Monday, September 29, 2014

Jury Gets Murder-For-Hire Case

By George Anastasia
For Bigtrial.net

It was murder-for hire, both the prosecution and defense agreed.

The question was who did the hiring?

That's the issue a federal jury began wrestling with this afternoon in the trial of South Philadelphia auto body shop owner Ron Galati who is charged with hiring three hitmen to kill his estranged daughter's boyfriend.

After hearing closing arguments from the prosecution and defense, the jury of 10 women and two men deliberated for about a hour before recessing at 4:30 p.m. They will return tomorrow at 9:30 to continue.

The prosecution contends that Galati, 64, a wannabe mobster, ordered the shooting of Andrew Tuono last November. Galati's lawyer, Anthony Voci Jr., has presented an alternative, contending that Tiffany Galati, the defendant's 31-year-old daughter, was behind the hit.

"We agree," Voci said in one of the highlights of his impassioned, 90-minute closing, that Tuono was shot on Nov. 30 of last year as he and Tiffany Galati walked out of their home on Carson Avenue in Atlantic City.

Friday, September 26, 2014

What The Jury Knows, And Doesn't Know, In the Galati Trial

Tiffany Galati
By George Anastasia
For Bigtrial.net

Closing arguments are scheduled for Monday morning in the murder-for-hire trial of South Philadelphia auto body shop owner Ron Galati.

A jury of 10 women and two men will likely begin deliberations later in the day. Galati's future is in the balance. The 64-year-old wannabe wiseguy, who opted not to take the witness stand, faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted. A sentence near the top of the guideline would be tantamount to life.

If the jury convicts, Galati's daughter Tiffany, 31, will be the witness who sealed his fate.

If the jury acquits, or can't make a decision, Tiffany may also be the reason.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Details Of A Bloody Family Feud Surface At Galati Trial

By George Anastasia
For Bigtrial.net

The father sat at the defense table facing a murder-for-hire charge that could land him in prison for the rest of his life.

The daughter sat on the witness stand, offering testimony that could help the government put him there.

Ron Galati, the 64-year-old South Philadelphia auto body shop owner, and his daughter, Tiffany, 31,  squared off in federal court in Camden today in a bloody and twisted version of family feud.

Galati is charged with hiring hitmen to kill Tiffany's boyfriend Andrew Tuono back in November. But her testimony, which included her eyewitness account of the shooting, covered a dysfunctional family dynamic that stretched back several years and that Tiffany Galati said shattered her relationship with her father, her mother Vicky and brother Ron Jr.

The shooting of Tuono, she said, was a violent and extreme extension of her father's overly protective and authoritarian approach to parenting. Her father always came between her and whomever she was dating, she explained. He wanted her to break up with Tuono with whom she had begun living. When she refused to end the relationship, she implied, her father decided to end it for her.

"There were bullets flying," she said of the night when she and Tuono were confronted by two gunmen allegedly sent by her father. "I had never been shot at before."

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Murder-For-Hire Plot That The Bard Would Love

By George Anastasia
For Bigtrial.net

It sounds like the plot from a Shakespearean play, but with a decided South Philadelphia twist.

A father, upset because his daughter is dating a man he neither likes nor trusts, sends two henchmen to kill the unwanted suitor. If Shakespeare had written the story, the assassins would have carried swords or daggers.

Ronald Walker said he used a .25 caliber semi-automatic pistol.

Walker took the stand this afternoon during the opening day of testimony in the murder-for-hire trial of Ronald Galati, a South Philadelphia auto body shop owner with a checkered criminal past that includes alleged organized crime connections.

But neither Galati's past nor his suspected mob ties are expected to figure in the trial. Instead, the case will focus on the allegation that last year Galati, 63, hired three men to kill Andrew Tuono who was dating Galati's daughter Tiffany at the time.

Tuono survived the hit and is listed as a potential witness. So is Tiffany Galati.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Psalms and Prayers In Prison

SCI-Coal Township
By Ralph Cipriano
for Bigtrial.net

Father Charles Engelhardt spends his days in prison reciting prayers, psalms and hymns from the Liturgy of the Hours.

"That's his anchor," Father Jerry Dunne says about Engelhardt's daily devotion to the official prayer book for the Catholic clergy.

Dunne visits Engelhardt every month at the State Correctional Institution in Coal Township, Northumberland County, some 2 1/2 hours northwest of Philadelphia. That's where Engelhardt, 67, is serving a six to 12 year sentence after he was convicted on Jan. 30, 2013 of endangering the welfare of a child, corruption of a minor and indecent assault. The "victim" in the case is the credibility-challenged former altar boy known as "Billy Doe."

