Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Massimino Smiles as Jury Deliberations Continue

Give him this, he's an optimist.

Mob underboss Joseph "Mousie" Massimino continue his upbeat banter and chatter Wednesday as jury deliberations rolled on in the racketeering conspiracy case against him, mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and five others.

"Frank, you look a little nervous over there," Massimino quipped to Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Labor as the defendants filed into the courtroom to hear a question that had been posed by the jury panel. "Don't worry. Everything will be alright."

Massimino, 62, has spent the last week talking about the "party" he hopes to attend after the jury returns with an not guilty verdict and he and the other defendants are freed.

"Keep those martini glasses chilled" has been one of his constant refrains.

One of five mobsters being held without bail, Massimino showed up in court Wednesday dressed in a neatly tailored camel-hair sport coat and a tan, turtle-neck sweater, looking more like a literary figure than a mobster. The civilian dress is provided by family members and friends for the jailed defendants who are being housed in the Federal Detention Center across the street from the federal courthouse where the trial is being held.

The jury deliberated for about six hours Wednesday, their first full day to assess the evidence. They got the case Tuesday afternoon. Deliberations are set to resume 8:30 Thursday morning.

Based on a series of questions submitted in writing by the jury to Judge Eduardo Robreno Wednesday it appeared the panel of seven men and five women were focusing on the part of the case in which authorities allege Ligambi, Massimino and co-defendant Anthony Staino took over a video poker machine company operations.

The indictment alleges the three formed a ficticious company and set up a bogus sales agreement after forcing the owners of a vending machine company to give up their routes and about 35 poker machines placed in bars, restaurant and social clubs.

The defense has contended that the transaction was a legitimate business deal.

The jurors asked to hear four secretly recorded conversations in which the poker machine business was discussed. Three of the conversations, from wiretaped phones, were conversations between Staino and Curt Arbitman, a video poker machine distributor who has pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy charge and testified for the government.

Among other things, the jury has also asked to see Arbitman's plea agreement and to hear his testimony replayed. Judge Robreno ruled that they could see the plea deal, but asked the jury to think further on whether they wanted to hear Arbitman's entire testimony, which stretched over two days during the three-month trial.

Robreno withheld any ruling, but has the option of telling the jurors to rely on their recollection of what Arbitman said on the stand.

While he was called as a government witness, Arbitman appeared to bend over backwards at times to support the defense's claims. He said he serviced the machines that Massimino, Ligambi and Staino "purchased" and that many of the machines were in deplorable condition, a contention that the former owner of the company, testifying later in the case, denied.

Arbitman also testified that he seldom charged Staino or the others for any repair work on the machines, but said Staino always reimbured him for parts.

The tapes the jury wanted to rehear Wednesday included three conversations between Arbitman and Staino about the poker machine business, including problems with machines and a discussion about a raid in which authorities had seized a machine from a customer.

"They're real ball breakers," Staino said of the authorities who conducted the raid.

Arbitman, a veteran of the business, added that ironically in years past when the poker machine business generated substantial profits, operators were largely left alone by authorities.

"Now they (the machines) don't make no money and they get bothered," Arbitman said of the stores and bars where the machines were located.

More damaging was a fourth tape in which Arbitman had a discussion with Wally Carnivale and Gaeton Lucibello about a problem with machines in Northeast Philadelphia.

On the tape Carnivale, who also became a government cooperator, complained to Arbitman that he was being harassed by an individual named "Fat Vick" who told him to keep his machines out of Northest Philadelphia or they would be destroyed.

Arbitman arranged for Carnivale to meet with Lucibello, a South Philadelphia mobster. Lucibello was indicted with Ligambi and the others in the current case but pleaded guilty prior to the start of the trial.
In a taped conversation Lucibello told Carnivale not to worry about the threat.

"Tell Fat Vic to come and see me," Lucibello said. "Tell him I said he's a fat fuck."

Speculation on why the jury wanted to hear that particular tape was both positive and negative for the defense.

Some believed that the question showed the jury was focusing on Arbitman's role in the business and how it was distinct from what Ligambi, Staino and Massimino did. Others said the incident shows the mob's influence and control over the video poker machine business and reinforced the government's position that fear, intimidation and threats of violence were part of the racketeering conspiracy that is at the heart of the case.

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