleman in the scheme, and if so, who else was involved.
Dennis Zecca, 55, a retired U.S. Coast Guard chief warrant officer who capped his military career commanding Station Islamorada, is scheduled to give deposition at the Coleman Low federal prison in Sumpterville, Fla., Monday morning. He’s being deposed by Laurence Kellogg, attorney for Bruce Schmitt, the Marathon businessman Zecca hired a man to shoot dead — a man who turned out to be a Drug Enforcement Administration informant cooperating in a cocaine investigation targeting Zecca.
Although Kellogg will be the one asking questions, Schmitt plans to be in the room at the central Florida.
“The court order for the deposition specifically names me and allows me to be present with my attorney,” Schmitt said Thursday.
Schmitt filed a civil lawsuit in November against Zecca and two other men named only in the complaint as John Doe 1 and John Doe 2. The lawsuit seeks compensation for emotional damages Schmitt suffered as a result of the murder plot against him. In the meantime, Monroe County State Attorney Dennis Ward said Wednesday he is still in the process of researching whether his office can file state conspiracy charges against Zecca. He said late last month that he suspects other people were involved in the plot to kill Schmitt.
The DEA informant, who was an employee at the Marathon Marina & Boatyard on 11th Street oceanside, which Zecca owned at the time, told his handlers about the plot. They contacted FBI agents, who staged a murder by photographing Schmitt in a pool of fake blood. The informant told Zecca he shot Schmitt dead and showed Zecca the photo on Dec. 21, 2012.
Zecca told the informant he had to get $5,000 of the $20,000 he owed him for killing Schmitt from another party, who, according to transcripts of a recorded conversation between the two men, Zecca named. But federal prosecutors blacked out the names before the transcripts became public. As Zecca drove off to get the money, federal agents arrested him before he got to the other men’s location.
The outcome of the case never sat well with Schmitt.
Zecca made a deal with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to plead guilty to attempted murder for hire. In exchange for the guilty plea, prosecutors dropped several cocaine smuggling charges, which could have landed him in prison for life if a jury found him guilty. He’s serving his time in Coleman, a low-security prison. Public court documents indicate prosecutors got little or nothing in return for the plea other than avoiding a trial. Most importantly, as far as Schmitt is concerned, Zecca never had to give up who he was working for.
Schmitt doesn’t expect Zecca will Monday either but he’s curious as to how he will answer Kellogg’s questions.
“I am fully aware that he will most probably continue covering up for his associates and the ‘others,’ ”Schmitt said. “An interesting question will be who his attorney will actually be representing.”
Zecca’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, did not return an email requesting comment on Monday’s scheduled deposition.
“This deposition will be revealing on certain levels,” Schmitt said. “It is the beginning of a long process that I am prepared to see to the end.”
David Goodhue: 305-440-3204