Kingston dentist Dr. Gilberto Nunez, accused in the poisoning death of his friend and romantic rival, Tom Kolman, was acquitted of murder charges in Ulster County Court on Tuesday. But a jury found Nunez guilty of two felonies in connection with a bizarre scheme to break up Tom and Linda Kolman. The nine-man, three-woman jury deliberated for about six hours before handing down the split verdict at 2 p.m. on Tuesday.
Linda Kolman, the dead man’s widow, was present in the courtroom and surrounded by friends and family when the verdict was read. Moments later friends led her from the courtroom as she shouted at Nunez, “Lying piece of shit, psychotic, sociopath!” Nunez hugged his defense team and left the courthouse red-faced and teary-eyed, accompanied by his wife (who he married sometime after Kolman’s death), his attorneys and a retinue of TV cameras.
Orange County Senior District Attorney MaryEllen Albanese, who took over the case after Ulster County DA Holley Carnright was disqualified from the case shortly before Nunez’s indictment, left the courtroom visibly distraught. Asked is she wanted to comment on the verdict, Albanese firmly replied, “I do not.” Outside the courthouse, a woman who described herself as a friend of Kolman’s but declined to give her name lamented the verdict.
“It’s heartbreaking that this man is getting away with murder,” she said. “It’s horrible.”
But Nunez is far from in the clear. In addition to his conviction on two counts of felony criminal possession of a forged instrument — each of which carries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison — Nunez also faces two more felony charges unrelated to Kolman’s murder. Last year, prior to his indictment in Kolman’s death, Nunez was indicted on a felony charge of grand larceny in the third degree. That charge stems from allegations that he filed false insurance claims following a fire at a building adjacent to his dental practice at 387 Washington Ave. in Kingston. Nunez also faces a felony perjury charge based on allegations that he failed to disclose on a pistol permit application that he had been dishonorably discharged from the Marine Corps for desertion.
During the three-week trial in Ulster County Court, prosecutors argued that the 48-year-old dentist used the powerful sedative Midazolam to poison and kill Thomas Kolman back on Nov. 29, 2011. That morning, Kolman was found dead in his car in the parking lot of the Planet Fitness gym in the Town of Ulster by his wife Linda around 11 a.m. that morning. Police alleged Nunez met Kolman around 5 a.m. that morning and killed him by spiking his coffee with Midazolam, a drug he kept at his dental practice that’s available only to licensed medical professionals.
At the time of his death, Nunez was in the midst of an 11-month affair with Linda Kolman. Prosecutors argued that Nunez was “obsessed” with his friend’s wife and killed him because he feared Linda was about to break off the relationship and reconcile with her husband. Prosecutors also argued that, from almost the very start of the relationship, Nunez used anonymous text messages from a disposable “burner” phone to manipulate the couple into breaking up. At various points in the relationship, Linda Kolman received messages purporting to be from other women who told her her husband was having an affair. Other anonymous messages to Thomas Kolman informed him that his wife was “sleeping with the dentist.”
At one point, Nunez allegedly showed Linda a phony ID card identifying him as a “medical officer” for the Central Intelligence Agency and produced a document on fake CIA letterhead that he told her was an investigation into the text messages. In the summer of 2011, Nunez allegedly offered $1,000 to a friend to find an accomplice, pose as a CIA agent and meet with the Kolmans.
Over the course of 10 days of testimony from more than 50 witnesses, defense team Gerald Shargel and Evan Lipton sought to undermine every aspect of the prosecution’s case, including whether Kolman’s death was even a homicide. The defense produced their own pathologist who disputed prosecutors’ contention that Kolman died from “acute Midazolam poisoning.” Instead, Dr. Zhongxue Hua argued that Kolman, who was overweight and suffered from hypertension and sleep apnea, likely died of heart disease. The defense team also argued that Nunez had no motive to kill Kolman. Using texts and emails between Nunez and Linda Kolman, they argued that Linda was in fact ready to leave her husband for Nunez. Thomas Kolman, they argued, was also ready to move on and remained friends with Nunez even after he learned of the affair. Finally, the defense disputed evidence from a vehicle identification expert who testified that a vehicle seen pulling up next to Kolman’s car in the Planet Fitness parking lot the morning of his death was an exact match for Nunez’s 2010 Pathfinder.
On Tuesday, County Court Judge Donald Williams said that he would wait on the disposition of the fraud and perjury charges before sentencing Nunez on the two forgery counts. Williams told the defense team to be prepared to bring their client before a jury again later this year.
“There will be no plea deal,” Williams told Nunez’s lawyers, Gerald Shargel and Evan Lipton. “This is going to trial.”