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Giving readers an unvarnished, uncensored, insider's view of the biggest courtroom dramas.

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    By George Anastasia
    For Bigtrial.net

    To hear Louie Monacello tell it, his 20 years of dealing with the Philadelphia mob were part Godfather and part Family Feud.

    On the witness stand for a second day in the racketeering retrial of mob boss "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and Ligambi's nephew George Borgesi, Monacello continued to offer the jury a picture of organized crime built around fear, violence, threats and extortion.

    But he also spent much of today deconstructing the Ligambi-Borgesi relationship, portraying the gangsters as part of a dysfunctional family where greed and power trumped bloodlines and loyalty.

    "Don't be fooled," he told the jury. "Him and his uncle were always at odds. They can't stand each other."


    Described by authorities as a top associate who was chosen by Borgesi to run his gambling and loansharking operations in 2000 after Borgesi was jailed in an unrelated racketeering case, Monacello, 47, said he constantly found himself caught in the middle.

    And, he added, the tension heightened when Anthony Borgesi, George's younger brother, began to undermine him with both his brother and his uncle.

    "I always had problems with the brother because he felt he had been passed over when George Borgesi chose me to run things," Monacello said. He then recounted a conversation he had had with Borgesi in prison where Borgesi was serving a 14-year sentence following his conviction in 2001 on racketeering.

    Moncello said he visited Borgesi about twice a year and that the visits included conversations about the gambling and loansharking businesses. He said Borgesi also called him from prison, but that those conversations were often in coded language because the phone calls were monitored and tape-recorded by prison officials. Finally, he said, Borgesi passed information on to him through his wife Alyson.

    During a prison visit, he said, Borgesi told him what he already knew, that his brother Anthony "was jealous of me." He said Borgesi described his brother as "an incompetent, an idiot" who "was not capable of making money legally or illegally."

    And making money, Monacello said, was what the mob was all about. He told the jury that he ran sports betting and loansharking operations for Borgesi in Philadelphia and Delaware County while Borgesi was serving his federal prison sentence. And he estimated that at one point he was providing Borgesi with $3,000-a-month. He gave the money to Alyson Borgesi each month, usually by leaving an envelope stuffed with cash in the glove compartment of her car.

    The payoff came after a coded phone conversation in which he would ask her what days she was working in a given week. On those days, he said, she would leave her car door unlocked and parked outside the office where she worked. He would circle the block several times to be sure he wasn't being followed or surveilled. He then would approach the car, open the door, place the envelope in the glove compartment and lock the door as he left.

    On one secretly recorded conversation, Monacello is heard referring to Alyson Borgesi as "Alyson Corleone." Asked by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Han what he meant by that, Monacello said "for a female she got involved in a lot of mob business...Her husband was constantly calling her from prison" and using her to relay messages to him and others.

    Family dynamics and money were recurring themes throughout the day-long testimony.

    Monacello said Borgesi, 50, told him repeatedly not to tell his uncle what kind of business he was conducting or how much money he was making. Ligambi, 74, showed little reaction to any of the testimony. Borgesi occasionally whispered in his lawyer's ear and at the end of the day, after the jury had left the courtroom, he boldly predicted that defense attorneys would destroy Monacello during cross-examination.

    The comment was in keeping with the picture of Borgesi that has emerged during the trial -- a wiseguy who has to have the last word and who cannot keep his mouth shut, even when he is talking on a prison phone that he knows is being tapped. 

    "George Borgesi said, `Don't tell my uncle,'" Monacello said after detailing a loansharking operation he had set up in Delaware County with Nicholas "Nicky the Hat" Cimino, another mob associate who was funneling money through Monacello to Borgesi.

    Later the prosecution played a taped phone conversation from prison in which Borgesi repeated that admonition.

    "Don't tell people your business," Borgesi said on the tape. "I know for a fact...everyone wants to score points...From here on out, don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing...I just wish all this stuff would go the fuck away....And don't tell no one that I called ya."

    That, Monacello said, was an example of the treachery and deceit that were daily occurrences within the crime family. At another point, he said, Ligambi complained about Borgesi's inability to keep his own counsel. As soon as he walks about of prison, "they're gonna put the cuffs back on him," he said Ligambi said of his nephew's inability to keep quiet.

    And then, he said, Ligambi told him, "I hope he gets a hundred years."

    "He just can't control himself," Monacello said of Borgesi's constant badgering and questioning. He said he was reluctant to visit Borgesi in prison because he knew Borgesi was being closely watched.

    "I wasn't even on the radar then," Monacello said, explaining that his role as a top Borgesi's associate was not well know. But, he said, Borgesi insisted he come to the prison.

