Christopher Calise wielded a meat cleaver at a man who owed him money, demanding he give up his arm in lieu of a $50,000 debt, a Westchester County prosecutor told a judge yesterday.
The violent scene - in which the victim's hand was nearly severed outside a New Rochelle social club in June - was described at the arraignment of Calise and a man accused of being his accomplice, Maurice Mann, in state Supreme Court in White Plains.
Calise, 44, of Yonkers and Mann, 40, of Fort Lee, N.J., pleaded not guilty to felony assault charges. Calise also pleaded not guilty to a felony weapon charge. Acting state Supreme Court Justice Robert Neary set bail for Calise at $200,000 and continued Mann's $100,000 bail.
Calise and Mann are accused of tracking down the victim, Vincent Zarcone, at the Sound Shore Fishing Club on June 7. When Zarcone couldn't pay his debt, Assistant District Attorney Livia Rodriguez said, Calise started swinging the meat cleaver at the victim's head, yelling: "Gimme your arm! I want to cut it off!"
Meanwhile, Mann was holding Zarcone and trying to pull out his arm, the prosecutor said. During the struggle, it is alleged, Calise sliced up the victim's ankles and said he would keep going unless Zarcone gave him his arm.
Calise managed to get a hold of Zarcone's right arm and nearly severed his hand at the wrist, Rodriguez said. "This was a brutal and vicious attack," she said.
The two suspects are alleged to have fled in a rented Cadillac. New Rochelle police stopped the men, who had blood on their faces and clothes, and found the cleaver inside the vehicle, the prosecutor said.
The attack wasn't Calise's first confrontation with the victim, Rodriguez said. Eleven days earlier, it is alleged, he tried to collect the debt from Zarcone at the social club and stabbed Zarcone in the back when he failed to pay.
The prosecutor said witnesses to the May 27 attack heard Calise yelling: "You got to pay me the $50,000 you owe me! I'm going to kill you! I'm going to kill your family!" Zarcone, a 42-year-old social club owner on probation for promoting gambling, did not report the alleged stabbing to police.
Zarcone was part of a $12 million sports betting ring that operated from different locations in Westchester, the Bronx and Nassau County. The Westchester Organized Crime Task Force broke up the ring in 2004.
Zarcone pleaded guilty to gambling promotion in 2005 and was given five years' probation. New Rochelle police did not know the source of Zarcone's alleged debt to Calise.
Mann's defense lawyer argued that his client, a father of three, didn't know Calise had a meat cleaver and that he was trying to protect Calise from Zarcone. Mann's mother, brother and minister were in the courtroom.
Calise, a father of two, is being treated for bipolar disorder at Westchester Medical Center, according to a letter from the hospital that the judge read in court.