Monday, January 14, 2013

Jury Still at It in Mob Trial

Are they being meticulous or is someone being obstinate?

Are they assessing all the evidence or have they split into groups arguing over its relevance?

Are they close to a verdict or are the caught in a stalemate?

Five days into deliberations in the racketeering trial of mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and six co-defendants, those are the questions buzzing around the 15th floor hallway in U.S. District Court where family members, friends, defense attorneys and prosecutors gather each day waiting for word of a decision in the case.

"It looks like they've come full circle," one defense attorney said late Monday afternoon when the jury panel sent out a message asking, for a second time, if they could have the names of the owners of the poker machines seized during the 12-year FBI investigation into the Ligambi organization.

The panel of seven men and five women were told when they asked the question last week that the information was not available. In a written reply to the jury Monday Judge Eduardo Robreno told them they would have to rely on their own recollection of testimony from the three-month trial.

Ligambi, 73, and three other defendants, Joseph "Mousie" Massimino, 62, Anthony Staino, 55, and Damion Canalichio, 42, have been linked to what the prosecution contends was an illegal video poker machine operation.

The case also includes allegations of loansharking, extortion and bookmaking. 

Ligambi, Massimino and Staino are accused to using extortion to take over the routes and 34 machines that once belonged to a local vending machine company. Massimino and Canalichio are charged with having poker machines in a place of business.

Early Monday the jury asked to rehear four tapes played during the trial. Three involved Canalichio and one was a tape of co-defendant Gary Battaglini, 51, who is charged with running a mob-linked sports betting operation.

On the tapes, Canalichio is heard complaining about problems at the First Ward Republican Club, an after-hours social club that authorities say he operated in partnership with mobster Martin Angelina. Angelina pleaded guilty prior to the start of the trial.

The tapes include Canalichio asking the manager of the club how the machines did over the weekend (the club apparently had two video poker machines). He is told that each generated about $1,000. He also is heard complaining about a customer -- who he describes as a "fuckin' junkie" -- who has been causing problems in the club that resulted in other patrons leaving.

On another tape, Canalichio discusses the problem with Angelina and asks him to makes some calls and try to keep the unruly "junkie" out of the club.

The Battaglini tape involved a conversation he had with an undercover FBI agent posing as a gambler who wanted to place bets on football games.

Two other defendants, Joseph "Scoops" Licata, 71, and George Borgesi, 49, are also charged in the racketeering conspiracy case. But to date the jurors have not asked any specific questions relating to either defendant.

What that means is open to the same speculation that comes each time the jury asks a specific question. If they're not asking about Licata and Borgesi does that mean they've already made up their minds about those two defendants? And if they've made up their minds, what have they decided?

Until the jury announces that it has a verdict or is hopelessly deadlock, those questions, like all the others, remain unanswered.

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