    "Don't worry about it," he said Borgesi told him. "It's bullshit. It's bullshit."

    With that, Monacello paused, looked at the jury, then looked at Borgesi.

    "It's not bullshit," he said, spreading his arms wide. "Where are we?"

    Monacello said there was constant friction within the organization and that "people were constantly telling him (George Borgesi) things to make me look bad." Anthony Borgesi was the biggest offender, he said, adding that the younger brother often played his uncle against his brother, sharing information with both and "causing trouble."

    Anthony Borgesi. who has been at the trial nearly every day since it began three weeks ago, was not in the courtroom today. Nor was he present on Friday when Monacello first took the stand and began to mention his role in the organization.

    One mob associate who did show up unexpectedly for today's session was Angelo Lutz, now a successful restaurateur in nearby a Collingswood, NJ. Monacello had testified in gruesome detail on Friday about instances where Borgesi had abused and assaulted the 5-foot-4, 400-pouund Lutz, threatening to kill him, splitting his head open with a rod from an artificial Christmas tree, biting him in the forehead and smacking him in the face with a blackjack.

    Lutz, who was convicted with Borgesi, Joey Merlino and several others in the 2001 racketeering case, said little as he came and left the courtroom. He spent the day seated by Alyson Borgesi and Borgesi's mother Manny, ironically the spot usually occupied by the tough-talking Anthony Borgesi who was a no-show. When Lutz, 50, was referred to on another tape played for the jury today, Monacello pointed him out.

    "He's sitting right there," the witness told the jury, pointing to Lutz.

    Lutz smiled and calmly waved to the witness and jury.

    Monacello is expected to conclude his direct testimony when the trail resumes on Monday, Dec. 2, Court will be in recess for the Thanksgiving holiday until then. He will then face what is expected to be a lengthy and grueling cross-examination in which the defense will allege, among other things, that he has fabricated much of his testimony and that he was using Borgesi's name to enhance and expand his own criminal operations.

    Before the session ended today, Monacello recounted several disputes he had had with mob capo Marty Angelina over money and gambling operations and acknowledged that he had considered killing Angelina, but settled on a plan to have him badly beaten.

    That plot was detailed to Frank "Frankie the Fixer" DiGiacomo, an underworld associate who had secretly begun cooperating with the Pennsylvania State Police in 2007. The assault never took place, but Monacello was tapped making two $1,000 payments to DiGiacomo who claimed he had hired two thugs who brutally beat Angelina.

    Several other DiGiacomo tapes, including a conversation in which Monacello and DiGiacomo met with Ligambi to discuss a disputed loansharking debt, were played for the jury. It was during that conversation, recorded on May 21, 2008, that Ligambi joked about George Borgesi's big mouth and how he would be "cuffed" again as soon as he got out of prison.

    Borgesi, in fact, never made it out of prison. He was finishing his 14-year sentence in May 2011 when he, Ligambi, Monacello and nearly a dozen others were indicted in the current racketeering case. Monacello cut a deal and began cooperating with the government two months later.

    Monacello testified at the first trial in which Borgesi was acquitted of 13 gambling and loansharking charges. The jury, however, hung on the conspiracy count against Borgesi and Ligambi, resulting in the retrial. Four other defendants were convicted. One was acquitted.

    At the close of his testimony today, Monacello said he never intended to be a cooperator. He said  when he was arrested in the Delaware County investigation in 2008, he turned down offers by the State Police to cooperate and was sentenced to 23 months in prison.

    But when the federal indictment came in 2011, he had a change of heart. The reason, he said, was the lack of honor and loyalty that he had seen first hand and that he felt had put his life in jeopardy.

    'I don't believe in cooperating," he told the jury as the trial wrapped up for the day. "The only reason I'm sitting here (in the witness stand) and not there (pointing to the defense table) is because they were going to kill me."

    Monacello is expected to expand on that story when the trial resumes. At the first trial he said his dispute with Angelina and his decision to assault a "made" member of the organization was tantamount to a death sentence. And, he said, he believed Ligambi intended to have Borgesi carry out that sentence.

    George Anastasia can be contacted at George@bigtrial.net.

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    By Ralph Cipriano
    for Bigtrial.net

    The new owners of The Philadelphia Inquirer have made a public pledge not to interfere in the editorial operations of the newspaper.

    Last week, however, owners, editors, and publishers of the Inquirer were placed under oath in Courtroom 630 at City Hall, and asked to explain what that pledge really meant.

    To editor Bill Marimow, it meant that although Publisher Bob Hall had basically accused him of being a racist and a sexist, there was no need to worry, because under the new regime, the two principal owners had to be in agreement to fire him.

