The garment salesman accused of systematically shooting three shopkeepers to death as they worked alone in their Brooklyn clothing stores pleaded not guilty to murder charges at his arraignment Wednesday.
Wearing an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs around his wrists, Salvatore Perrone walked into court slowly and stood next to his court-appointed attorney.
Within minutes of the arraignment, he interrupted the judge, denying that the attorney standing next to him was his lawyer and complaining he had been denied access to the attorney of his choice, that hadn't been allowed to make phone calls and "everything has been taken away from me."
Family members of the three shopkeepers he's accused of killing sat in stunned silence during Perrone's minutes-long tirade. Eventually, he pleaded not guilty. A judge ordered a psychological evaluation and adjourned the case until February.
Perrone was indicted last month on three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of second-degree murder. The 64-year-old Staten Island man is accused of killing three Brooklyn clothing store owners, two over the summer and a third in mid-November. All three victims were of Middle Eastern descent. They were killed at closing time and were alone at the time of their deaths.
Detectives arrested Perrone shortly after they identified him as the man seen holding a black duffel bag in surveillance video from all three crime scenes. While executing a search warrant, they found the duffel bag in his girlfriend's home. It contained a rifle that ballistics linked to all three killings, as well as ammunition and knives.
Police reports say Perrone implicated himself in the killings during questioning in the days following his arrest. According to those reports, Perrone claimed Middle Eastern men connected to "the Palestinian section of the CIA" paid him to be involved in the killings. The suspect told police that he initially met the men at a Brooklyn Knights of Columbus and provided the sawed off shotgun for the slayings.
Perrone said that two different Middle Eastern men who met with killed the first and third shopkeepers, while another man in that circle forced him to stab the second shopkeeper to death. Perrone told police the men wanted to kill the shopkeepers because they had been too "Americanized."
Perrone faces life in prison without parole if convicted of the top charges against him.