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Dermatologist faces trial for alleged plot to kill prosecutor

He was convicted of killing his wife

Dr. Richard Sharpe was led into court for his murder trial in November 2001. He was given life in prison without the possibility of parole. Dr. Richard Sharpe was led into court for his murder trial in November 2001. He was given life in prison without the possibility of parole. (FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS/pool)

BOSTON -- Robert Weiner encountered gangsters and mass murders during his days as an Essex prosecutor, but it was a dermatologist who allegedly tried to have him killed.

Richard Sharpe, convicted of murdering his wife, faces trial on charges he plotted to kill Weiner, the prosecutor who sent him to prison.

Sharpe is charged with trying to hire a hit man to kill Weiner, a former Essex first assistant district attorney. Sharpe has pleaded not guilty, and jury selection for his trial in Norfolk Superior Court is scheduled to begin tomorrow.

Sharpe, 53, was sentenced in 2001 to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder of his estranged wife, Karen. The case drew national media attention when photographs of Sharpe wearing slinky dresses and fishnet stockings were widely published after his arrest.

Prosecutors in the solicitation to commit murder case allege Sharpe believed that having Weiner killed would increase his chances of overturning the conviction on appeal.

Weiner said in a phone interview that he does not expect he will be asked to testify, but will "certainly be following the case closely."

"I've prosecuted people charged with mass murder and I've prosecuted mafia figures, and nothing like this has ever happened to me before," said Weiner, who is now a private attorney. "But it's not surprising given the man that we're dealing with."

Sharpe shot his wife at close range with a hunting rifle, and prosecutors successfully argued it was because he was angry over the prospect of losing $3 million in their divorce.

His attorney argued that Sharpe had a history of mental illness caused by childhood abuse, and used a temporary insanity defense.

Sharpe attempted to hang himself during his first year of incarceration, and is currently being held at Bridgewater State Hospital.

Norman Watne, an inmate at Cedar Junction-Walpole, told prison officials in 2002 that Sharpe approached him about helping him kill Weiner.

Watne is expected to testify against Sharpe in exchange for the restoration of his telephone and visitation privileges and a transfer to a New Hampshire prison, according to court documents.

David Traub, a spokesman for the Norfolk District Attorney William Keating, and prosecutor Jack Stapleton declined to comment on the case. It was not immediately clear whether Sharpe's trial lawyer, Joseph Balliro Sr., is still representing him. Calls to Balliro's office Friday and yesterday were not returned.