    To Nancy Phillips, the Inquirer city editor and girlfriend of owner Lewis Katz, the pledge was so carefully constructed that it didn't apply to important decisions -- like hiring the editor of the Inquirer-- because that was a business decision rather than an editorial decision.

    To owner Lew Katz, that non-interference pledge didn't put a wall up around the newsroom; instead the pledge amounted to an open door. Katz explained on the witness stand that he had the right to show up in the newsroom whenever he wanted to. And when it came to hiring and firing any editor in the newsroom, Katz had a "blocking right."

    Welcome to Courtroom 630, where the Inky's much-publicized non-interference pledge was revealed to be a license to meddle. And where we learned that two award-winning journalists had conspired to spin a story to conceal that meddling.


    "Perched On My Shoulder"

    On Nov. 13, Bill Marimow, editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer, was the first witness to take the stand in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court. Marimow described a conference call on Tuesday, April 3, 2012, when he was on the phone with Lewis Katz and George Norcross, the new owners of the newspaper, and Nancy Phillips, an Inquirer reporter was also Katz's girlfriend.

    "There were five or six proposals that I made as a prerequisite to the possibility of coming back as an editor," said Marimow, who was about to sign on for his second tour of duty as Inky editor. "And they were things such as my salary, transportation across the country, a temporary residence, journalistic autonomy, the right to hire a certain number of editors."

    "And in my conversations with Mr. Katz and Mr. Norcross, we went through each of those bullet items," Marimow testified. "And as we proceeded, the two gentlemen said, done, done, done ... And at the end of that conversation, we had an agreement."

    "And I was concerned about one issue, and that was that the publisher, Mr. Greg Osberg, had in October 2010 demoted me from editor of the newspaper to reporter," Marimow said. "So I wanted to ask Mr. Katz and Mr. Norcross about how I could be assured that if I was giving up this job in Arizona and bringing my family and my possessions back across the country, I wouldn't have conflicts with Mr. Osberg."

    Marimow was leaving a safe job as a professor in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University to return to the Inquirer, where he'd been editor from 2006 to 2010.

    What Marimow wanted to know was, if he took the job as Inky editor, could Publisher Osberg screw with him again?

    "And the answer from Mr. Katz and Mr. Norcross was they were hiring me, they were the -- in effect, the management committee of the company, and they would be the ones to hire me or fire me," Marimow said. "When the conversation was completed, it was agreed that I would become the editor, and the only issues remaining were how we would announce this to the public and work it out with Mr. Osberg."

    How the owners and editor decided to "announce this to the public" is not a pretty story that we'll get to in a moment.

    Not everybody was happy about the return of Bill Marimow to the Inquirer.  Two days after he accepted the job in a conference call, Marimow got a call from Bob Hall, then chief operating officer.

    "He [Hall] told me that he had strongly opposed my return," Marimow testified. "He told me that most of the newsroom staff, his guesstimate, I believe, was about 60 or 70 percent, was opposed to my return."

    Hall had more bad news for the new editor.

    Hall told Marimow that "as the editor I caused a myriad of management problems, that I had a reputation for disliking women, disliking minorities, and that he was very distressed by the fact that I'd been hired," Marimow testified.

    Welcome back, Bill.

    "That said, Mr. Hall told me that he was going to be perched on my shoulder to make sure that I did an excellent job, and that he would be watching over me and making sure that I was effective," Marimow said.

    "Did that conversation give you any concern with regard to the security of your job? asked Richard A. Sprague, lead counsel for the minority ownership faction headed by Lewis Katz and H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest.

    "I wondered whether I'd made a mistake in accepting the job," Marimow said. "And I believe that I called Mr. Katz or Miss Phillips, I'm not sure whom, and said I think Mr. Hall is wrong. And I then gathered all the laudatory emails that I received, both from members of the Inquirer staff, from members of the public, from people I covered, and I sent them all to Miss Phillips with the intention of showing Mr. Norcross that, contrary to Mr. Hall's assertions, the Inquirer staff was supportive of me, as were members of the public."

    Sprague asked Marimow if he ever received a contract from the Inquirer. Marimow referred to an April 10, 2012 letter from then-publisher Greg Osberg. The letter was labeled exhibit P-5.

    "That's the letter I received from Mr. Osberg ... which outlines the specific points that Mr. Norcross and Mr. Katz and I agreed to in the phone conversation I described," Marimow said. "At the beginning of the letter, it says: 'I am very pleased to extend a job offer to you."

    That job came to an end on Monday, Oct. 7, 2013, when Marimow received an email inviting him to an 11 o-clock meeting with Hall in the publisher's office. The session was billed as "Catch up with Bob."

    Hall had succeeded Osberg as publisher of the Inquirer. 

