Friday, January 17, 2014

Partial Verdict In Mob Trial Remains Sealed

By George Anastasia

The jury has a partial verdict in the racketeering conspiracy retrial of mob boss Joe Ligambi and his nephew George Borgesi.

But we don't know what it is.

And we will have to wait at least three more days before we have any chance of finding out.

The jury of 11 women and one man recessed early this afternoon after wrapping up a seventh day of deliberations that was marked by a mid morning announcement of the partial verdict.

In a note sent to Judge Eduardo Robreno that was read in open court around 11:15, the jury said it had reached a verdict on two of the five counts it was considering, but that it remained hung on three others. The three-sentence note said there was a "firm difference of opinion" on the three unresolved issues.

Robreno then read the panel a scripted legal charge designed for cases where a jury has deadlocked and sent the panel back to continue deliberating.

The note generated widespread speculation in both the prosecution and defense camps. About fifteen family members and friends of the two defendants have been waiting in the 15th floor hallway outside the courtroom each day. They file into court with the attorneys each time there is some development.

But any discussion about what the jury has decided is simply speculation. There is no way to know which counts have been resolved and which remain. There is also no way to know whether the jury has voted to convict or acquit on the counts it has decided.

Borgesi, 50, faces a lone count of racketeering conspiracy, a charge built almost entirely around the testimony of mob informants Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello and Anthony Aponick. It was the consensus going into deliberations over a week ago that Borgesi's fate would rise or fall on whether the jury believed those two witnesses.

The defense repeatedly challenged both their credibility and their motives for cooperating during cross-examinations and in closing arguments.

Ligambi, 74, is charged with racketeering conspiracy, two counts of illegal gambling and one count of witness tampering. The case against him is more layered and built in part around secretly recorded conversations, most of which involve other mob figures and cooperators.

Ligambi's voice is heard on only a few tapes, despite an 11-year investigation. And most of what he says is innocuous. But secretly recorded comments by others could support the government's charge that he headed a mob run gambling and loansharking operation.

Again, it is impossible to know what the jury is thinking and how that evidence and those allegations figure into the deliberation process.

The stakes are high, however. Convictions on the conspiracy charge could lead to substantial jail sentences of 10 years or more. If the jury should hang on those charges -- as the jury did in the first trial earlier this year -- the question then is whether the government would opt to try the two defendants a third time.

And part of that scenario would include the issue of whether the defendants, held without bail since indictments were handed up in May 2011, would be free on bail pending a third trial. Those questions are premature, of course, but are part of the rampant speculation circulating around the case as jury deliberations recess until Tuesday.

Ligambi and Borgesi exchanged good wishes with family membes and friends as they were lead out of the courtroom in handcuffs after the jury was dismissed. One friend told Ligambi, "I cut two pounds of soppressata (for a victory celebration). It'll wait til Tuesday."

Ligambi smiled and nodded.

George Anastasia can be contacted at