A Kingston dentist whose sensational murder trial last year ended in acquittal will spend at least two years in state prison for convictions on charges of perjury and insurance fraud.
On Tuesday, Feb. 7, Gilberto Nunez, 49, was sentenced to two and a third to seven years in state prison by County Court Judge Donald Williams.
Over the course of three trials, the Poughkeepsie resident who ran a successful dental practice on Washington Avenue in Kingston was convicted of 12 felonies related to an fraudulent insurance claim, a falsified pistol permit application and a bizarre scheme involving forged Central Intelligence Agency documents he used in an effort to break up the marriage of his best friend and romantic rival, Thomas Kolman Jr.
When Kolman was found dead in his car in a Town of Ulster parking lot on Nov. 29, 2011, police quickly zeroed in on Nunez, who was having an affair with Kolman’s wife Linda as a suspect. Police eventually concluded that the dentist had met up with Kolman in the parking lot hours before his body was discovered, and alleged he administered the powerful medical sedative Midazolam to Kolman. The drug, in concert with Kolman’s sleep apnea caused a fatal heart arrhythmia, police charged. In early 2012, Town of Ulster and state police conducted an at-times-combative six-hour interrogation of Nunez, during which Nunez admitted the affair with Linda Kolman but denied meeting Kolman in the parking lot the day of his death. It was not until April 2015 that Nunez was indicted on a charge of second-degree murder in Kolman’s death.
Over the course of a three-week trial, prosecutor MaryEllen Albanese argued that Nunez killed Kolman to get rid of his romantic rival and further his “obsession” with Linda Kolman. Prosecutors pointed to a series of deceptions involving mysterious text messages, a forged CIA ID card and letterhead and even an email written by Nunez impersonating his own mother as evidence of desperation to break up the marriage. Defense team Evan Lipton and Gerald Shargel, meanwhile, argued that Kolman’s death was not a murder at all. They noted that it took a pathologist nearly a year and two exhumations of Kolman’s body to arrive at the conclusion that he died of “acute Midazolam poisoning” and argued that the conclusion was influenced by police who had already decided that Nunez was guilty of murder.
After three weeks of testimony, a jury delivered a split verdict acquitting Nunez of the murder charge but finding him guilty of two counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument for the phony CIA documents.
At a separate trial Nunez was convicted of insurance fraud, grand larceny and falsifying business records for inflating by $8,400 an insurance claim stemming from a fire at a building adjacent to his legal practice. In a third trial Nunez was convicted of perjury and offering a false instrument for filing; hose charges arose from allegations that he failed to acknowledge on a pistol permit application that he had received an “other than honorable” discharge from the U.S. Marine Corps for deserting shortly after completing recruit training. Both indictments were filed before Nunez was indicted for murder but while police were actively investigating the case with him as a prime suspect.
‘A different man’
On Tuesday, Williams imposed sentencing on all 12 felony convictions stemming from the three trials. Albanese, a senior Orange County assistant district attorney who stepped in because of a conflict with the Ulster DA’s office, asked the court to impose consecutive maximum terms for all 12 counts, an outcome that could have sent Nunez to prison for at least 16 years. Albanese argued that Nunez shown repeatedly engaged in deception and manipulation for both monetary gain and to advance his affair with Linda Kolman. Albanese added that Nunez had shown no remorse for his actions and was likely to engage in similar behavior if left at liberty.
“Society deserves protection from this sociopathic, narcissistic behavior,” Albanese told the court.
Lipton, meanwhile, asked Williams to impose a sentence recommended by in pre-sentencing report prepared by the Ulster County Probation Department — six months in the county jail followed by five years probation. Lipton also asked Williams for a “certificate of relief from disability” that would allow Nunez to retain his dentist’s license pending further action from the state Department of Education. Lipton pointed to 120 letters from community members and patients attesting to Nunez’s good character and good works including providing dental services to patients who could not otherwise afford them. Lipton argued that the exposure of his client’s unsavory deeds in the local press and on national TV (the murder trial was the subject of network news magazine shows Dateline and 48 Hours) as well as time spent in jail awaiting trial constituted sufficient punishment.
“Gilberto Nunez has been thoroughly humbled by this process,” said Lipton. “And he sits before you a different man than he was when it started.”
‘Devoid of any shame’
In remarks made before passing sentence, Williams said that he had struggled in coming to a conclusion. Williams noted that by state law, the allegations regarding Kolman’s death could play no role in his decision. Williams added that all 12 felonies were Class D and E nonviolent offenses — the lowest level on the books — and that under normal circumstances they would likely have been resolved as plea bargains to a misdemeanor in a city or town court.
But, Williams said, he based his decision on the totality of Nunez’s behavior and character as evidenced through all three trials. Nunez’s crimes, involving deception and lying under oath, constituted an attack on the justice system. Lying about his military service, Williams pronounced, was “disparaging” to service members. Williams said Nunez’s manipulative behavior regarding the Kolmans’ marriage showed that he was willing to go to any lengths to satisfy his own needs. The lack of remorse shown in the pre-sentencing report — Nunez told the probation officer that the cases against him stemmed from anti-Latino bias — showed that Nunez believed he was above the law, Williams said.
“To this day you continue to deceive and manipulate the facts,” said Williams. “You have shown absolutely no remorse, you are devoid of any shame.”
Williams sentenced Nunez to the maximum of one and a third to four years for perjury and other charges stemming from the falsified pistol permit application and one to three years for the insurance fraud. Those terms will run consecutively, meaning that Nunez must serve as least two and two thirds years in state prison.
Williams imposed a more lenient sentence — one year in county jail — on each of the two counts stemming from the fake CIA documents. Williams said that he considered the convictions less serious because they did not involve lying under oath and, according to the prosecution’s own expert witness, the forgeries were “cartoonish” and unlikely to fool anyone. That sentence will run concurrently with the state prison sentence, meaning that Nunez will not serve additional time for the fake documents.
Nunez, who entered the court wearing the orange jumpsuit of the incarcerated, was led from the courtroom in handcuffs. Shargel, meanwhile, said that he planned to appeal both the verdicts in the guilty verdicts and the sentence handed down by Williams.
“This was a very severe sentence,” said Shargel.