    "At first, we discussed an article about Boyd's Men's Clothing Store, which appeared in the paper Saturday, which I enjoyed and ... Mr. Hall had tipped me off to," Marimow said. "And then Mr. Hall said, 'We have a very serious matter to discuss today ... We're terminating your employment with the Inquirer.'"

    "I said to Mr. Hall, 'Have you talked to all the owners?'", Marimow testified. "He said he talked to all but one. I asked if he'd spoken to Mr. Lenfest and Mr. Katz and I believe he said we put in a call to Mr. Katz over the weekend. I don't believe I ever had a clear answer whether he'd spoken to Mr. Lenfest."

    "I then said to Mr. Hall: 'I don't think what what you're doing is legal or proper," Marimow said. "And we talked for a moment after that and he said words to the effect that, well, I have my legal opinion and you have your legal opinion, and the conversation ended very quickly after that."

    "With your dismissal?" Sprague asked.

    "Yes, sir," Marimow replied.

    "Mr. Marimow," Sprague asked. "If the court were to order that you be put back in your position, in your opinion would you be able to achieve harmony and a workable workplace free from hostility back at the Inquirer?"

    "The answer is, I know that if I returned to the Inquirer," Marimow said, "it would alleviate a lot of the tension that has existed over the last month. I know that I'm a good editor who knows ... the city, the suburbs, and South Jersey inside out. I care deeply about the community. I believe that people at the newspaper know that."

    "I worked with Bob Hall for more than 30 years," Marimow said, "and I think that Mr. Hall and I, despite the tension, have a good personal rapport and I believe that the excellent journalism would yield good journalism results. And that, in turn, would provide good business results. And I know I could be effective in returning."

    We'll find out if Hall and Marimow can co-exist.

    The Katz-Lenfest minority owners had gone to court seeking to have Marimow reinstated and Hall fired. The Norcross majority faction wanted Marimow to remain fired, and Hall to stay on as publisher.

    Judge Patricia McInerney decided that both Hall and Marimow would be reinstated to their positions, essentially preserving the current deadlock.

    "Diminishing The Role Of Publisher"

    In Courtroom 630, former Inky CEO and publisher Greg Osberg was under a subpoena when he showed up to testify.

    "Did you hire Mr. Marimow in 2012," asked Joseph R. Podraza Jr., on behalf of the Katz-Lenfest minority ownership faction.

    "It was not my decision to hire Bill Marimow," Osberg said. "It was Mr. Katz's and Mr. Norcross's decision to hire Mr. Marimow as the new editor."

    "Did you agree with the decision by Mr. Katz and Mr. Norcross to hire Mr. Marimow in 2012?"

    "At the time, I did not agree," Osberg said.

    Podraza showed Osberg the letter from Osberg to Marimow extending a job offer.

    "Did you write this document?" Podraza asked.

    "To the best of my recollection, I don't," Osberg began, before saying. "The details of this offer letter were give to me by Nancy Phillips, and I believe I talked to [associate publisher] Mike Lorenca about this, and this is, you know, sort of a standard offer letter. I looked at is as more of an offer letter than a contract. But, No, I did not -- I wrote the letter, it is under my signature, but I didn't author the entire letter."

    "They had asked me to talk to Nancy [Phillips] to get the specific details," Osberg testified.

    But the former publisher said he had issues about the proposed chain of command. Norcross and Katz wanted editor Marimow to report directly to the board of directors, but Osberg objected.

    "They first mentioned to me that they saw him reporting to the board [of directors] rather than directly to me, and I disputed that," Osberg said. "And I said that if I'm going to continue here, that I felt strongly that the editor should report to the publisher."

    "Mr. Osberg, why did you leave the Inquirer?" Podraza asked.

    "This was the start of a pattern of decisions made by the owners that I felt were diminishing the role of the publisher," Osberg said. "I was told, I believe, the next day, that Steve Hamerlin was going to become the general counsel of the company, and that was a decision that Mr. Norcross and Mr. Katz had made in isolation, and just told me about, but that he would report to me."

    "And then there were some other decisions to engage consultants, or to consider engaging consultants in the company that I was not a part of," Osberg said. "I was told about it after the fact, for the most part. I argued aggressively against it."

    One of those consultants was former Publisher Brian Tierney, who was coming back as a sales consultant. Osberg was opposed to Tierney's return, but his vote didn't count. Phillips, acting as a head hunter, had already begun negotiating a deal with Tierney.

    So publisher Osberg was told who the editor of the Inky was going to be, who was going his general counsel, and who was going to be employed as a consultant.

    "And after that started I decided that this was probably not the right place for me going forward," Osberg said. "We had a -- what I thought was a very profesional decision and amicable decision to part ways."

