By Michelle Graff
michelle.graff@nationaljeweler.com
New York--A New York-based jeweler known for crafting high-end diamond jewelry for a celebrity clientele is facing a civil lawsuit for allegedly helping to cover up a murder.

Filed Sunday in New York Supreme Court by Patsy Comunale, the father of the victim, the suit seeks unspecified damages against Jeffrey Rackover, 57, for allegedly aiding 26-year-old James Rackover--who has been publicly referred to both as Jeffrey’s adopted son and as a man with whom he had a romantic relationship and supported financially--following the murder of Joseph Comunale.

Jeffrey Rackover operates a business in New York’s Diamond District and has gained a reputation as a “jeweler to the stars,” with a list of past clients that includes Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Lopez and journalist Katie Couric. In 2004, People magazine wrote about Rackover, who at the time was the vice president of Graff Diamonds, designing an engagement ring for a famous bride-to-be--Melania Trump.

On Friday morning, Jeffrey Rackover’s attorney, John J. Rosenberg, issued the following statement on behalf of his client: “It is difficult to imagine the pain that Mr. Comunale must be experiencing, but the fact is that Jeffrey Rackover had absolutely nothing to do with these tragic events. Mr. Rackover has no desire to litigate this matter in the press and he looks forward to his total vindication when the actual facts are revealed during the course of the court proceedings.”

The crime at the center of the civil case against him took place in the early morning hours of Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016.

According to the New York District Attorney’s Office, the 26-year-old Comunale, of Stamford, Connecticut, was repeatedly stabbed inside James Rackover’s Manhattan apartment following a party that also was attended by 28-year-old Lawrence Dilione and Max Gemma, 29.

At about 9:45 p.m. that night, the DA’s office says that James Rackover and Dilione drove Comunale’s body, which also had been burned, from Manhattan to Oceanport, New Jersey, where they buried it in a shallow ditch.

Comunale’s body was discovered by police three days later.


James Rackover--who was born James Beaudoin but legally changed his name to Rackover after meeting Jeffrey--and Dilione were indicted in May on charges of second-degree murder and concealment of a human corpse. The two men, along with Gemma, also face one count each of hindering prosecution and evidence tampering.

Jeffrey Rackover has not been charged in the case and publicly disavowed James Rackover shortly after his arrest.

Through his spokesperson Bo Dietl, a former NYPD detective who’s also running for mayor of New York City, Jeffrey Rackover also issued a public statement confirming that he did go into James’s apartment on the Sunday morning the murder took place to walk his dog but “had not noticed anything wrong,” the lawsuit states.

However, the lawsuit counters that the apartment smelled like cleaning chemicals and “the stench of death” and “was in disarray” with “blood stains visible in various locations.”

The lawsuit also claims that it was Jeffrey Rackover who gave James Rackover the cleaning supplies used to sanitize the murder scene and allowed James and Dilione to use his black Mercedes-Benz to transport and dispose of Comunale’s body.

There are two causes of action in the civil suit.

The first is violation of the right of sepulcher--the right to choose and control the final disposition of a dead human body, which, the lawsuit claims, Jeffrey Rackover prevented Pat Comunale from doing for his son Joseph by aiding in the cover-up.

The second is intentional infliction of emotional distress.

As mentioned, Jeffrey Rackover does not currently face any criminal charges in the case, though Pat Comunale’s attorney, Robert Abrams, told the Stamford Advocate that he’s confident the civil suit will result in such charges.

The Advocate quoted Abrams as saying: “We’re not going to stop until we’re comfortable and convinced that everybody who was involved in the murder of Joey and the cover-up that followed is held accountable both criminally and civilly.”

The New York District Attorney’s Office said Thursday that it cannot comment regarding potential additional charges in the criminal case, as it is open and pending.

The next scheduled court date is Aug. 1.


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