Convicted Sex Offender Richard Coppolino Sues State Over Megan’s Law
It’s not easy being a convicted sex offender. Your neighbors stop inviting you to the barbecues and block parties. It’s downright difficult to get a date — or a job. And to top it all off, you’ve got to register with the state and keep them apprised of your whereabouts and all sorts of other information. But one sex offender is standing up and saying, “No more!” And he’s taking the state to court — something he’s done before and not without some success.
Richard Coppolino isn’t just any sex offender. His crimes were big news back in 2000, the year of his arrest.
Coppolino, then 50, had been in a relationship with a 31-year-old woman, who had been trying to end things. The two agreed to meet for dinner on October 24, 2000, at Mel’s International, a storied restaurant in the Belmont Hills section of the Main Line that has since closed.
After breaking bread together and talking over their failing relationship, the two had drinks with the restaurant’s namesake, Mel Glickstein, and then they all went to Glickstein’s house across the street from the restaurant. That’s when the real trouble began.
The victim told police that Coppolino threw her onto Glickstein’s pool table and then used a knife to force her to snort cocaine that Glickstein had brought in. Then, prosecutors said, Coppolino demanded that she perform fellatio on Glickstein, and after she refused, someone held her down on the pool table (there was an unidentified fourth person in the room) while Coppolino sexually assaulted her with a billiard ball. Investigators found a large pool of blood on the pool table. The crime was rightly called “horrendous” and “bizarre” in the press at the time.
Eventually, Glickstein pleaded guilty to a drug offense and evidence tampering and was sent to prison. Well, sort of. Glickstein was allowed to run his restaurant during the day and through dinner service, returning to the slammer each night to sleep.
But Coppolino, who was represented by none other than prominent Center City attorney Chuck Peruto, wasn’t quite so lucky. He was found guilty of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and unlawful restraint, among other charges, and sentenced to five to 10 years in prison, later reduced to shorter sentence that maxed out at close to six years.
(The victim later sued Glickstein and Coppolino. Glickstein settled before trial, and Coppolino was ordered to pay her $200,000 in damages.)
When Coppolino walked out of jail in 2007, he registered as a Tier III sex offender with the Pennsylvania State Police, the agency that maintains the Commonwealth’s Megan’s Law database. Tier III is the worst of the worst, requiring lifetime monitoring and registration, compared with 15 years for the lesser offenses included under Tier I and 25 years for Tier II.
Over the years since Coppolino’s release, the reporting requirements for Megan’s Law in Pennsylvania have changed. Back in 2007, those reporting requirements were relatively minimal, but these days, they’re much stricter and more demanding.
Coppolino is required to report motor vehicle information, nicknames and aliases, Internet screen names, and telephone numbers to the PSP, and he must appear in person at a PSP office on a quarterly basis instead of annually, as the law previously required. The new Megan’s Law also required that registrants show up in person at an approved PSP site to report any changes to their cell phone numbers and motor vehicle information, among other data, within three days of a change. And if Coppolino fails to do any of this, he could face five years behind bars. Under the old law, a registration or reporting screwup didn’t necessarily mean you were going away.
And it is these changes that are at the heart of a federal lawsuit that Coppolino has filed in Philadelphia naming former Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan in his official capacity. (Coppolino’s attorney might want to update his records, since Noonan hasn’t been the top cop for a year now. The attorney didn’t return our call.)
The suit argues that the new requirements punish Coppolino for a past act — one for which he’s already served his time. And Coppolino maintains that he is being lumped in with “sexually violent predator[s]” and “high risk recidivists,” while giving him no way to prove otherwise.
By slapping his photos, car info, and other details all over the Internet for anyone to see, the suit claims, the police are taking part in something “similar to historic shaming punishment” on a “worldwide basis,” and without “any mechanism to prove rehabilitation” and allow for “removal from such registration lists.”
Coppolino began his legal crusade against Megan’s Law in 2014, when he made many of the same arguments with a state court. In the end, the court disagreed with most of his assertions, but did concur that requiring him to show up in person within three days to report a change in information was, in fact, going too far. In November 2015, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed that lower court’s decision.
A spokesperson for the Pennsylvania State Police told us that the department never comments on pending litigation.
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