    "They owned the company," Osberg said of his new bosses. "They could run it any way they wanted it, and it didn't mean that I had to stay there and operate that way."

    So Osberg resigned after less than six weeks on the job.

    "The Official Story"

    Nancy Phillips was the next witness. On cross-examination, she was asked by Robert C. Heim, the lead lawyer for the Norcross team of majority owners, about the hiring of Bill Marimow to return as editor of the Inquirer.

    "Now, there came a time when after the terms had pretty much been agreed to with Mr. Marimow that you had to respond to a question from Mr. Marimow which was, who shall I say hired me, right?" asked Heim.

    "Yes," Phillips said.

    "And that [question] gave you some concern, did it not, because by that time there was a non-interefence clause?" Heim asked.

    "No that was not the reason," Phillips replied.

    "And didn't you write an email, Miss Phillips, that said, in effect, here's the official story so that there wouldn't be a concern about violating the non-interference pledge?" Heim asked.

    "I had no concern about the non-interference pledge, no," Phillips testified. "The concern was how Mr. Osberg would feel in all of this and that his feelings would be spared because a decision had not been made by him, but, rather by Mr. Katz and Mr. Norcross."

    Heim gave Phillips a copy of two emails she sent to Katz and Norcross on April 4, 2012.

    In the first email, Phillips had written, "Bill asks the question what does he say if a reporter asks him who offered him the job. Something to mull. Not sure you guys get hurt over suggesting an editor, but need to think/talk about that."

    "And the reason you said not sure you get hurt meant it looks like I'm not sure whether you were being hurt because it looks like the two of you were hiring the editor, and not the publisher, right?" Heim asked.

    "Oh no," Phillips replied. "You misunderstand. The worry over the publisher was merely that it would be -- that he would somehow be diminished in the public announcing of this. We had discussed the pledge in depth and had conversations about the structure and wording of the pledge, and when it was initially crafted, we spoke a lot about the importance of configuring it narrowly so that certain important decisions such as the hiring and firing of the editor, would not be affected by it."

    "And the conversations focused around the notion that that is a business decision and, thus, hiring -- the hiring of Bill Marimow would not be a violation of the pledge in any way," Phillips said. The so-called "official story" was "merely a response to public information -- the public relations person's concern that perhaps this would make things look -- make things difficult for Mr. Osberg." Phillips said.

    Heim wasn't having any of the let's spare Greg Osberg's feelings cover story.

    "So your concern was that the public relations hit on this might be somebody saying, wait a minute, these guys just said they weren't going to interfere and they are interfering already, so you were worried about, that the outside world might say that, right?" Heim asked.

    "I think there were two concerns," Phillips replied. "One was for Mr. Osberg, and the other was that [we] would be very clear that this [hiring editor Marimow] was not something that violated the language of the non-interference agreement."

    Heim read the second email from Phillips to Katz and Norcross that said, "official version is this ... Several of the owners, the two of you and Lenfest as well, had the idea and suggested it to Greg. You spoke to Greg who endorsed the idea and then the offer was made."

    "Now you knew that Greg didn't endorse the idea, correct?" Heim asked.

    "Right," Phillips said. She explained there had been a series of emails between the owners and Kevin Feeley, a public relations consultant. Phillips said it was Norcross who suggested that "the public announcement ... should not do anything that would undercut, and I agreed with this, undercut Mr. Osberg, as he was going to be the publisher and work carefully and closely with Bill. So we wanted to be certain that he [Osberg] was not embarrassed."

    "But this statement by you, which was -- which you labeled the official version ... was a fabrication, right?" Heim asked.

    "This is, as I explained, yes," Phillips replied.

    "A fabrication," Heim repeated. "You agree, don't you?"

    "It was not how this happened," Phillips said, "but as I explained, the reason it was being spun this way for PR reasons was so as not to ..."

    "But you don't say that," Heim said, who then read the rest of the email:

    "On the issue of editorial interference [a] you went through Greg; [b] you pledged ... not to interfere with news gathering and editorial integrity [but] the selection of an editor is an important business decision, one that effects the enterprise ... in important ways, and it's appropriate for owners to have a say."

    The email concluded with: "Bottom line official story: This is something Greg wants and something we want. We agree that this is the right move for the Inquirer and for the overall company."

    Heim wasn't buying it.

    "Miss Phillips," he began, isn't it correct to say and it's it truthful that when the owners got to the point of hiring Mr. Marimow and Mr. Marimow asked the question, who shall I say hired me, that the concern about the pledge, about editorial interference, was something they worried about, you worried about, so you came up with this story and you figured what difference does it make if these guys are on the same page? We can come up with this story, we can sell this story; isn't that really what happened?"

    "No," Phillips said.'''

