Tuesday, January 22, 2013

More Questions, Few Answers In Mob Trial

By George Anastasia
For bigtrial.net

More questions, few answers today in the racketeering trial of mob boss Joe Ligambi and six co-defendants.

The anonymously chosen jury panel wrapped up a ninth day of deliberations without reaching a verdict in the case. Deliberations, however, were marked by a Casablanca moment when the panel asked the judge to "play it again."

Tape, that is. The panel wanted to rehear recordings that had been played during the trial and again during deliberations on Friday. Judge Eduardo Robreno turned down the request, telling the jurors to rely on their own recollections of what was said.

The tapes center on conversations between cooperating witnesses Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello and Frank DiGiacomo and evidence that focuses on co-defendant George Borgesi.

As has been the case throughout deliberations, the jury questions and the tapes they request have given rise to rampant speculation in both prosecution and defense camps and among family members and friends of the defendants who gather each day in the 15th floor hallway of the federal courthouse awaiting a jury decision.

Monacello, 46, was indicted along with Borgesi, 49, Ligambi, 73, and the other defendants in May 2011. He began cooperating two months later, cutting a deal with the government and agreeing to plead guilty to the same racketeering conspiracy charge that the others face.

His testimony was considered crucial to the case against Borgesi and potentially damaging to Ligambi, but had relatively little impact on the other defendants.

Borgesi, who is Ligambi's nephew, has been fuming for the past week, according to sources in the defense camp. He has labeled Moncello a liar and lowlife and thought the jury had rejected his testimony outright. It was only after seven days of deliberations that the panel began to ask questions about Monacello, who was secretly recorded on FBI wiretaps and on a body-wire worn by DiGiacomo, who was cooperating with both state and federal investigators.

The tapes played today involved conversations between DiGiacomo and Monacello that focused on underworld businss deals and included comments in which both men indicated they wanted to keep Ligambi and Borgesi in the dark about what was going on.

The defense has argued that Monacello consistently used Borgesi's name in the underworld to advance his own criminal enterprises. The prosecution contends that Monacello was Borgesi's point man in a gambling and loansharking operation in Delaware County after Borgesi was jailed in an earlier racketeering case in 2000.

In fact, Borgesi was in a federal prison for most of the period convered in the current indictmet -- 1999 through 2011.

The tapes played today could support the defense position that Monacello was using Borgesi's and Ligambi's names to advance his own agenda. Or jurors could have asked to hear them because they shows that both DiGiacomo and Monacello were working for Borgesi and Ligambi.

Why else, one prosecution theory goes, would they be trying to hide something from the two mob leaders? If they didn't work for them, there would be no need for secrecy.

Without a jury verdict, of course, all of that is speculation. But for the ninth day of deliberations on the 15th floor of the federal courthouse, that's all that anyone had to go on.

The case, built around the testimony of mob informants and hundreds of secretly recorded conversations gathered during more than 10 years of investigation, includes charges of bookmaking, loansharking, extortion and the distribution of illegal video poker machines.

The jury is due to resume tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. One individual who has been there since the trial began back on Oct. 18 joked that the "action" is now on an over-and-under on when the jury will come back with a verdict. (The smart money says Friday.)

"Maybe we can get Gary Battaglini to take that play," said the observer.

Battaglini, 51, one of two defendants free on bail, faces a bookmaking charge that has been tied to the broader racketeering conspiracy. An easy-going defendant who has spent hours in the hallway awaiting his fate, Battaglini is like the others who pace the floor each day wondering where the jury is going and when it will get there.

George Anastasia can be contacted at ganastasia@verizon.net.

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