Dunne has known "Charlie" Engelhardt for more than 40 years. The two priests are fellow oblates of St. Francis DeSales. They went to the seminary and college together, and worked along side each other at a couple of archdiocesan high schools, as well as in the same parish.

Engelhardt has lost "a lot of weight" but his "spirits are unusually positive," Dunne says. "That fascinates me."

"He's a person of very strong faith," Dunne says of Engelhardt. "He believes there's a purpose for all this. He believes that ultimately justice will prevail."

Monday, September 8, 2014

Joey Merlino Heading Back To Philadelphia

By George Anastasia
For Bigtrial.net

Joey Merlino’s coming back to Philadelphia.

But the erstwhile mob boss isn't happy about it.

Instead of completing plans to open a restaurant in Boca Raton, the 52-year-old former South Philadelphia wiseguy will have to appear in federal court at 6th and Market Streets and explain to a judge why he should not be  sent back to prison for violating the terms of his supervised release.  

According to a violation notice filed last month, Merlino was spotted meeting with mobster John “Johnny Chang” Ciancaglini and two other convicted felons on June 18 at a restaurant and a cigar bar in Boca. While on parole, Merlino is prohibited from meeting with any organized crime figure or felon. 

Merlino, Ciancaglini and five other co-defendants were convicted in a highly publicized 2001 racketeering case in Philadelphia. Merlino, the  boss of the crime family at the time, was sentenced to 14 years in prison and three years of supervised release. 

Ciancaglini, a mob capo, was sentenced to eight years and three years of supervised release. He has completed his entire sentence. Merlino was about to finish his supervised release term this week after which he would have been free to meet and associate with whomever he liked. 

The timing of the violation was seen in underworld circles as an attempt by federal authorities to, in the words of one mob associate, “bust his balls.”  


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Galati Prepares For Trial, May Take The Stand

By George Anastasia
For Bigtrial.net

Ron Galati has decided to roll the dice and put his future in the hands of a federal jury that will begin hearing testimony later this month in his murder-for-hire case.

What's more, the South Philadelphia auto body shop owner and wannabe wiseguy is considering taking the stand in his own defense, a move that was hinted at in a motion filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Richardson, the prosecutor in the case.

In the same motion, Richardson alleged that Galati has made frequent payments to two prominent South Philadelphia organized crime figures, mob boss Joseph Ligambi and his nephew George Borgesi, but offered no explanation of what the payments were for.

Galati, 64, faces from 15 years to life if convicted. His apparent resolve to go to trial and perhaps tell his story in his own words to the jury undercuts speculation and media reports that he might cooperate with authorities.

"I don't know anything about anybody," he has reportedly told those close to him. 

Prior to the start of a pre-trial hearing this morning, Galati's defense attorney, Anthony J. Voci Jr., said no decision had been made on whether Galati would testify. Voci spent most of the hearing  attempting to block the introduction of evidence detailing Galati's alleged prior criminal activities. Voci said that evidence would be highly prejudicial and would make it impossible for his client to receive a fair trial. The prosecution says the evidence should be permitted, but has agreed not to introduce evidence alleging mob involvement. 

U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Rodriguez said he would rule on the criminal history evidence motion shortly. The trial, in federal court in Camden, is set to begin Sept. 15.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Superior Court Seals Allegations Of Prosecutorial Misconduct

Reprinted with permission from yesterday's National Catholic Reporter.

By RALPH CIPRIANO

PHILADELPHIA — Defense lawyers for a priest and a Catholic school teacher convicted of raping a former altar boy claim that prosecutors didn’t tell them about a witness who would have bolstered the testimony of a key defense witness and called into question the accuser’s credibility.

Claiming prosecutorial misconduct, defense lawyers are seeking a new trial because they charge that prosecutors violated Brady v. Maryland, a landmark 1963 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that says prosecutors can’t withhold “exculpatory evidence” that could clear a defendant.

In a strange twist that confounds legal experts, the court ordered the filings to be sealed.

The charge of prosecutorial misconduct is in an application to amend the appellant brief filed July 9 in Pennsylvania Superior Court by Burton A. Rose, a lawyer for former teacher Bernard Shero. Michael J. McGovern, who is also seeking a new trial for his client, Fr. Charles Engelhardt, filed the same application to amend on July 10.

The same day, the district attorney's office asked the court to seal the records in the cases. On July 29, the dockets in both cases recorded that the seal was granted, but no reason was stated regarding why.

“That’s a very extraordinary remedy,” said Alan J. Tauber, a former defense lawyer for Msgr. William J. Lynn, who was also sent to jail because of accusations from the same former altar boy. “I don’t know what basis they would have to put this under seal.”

A spokesman for the district attorney’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

 

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