    To get the "official story" out, the Inky used its news columns.

    On April 5, 2012, the Inquirer reported that the new owners had rehired Marimow to return as editor.

    "Bill Marimow is one of the most respected journalists in the nation, and his return reinforces the company's commitment to aggressive investigative reporting," Greg Osberg, CEO of Philadelphia Media Network, was quoted as saying in the Inquirer.

    "Marimow said he had been in discussions with Osberg and several members of the new ownership group in recent weeks," the story said. "I believe the local owners may have suggested it would be great if I could return," Marimow was quoted as saying. "Now, I'm coming back."

    "Blocking Rights"

    When Lewis Katz took the stand, he was asked what was the purpose of the limited liability agreement that called for the creation of a two-member management team composed of Katz and Norcross to oversee the day to day business operations of the two newspapers and philly.com website.

    "I wanted to make sure, since I was putting up the same amount of money as Mr. Norcross," namely $16 million, "That we had equal powers under the agreement," Katz said. "Since we had never been partners in a venture before, I had the thought that if either one required the other to vote unanimity for action to be taken, that [it] would force us to sit down and reason and come up with a solution if one or the other felt that the action discussed was inappropriate."

    "So I insisted to have, for want of a better expression, blocking rights not only with the management committee, but also within the board of directors of the company," Katz said, "which that other section provides that if either one of us do not vote for  a resolution of the board, the resolution is ineffective."

    "And did Mr. Norcross agree with those provisions," Sprague asked.

    "He did," Katz said.

    Sprague asked about the non-interference pledge, and what was the purpose of putting it in the agreement.

    "At the time we were buying the paper," Katz said, "there were suggestions and concerns that the new ownership had strong political allegiances. Mr. Norcross was the leader of the Democratic Party in New Jersey. Mr. Rendell was former governor, former mayor, former district attorney. I had been at one time the chairman of the Democratic party in Cherry Hill."

    "And there was a strong feeling within the community and the editorial [department], the newspaper reporters, that they were concerned that we would try to influence the news," Katz said. "That being said, what stories should be written, how they should be written, who we would support."

    "And so, as a result of that concern, I thought there were two ways to deal with it," Katz testified. "One was to hire the best editor that we could find that would remove the stigma of that concern. And the second way was to take a pledge, a pledge we gave to the newsroom."

    "There were several hundred reporters when we stood up and made our pledge, and our pledge was straight and simple," Katz testified. "Our pledge was we will not interfere. In fact, George ... Norcross and I summarized it together. We said as follows: Each of us pledged not to interfere in news decisions or news operations at either newspaper or philly.com. We never, ever said we weren't going to hire the editor."

    "Now with regard to the powers of the managing committee that you referred to, what was your intent with their position with regard to hiring and firing the editor," Sprague asked.

    "It seemed to me that the hiring of the editor was the most important decision that we were going to make taking over this newspaper," Katz said. "And one of the ways we could deal with calming the storm that erupted in the newsroom because of the coverage of the auction to sell the paper was to bring in somebody who was beyond repute, [of] the highest integrity, the strongest individual of character, so that the reporters, in my judgement, would realize that we dealt with the issue."

    "Nobody was going to tell Marimow what to do, how to write a story, who to assign," Katz said. "He had, in my judgement, the confidence of not 40 percent, as Hall said, but 90 percent. And the people  that he didn't have the confidence of were upset because he worked them so hard."

    Sprague asked Katz if, when he hired Marimow, if he knew how then-publisher Osberg felt about it.

    "He was vehemently opposed," Katz replied.

    And did you and Norcross know the opinion of Bob Hall when it came to hiring Marimow?

    "He was more vehemently opposed," Katz replied.

    "And the fact that Mr. Osberg was opposed and Mr. Hall was opposed, did that in any way cause you or Mr. Norcross to have any problem with the hiring of Mr. Marimow?"

    "None, sir," Katz replied.

    "An Open Door"

    On cross-examination, Katz was asked by Heim about the non-interference policy covered in section 5.6 of the limited liability agreement.

    "Is it not correct and isn't it your understanding, Mr. Katz, that 5.6 places a wall around the newsroom and tells the owners to stay out of the newsroom?" Heim asked.

    "No, there's no wall, it's an open door," Katz replied. "You can walk in there as owners and talk to reporters and editors."

    "I wasn't referring to a physical wall," Heim said.

    "... Well, I think if you have a policy that you could have coffee from 9 to 2 and the owner went in and said you could have coffee from 9 to 5, that would be permissible," Katz said. "I think owners have the ability to go in, talk to reporters, editors [about] general matters. Anything business, not news, but did you see a good movie? And the movie critic and I talk all the time about recommendations of what he thinks I should see."

