Gone are the trappings of James Rackover’s old highflying lifestyle: Money, parties, drugs, women. And he says he knows who’s to blame: His bigmouthed ex-buddy.
Turncoat co-defendant Lawrence Dilione “threw me under the bus to save his own a–,” Rackover told the Daily News in an exclusive jailhouse interview.
The 26-year-old inmate, wearing an ill-fitting jumpsuit, once again denied any role in the Nov. 13, 2016, slaying of Hofstra University alum Joseph Comunale.
“What motive would I have?” Rackover railed from his seat in the Manhattan Detention Complex. “What trouble would I be in? Does it make sense to you?”
Rackover insists that Dilione, in their last conversation months ago, apologized for ratting him out to police and promised to make things right.
“I’m going to get you out of here,” he quotes Dilione as saying. “Ask your lawyer if he can get my statements dismissed.”
Rackover, unable to make his $ 300,000 cash bail or $ 1 million bond, instead nears the six-month mark behind bars in connection with the killing.
Neither suspect was charged in Comunale’s murder, with each instead facing charges of hindering prosecution, tampering with physical evidence and concealing a human corpse.
The body of the 26-year-old Comunale was buried in a shallow grave in a Jersey Shore town. Officials believe he was killed during a night of hard partying at Rackover’s apartment in a luxury East Side building.
Rackover is the surrogate son of jeweler to the stars Jeffrey Rackover, whose A-list clients include Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Lopez and Denzel Washington.
Rackover claims he was unfairly targeted because of his dad’s celebrity clientele and because the killing occurred in his apartment.
He wonders why Dilione isn’t under the same scrutiny.
“Why isn’t anyone looking into Larry?” he asked. “Why is it always me? It’s because of my last name.”
Rackover says he hasn’t spoken with his buddy since Dilione was freed on bail in November.
The two friends initially hanged tough after the gruesome slaying, even as their faces were plastered on front pages with headlines linking them to the shocking slaughter.
“Neither of us are the crying type, I guess,” Rackover told The News.
Prosecutors in the messy investigation hope to bring homicide charges before a Manhattan grand jury this month — with a May 19 court date ahead.
Comunale was stabbed 15 times in the chest before his corpse was driven to New Jersey. Cops said the walls of Rackover’s apartment were stained with blood, and 32 pieces of evidence were found at the gory crime scene.
Statements filed in Manhattan Supreme Court after the suspects parted ways revealed the extent of Dilione’s cooperation with the cops.
He acknowledged beating Comunale unconscious in an argument over cigarettes at Rackover’s E. 59th St. and Sutton Place pad — but pinned the killing on his friend.
Rackover “viciously kicked and beat the defenseless Mr. Comunale,” read a court filing. “After realizing Mr. Comunale was severely injured, Rackover, fearing arrest, stated, ‘We have to kill him.’ ”
Dilione, speaking to an NYPD investigator Nov. 17, was blunt about who was to blame.
“I didn’t kill Joe, it was James,” Dilione said, according to court documents. “All I did was punch him, then James said he didn’t want to go to jail and then James stabbed him.”
Dilione went on to tell cops that Rackover, after killing Comunale, tried to dismember him in a bathtub with a “serrated blade.” Dilione also said he and his friends were using cocaine that night.
Details of the admissions were disclosed in a filing by attorney Mark Bederow, who represents a third suspect, Max Gemma. Gemma, 29, is not suspected in the violence but is accused of participating in the cleanup.
Dilione, of Jersey City, told cops that dumping the body was a team effort.
Comunale’s mutilated remains were found behind a florist shop in Oceanport, N.J., where Dilione grew up.
There was also evidence of a major cleanup effort in Rackover’s apartment, although his lawyer says police went in without permission.
Dilione’s attorney has previously said the statements were taken illegally, well after police knew his client had counsel.
He believes they will be ruled inadmissible, although prosecutors argued they were legally obtained. Defense attorney Michael Pappa declined to comment on Rackover’s remarks when reached Friday.
Rackover described Dilione as having a “Napoleon complex because he’s short,” and said his pal would frequently pick fights with other guys for no apparent reason.
Rackover traveled among the city’s social elite, reforming himself after moving to Manhattan from Florida — where he pleaded guilty in 2009 to a residential break-in. He violated probation in 2011 after testing positive for cocaine and marijuana.
He recalled a time in East Hampton when he and Dilione were sitting down for a meal and his buddy — seemingly out of nowhere — appeared ready to rumble with another man over a perceived insult.
“This isn’t the Jersey Shore,” Rackover told him. “I was worried about making the newspapers because of him.”
The pair met through an ex-girlfriend they had in common and became unlikely close friends, bonding over the shared experience, Rackover said.
They were soon out on the town in tandem almost every weekend.
Rackover maintains that he did not see what happened in his apartment because he went to bed before the killing occurred.
“I’m not going down for this,” he said, vowing to fight the charges he faces now and anything more serious that comes his way.
Rackover said he was told early on that Dilione was pointing the finger at him for the killing.
While the friends sat stewing in separate rooms at a Manhattan police precinct after Comunale’s disappearance, a detective told Rackover that Dilione was “rolling on you.”
Rackover says he refused to believe it. But both men were regarded as suspects almost from the get-go.
“One or both of these people committed a murder,” prosecutor Antoinette Carter said at their Nov. 17 Manhattan Criminal Court arraignment.
Rackover said his “dad” is also taking heat over the investigation, with some blaming the jeweler for what happened.
“People started saying this wouldn’t have happened if Jeffrey didn’t bring me around,” he added.
Rackover says that when he’s seated next to Dilione now for court appearances, his former pal refuses to look him in the eye.
“Every time I’m in court I stare at him to see if he’ll look at me or if he’ll say anything, like ‘I’m sorry,’ ” Rackover said.
“He never does. He looks away.”