NATIONAL NEWS

Florida prosecutors are laying out their case against a plastic surgeon facing the death penalty

Jul 9, 2023, 11:08 AM

The law office in Largo, Fla. is shown, Sunday, July 9, 2023, where the killing of attorney Steven ...

The law office in Largo, Fla. is shown, Sunday, July 9, 2023, where the killing of attorney Steven Cozzi took place. Florida prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in the case of a plastic surgeon accused of killing a lawyer during an acrimonious battle over medical billing. (AP Photo/Curt Anderson)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Curt Anderson)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Florida prosecutors seeking the death penalty for a plastic surgeon accused of killing a lawyer and dumping his body in the Everglades have laid out their case in new court filings.

Authorities say Dr. Tomasz Kosowski killed attorney Steven Cozzi in the bathroom of Cozzi’s law office moments after both participated in a March 21 conference call about a lengthy, acrimonious legal battle over medical billing.

Prosecutors said in court documents that Kosowski took the call from a Toyota pickup truck outside the office and that he had supplies to commit the killing, including trash bags, a syringe containing a paralyzing drug and a wagon to haul the corpse out.

Although Cozzi’s body has never been found, investigators used cellphone records and surveillance video to track Kosowski to a remote area west of Miami on the Tamiami Trail, also known as U.S. Highway 41. That’s where they believe Kosowski tossed the body into a Dumpster that was eventually emptied by a garbage truck. The driver noticed an unusually “vile” smell at the stop, authorities said.

“Video from the garbage truck of the Dumpster being emptied into the garbage truck shows a large garbage bag falling in a manner inconsistent with normal trash,” prosecutors said in a motion asking a judge to hold Kosowski without bond. The parcel’s shape and the way it fell looked consistent with something that might hold a human body, they said.

A police cadaver dog also indicated a body had been in the Dumpster, according to court documents filed Friday.

Trash from the route is typically hauled to a Collier County landfill, but authorities who searched the property for Cozzi’s body said the facility routinely compacts its trash, “making recovery efforts nearly impossible.”

The new details emerged in court filings ahead of a July 17 hearing in which Kosowski’s lawyers plan to seek his release on bail. In Florida, anyone accused of first-degree murder is generally jailed until trial unless the defense can show a compelling reason they shouldn’t be.

Kosowski, 44, has pleaded not guilty. A graduate of Dartmouth College medical school, he has specialized in reconstructive breast surgery for eight years, according to papers filed by his lawyers.

They contend the prosecution’s case is flimsy, that Kosowski poses no threat and that their client will not try to evade justice. If released, Kosowski plans to stay at his multimillion-dollar waterfront home in Tarpon Springs.

The new court documents detail prosecutors’ evidence against Kosowski, including Cozzi’s blood and DNA found in the law office bathroom and in the garage at Kosowski’s home, where it was mixed with the doctor’s DNA. In addition, authorities say Kosowski bought the Toyota truck with cash weeks before Cozzi’s slaying and never registered the vehicle, which had a license plate flipping device that allowed tags to be substituted with the touch of a button. One of the license plates associated with it was registered to a dead person.

When Kosowski was arrested March 25, investigators said he had $280,000 in cash, masks, duct tape, firearms, a ballistic vest with “EMS” written on it, law enforcement patches and a vial of succinylcholine, which is a paralyzing drug. A search of his home turned up about 200 guns, according to court documents.

Cozzi, meanwhile, seemingly disappeared without a trace. His keys, wallet and cellphone remained on his law office desk and a work file was open on his computer. His husband has not heard from him.

The missing lawyer represented a Dunedin, Florida-based medical practice that Kosowski alleged shorted him thousands of dollars in billings and damaged his reputation as a doctor.

The dispute got so heated that Kosowski tried to get Cozzi removed from the case and at one point allegedly called Cozzi a “scumbag” during an encounter in the same law office bathroom where prosecutors say the attorney was slain.

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Florida prosecutors are laying out their case against a plastic surgeon facing the death penalty