    Heim asked if he could "probe this a little father."

    "If the publisher and CEO decide that the sports editor is doing a bad job ... not covering the Eagles well enough or whatever and replaces the sports editor with someone else, is it your view that you can block it?" Heim asked.

    "Yes," Katz replied. "The editor is in charge of the newsroom. The publisher is not to go into the newsroom and fire the sports editor. If the publisher has a problem with the sports editor, I would assume he would talk to the person in charge of the newsroom since that's his area of expertise and he would seek information from that person, rather than go in and say, fire these three people ..."

    "So I gather your testimony would be the same with regard to your understanding if I asked you about the publisher wanting to replace the city desk editor," Heim said. "Do you think you have the right to block that?"

    Yes, Katz said.

    "It's ordinary hiring and firing in the ordinary course of business," Katz explained, so that "is not within the control day to day of the publisher; it's in the control of the management committee and it was put that way for a specific purpose."

    Heim had another example. Suppose the publisher tells the editor of the newspaper that he wants more local coverage, and the editor says he wants less, and an owner agrees with him. And the publisher says to the editor, "well, then, I'm going to get rid of you, can you block that too, right?"

    Senior management reports to the management committee on day-to-day operations and business, Katz testified.

    "So I would say if the publisher thought that the city desk wasn't doing its job and they weren't having enough local news, he could come to the management committee," Katz said, because under the limited liability agreement, "all business affairs are under the direction day to day of the management committee, and not the publisher."

    "So, yes," Katz said. "I believe that that decision would come from the management committee, sir."

    So when Publisher Hall wanted to fire several of Marimow's top editors, Katz emailed Hall, saying, "I'm against this action and I'm invoking my co-manging partnership agreement to block this attempt."

    To Katz, the non-meddling pledge also meant that Publisher Hall couldn't meddle in the newsroom by firing Marimow's top editors.

    "We promised to keep our hands off editorial," Katz wrote. "This seems to me to be getting closer to that line."

    Katz, explained, however, that he didn't think it was Hall who was behind the proposed firings. Katz said he thought Norcross had targeted those editors for because they had crossed his daughter. Lexie Norcross is the 26-year-old VP in charge of digital operations, including philly.com.

    "I didn't believe it was Mr. Hall's decision to go pick out these people who had had some experiences that were negative with members of the co-managing partner's family,"Katz said, referring to Norcross's daughter.

    Katz testified that he also thought Norcross was meddling after he hired a consultant who does political polls for him conduct a readership survey.

    "And they came back and said the columnists and the editorial page are basically not important to the newspaper," Katz said. "And he [Norcross] said this at a meeting attended by Mr. Lenfest and I. And then he went further and said, I want to cut out $20,000 of a travel budget of a columnist by the name of Trudy Rubin because we don't need her."

    Marimow agreed to reducing the editorial page from two pages to one because he thought Publisher Hall wanted to do that, Katz said. But the guy behind the move was Norcross, Katz testified.

    "It was Mr. Norcross that sat in a room and said, we should kill this column, we should kill this editorial page," Katz testified. "He [Norcross] didn't go to Mr. Marimow, because that's not his style. He had Bob Hall go to Marimow."

    Then the meddling really got going. Norcross proposed hiring a new president for philly.com, but Katz objected. Then Katz proposed hiring in succession three new presidents for philly.com, and Norcross objected to all three.

    Katz said he believed as a member of the management commitee, "I could block any firing. It was ordinary business day-to-day and operations that was run by the Management committe. So I believe hiring and firing would fall within the scope of operational and business activity on a day-to-day basis."

    "I had made it real clear that I had let a lot of things go with Mr. Hall," Katz testified. So Katz said he told Hall that if he fired Marimow, "This was the last straw. If he reached out to get rid of Marimow, I was going to contest it, knowing what a mess this would produce for the structure."

    "The Traditional Role Of A Publisher"

    When he took the witness stand, Hall said he had wanted to make changes in the newsroom that Marimow was resisting. Marimow had been warned that if he didn't make those changes, such as canning high-priced editors who were friends of his, and replacing them with cheaper reporters who would go out and cover local news, Marimow would be terminated.

    But Marimow kept resisting the changes Hall wanted to make.

    "Now, Sir," asked lawyer David Pittinsky on behalf of team Norcross, "did you believe you had the right to terminate Mr. Marimow on your own?"

    "I did," Hall testified.

    He also had a legal opinion that backed him up.

    The "traditional role of the publisher is hiring and firing the editor" and also being "responsible for the news content of the paper," Hall testified. That's the way he's done it in his 15 years as publisher.

    "And how many editors did you hire in that time, approximately?"Pittinsky asked.

