Wednesday, February 06, 2013 6:32 pm
Post-verdict: Mob figures in jail, boss wants out
By MARYCLAIRE DALEAssociated Press
A jury had returned a split verdict Tuesday against seven defendants in a racketeering case that involved sports betting, loansharking and video poker machines.
The jury deadlocked on the central racketeering charge against Ligambi, nephew George Borgesi and a third defendant. The government appears poised to retry them, and U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno declined to release Borgesi, citing safety concerns.
The 73-year-old Ligambi, who has been in custody since his 2011 arrest, has not yet petitioned for bail but is expected to do so. The jury deadlocked or acquitted him on eight lesser counts, while convicting underboss Joseph "Mousie" Massimino and two others of racketeering.
Prosecutors tried to prove at trial that Borgesi had been supervising mob activities from prison for the past 13 years, although the jury couldn't agree on the racketeering question.
"Imagine the harm he could do to witnesses who testified in this case, if he's released from prison," Assistant U.S. District John Han argued Wednesday.
Robreno will weigh a somewhat different bail equation at Ligambi's bail hearing, as his most serious conviction, for murder, was overturned in 1997 after he spent 10 years in prison.
Authorities believe Ligambi quietly took over the Philadelphia operation of La Cosa Nostra in 1999, when mob boss Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino went to prison.
Lawyer Edward Jacobs Jr. has also pointed out the lack of violence in the latest mob case, which consisted of years of wiretaps and FBI efforts to penetrate La Cosa Nostra. The defendants can be heard talking tough on the tapes, mostly over late payments, but the jury failed to convict anyone of making threats.
Jacobs, in remarks after the verdict Tuesday, called the 13-year government effort to tamp down the dwindling South Philadelphia mob "an enormous waste of precious taxpayer funds."
Yet an apparent mob hit the day the government rested its case in December raised eyebrows at the trial. A low-level gambling figure was charged with killing a suspected drug informant. The suspect's name had come up at the Ligambi trial, but there's been no alleged link to any of the trial defendants.
Reputed mob cap Anthony "Ant" Staino Jr. and associate Gary Battaglini, who were not in custody during the trial, were both convicted and had their bail revoked Wednesday.