Federal Judge Eduardo Robreno had to consider the two faces of Anthony Staino this morning before sentencing the convicted mobster to 97 months on racketeering and extortion charges.
Friends and family members who crowded the 15th floor courtroom described him as a "loving" father and husband; a "funny, good-hearted, kind and outgoing" neighbor, and a "man of integrity."
The testimonials came from friends and family members, including his wife, his son and his ex-wife, who appeared before Robreno during a three-hour sentencing hearing.
Prosecutors offered a different view of the 56-year-old mob leader who was picked up on one FBI tape bragging that he was the "CFO" and a "member of the board of directors" of the Philadelphia organized crime family.
That comment, along with others played during the racketeering trial that ended in February, helped Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Labor offer a decidedly different picture of Staino.
Robreno ultimately came down somewhere in the middle, noting that the extortion charges for which Staino was found guilty and the conspiracy and gambling charges to which he later pleaded guilty warranted a substantial prison term.
"The question is, who is Anthony Staino Jr.?" Robreno asked before imposing sentence. Was he, the judge asked rhetorically, the loyal family man and friend described by his supporters? Or was he "the violent mobster" that the government alleged?
"Perhaps he's both," said Robreno in a remark that appeared to be supported by the defendant himself.
In brief comments at the end of the lengthy hearing, Staino apologized to his family and friends; said he alone was responsible for his actions, and quoted Thomas Jefferson.
"I was not the person I should have been," Staino said in describing how he had gotten involved with organized crime in the 1990s while going through a divorce and battling a drinking problem. After he met his current wife Terry in 2003, he said, he began to turn things around. And when their daughter was born five years ago, he added, he was back on the right path.
"But my efforts (to change) could not escape my past," he said. "That's why I'm here today."
Back then he had the "wrong mental attitude." Now, he said, his goals are to be a "productive citizen" and "loving husband and father."
"Thomas Jefferson once said, `Nothing can stop the man with the right attitude from achieving his goals.'"
Staino will have about seven more years to ponder those words of wisdom from a founding father who helped created America over two hundreds years ago in a building less than two blocks from the courthouse where Staino was sentenced.
The South Jersey mob figure was described by prosecutors as the "right hand man" of mob boss Joseph Ligambi who quickly rose through the ranks of the organization, first as an associate and ultimately as a capo who was the confidante of the mob boss.
"He rose through the ranks because he's a nasty, bruttish, effective mobster," said Labor in citing one of several tapes played for the jury in which Staino was recorded extorting an FBI undercover agent who had posed as a corrupt businessman and gambler.
After lending the agent, posing as a man named Dino, $30,000, Staino was recorded saying, "Please. On my life, I like you. I don't want to have to fuckin' hurt you."
The message, Labor said, was clear mob speak for you better pay me back.
"He could have been a law abiding citizen," Labor said after Staino's lawyer, Gregory Pagano, had detailed a history that included a stellar high school career, one year of college and years of legitimate employment. "He chose to be a gangster."
Pagano conceded as much, but argued with some success that his client was "not the person who personifies...the LCN member."
"Unlike other people, he gets it," Pagano said, an apparent reference to other defendants who had been sentenced earlier, who had long arrest records and who showed little remorse.
Staino has no prior arrests.
"And he's not gonna be back," said Pagano who successfully argued for a slight departure from the sentencing guidelines Robreno has originally set. Pagano argued that his client deserved credit for pleading guilty to a racketeering conspiracy charge and two gambling charges on which the jury had hung during the trial.
Staino was convicted of two extortion counts tied to the secret FBI/Dino tapes.
Robreno, who had set a guideline range of 87 to 108 months, agreed, lowering the range to 74 to 97 months. He then sentenced Staino to the top of the new range. Staino, who was jailed after his conviction in February, has about six months prison credit toward the sentence.
Under standard federal prison procedure -- there is no longer any parole in the federal system -- Staino will have to serve about 85 percent of the sentence which means he has about seven more years of prison time.
The mob capo was the fourth defendant convicted at trial to be sentenced. One other defendant was acquitted and Ligambi, 73, and his nephew, George Borgesi, 50, are to be retried in October after a jury hung on conspiracy charges against both of them. Ligambi also faces gambling and obstruction of justice counts.
In addition to the extortion of Dino, Staino was linked to gambling and loansharking charges, but the jury acquitted him on 23 of the 28 counts he faced. He, Ligambi and mob underboss Joseph "Mousie" Massimino, who was sentenced to 188 months last week, were accused of forcibly taking control of an illegal video poker machine operation and with running bookmaking and loansharking businesses.
To date, 12 of the 16 defendants named in the case have either been convicted or pleaded guilty. One defendant, mob capo Joseph "Scoops" Licata, 72, was acquitted, and three others, Ligambi, Borgesi and mob associate Eric Esposito (who faces gambling charges) are awaiting trial.
George Anastasia can be contacted at George@bigtrial.net.