    "Half a dozen," Hall replied.

    "And how many did you fire?" Pittinsky asked.

    "If you include this current one, two."

    When asked about the non-interference pledge, Hall said he thought it was a good thing, as he hoped it would prevent the owners from meddling with his duties as publisher.

    "It [the pledge] was an important part of being a publisher, because that's part of the traditional role I was used to," Hall said.

    But at the new Inky, under the new owners, that traditional publisher's role was out the window.

    The judge's ruling affirms it.

    And now that they've left the courtroom, both sides at the Inky are free to do more meddling.



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    Bent Finger Lou (right) with Frankie the Fixer
    By George Anastasia
    For Bigtrial.net

    Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello didn't deny that he was cheating on his first wife.

    But the mob associate said his business partner, Jack Palermo, was out of line when he told Monacello's wife about it. So he pistol-whipped him, hitting him over the head with the butt of a  revolver.

    And when another associate lied about $50,000 in gambling debts that he had secretly run up on Monacello, the martial arts trained wiseguy said he "gave him a little kick in the head."

    He also acknowledged that he coached three other associates to lie to a Delaware County grand jury that was investigating him in 2008. And that he once told another deadbeat gambler that if he didn't come up with the money he owed, he would be "dead."

    Monacello, testifying for the third day in the retrial of mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and his nephew George Borgesi, spent most of his time on the witness stand today in a verbal sparring match with Ligambi's lawyer, Edwin Jacobs Jr. What emerged was the life and times of Bent Finger Lou, tales of assaults with baseball bats, kicks in the head, gambling debts, extortions and shakedowns.

    The cross-examination is expected to continue when the trial resumes tomorrow.

    Monacello, 47, occasionally showed the flashes of bravado and arrogance that were the hallmarks of his testimony during the first trial -- "I'll get back to you on that," he smugly told Jacobs in response to a question that he couldn't answer. But for the most part he was matter-of-fact in his answers and in many cases got to retell the same incriminating stories about the defendants that he had told during a day and a half of direct testimony that ended earlier today.

    "These are things that go on in the mob, we're criminals remember?" Monacello said in response to one question from the defense attorney. At another point he said that he had "general authorization" from Borgesi to conduct his often violent business affairs.

    This came after Jacobs cited one threat or assault after another that Monacello had admitted to and each time asked if Borgesi had given him permission.

    When it came to collecting gambling or loansharking money -- which he testified repeatedly he shared with Borgesi -- Monacello said he had permission to "do what I had to do."

    Monacello's testimony, while potentially damaging to Jacobs' client, is the linchpin of the government's case against Borgesi. Borgesi's attorney, Christopher Warren, is expected to launch an equally pointed and caustic cross-examination sometime tomorrow.

    Jacobs both directly and indirectly challenged Monacello's story, implying repeatedly that Monacello was running his own gambling and loansharking ring and using Borgesi's name and Ligambi's name to enhance his position in the underworld.

    But Monacello stuck to the same story he told earlier on direct examination, that he was a mob associate and "point man" for Borgesi on the streets after Borgesi was jailed in 2000 in an unrelated racketeering case. He said that after Borgesi was convicted in 2001 he funneled money to the mobster, usually through his wife.

    Jacobs used a tape made by Frank "Frankie the Fixer" DiGiacomo in January 2008 to underscore the point that Monacello knew that he could give up Borgesi and Ligambi to get out from under his own criminal problems.

    DiGiacomo, a member of Monacello's street crew, was cooperating with the Pennsylvania State Police at the time and wearing a body wire. In one conversation about a then ongoing Delaware County investigation being conducted by state authorities, Monacello told DiGiacomo that authorities will try to "box" him in, leveling charges against him and then pressuring him "to tell us what you were doing with Georgie and the other guy."

    Monacello said that he was referring to Borgesi and Ligambi. He said he turned down offers to cooperate in that case and turned government witness only after he was arrested on federal charges in the current case in May 2011.

    At that point, he said, he believed he had been marked for death by Ligambi because he had clashed with mob capo Martin Angelina and had plotted to have Angelina beaten.

    Throughout his testimony, Monacello has insisted that he was working for Borgesi and occasionally funneling money to Ligambi. And he said he had known "for years" that law enforcement was interested in building another case against Borgesi who, he said on the same tape, the government "had a hot nut for."

    "They want to keep Georgie in jail," he said.

    While DiGiacomo testified as a government witness in the first trial, he is not listed as a prosecution witness this time. During the first trial his testimony largely undermined Monacello. He told the jury that Monacello conducted most of his underworld activities for his own benefit and he described Borgesi, Ligambi and other defendants in that first case as "good guys."

    The defense has said it will call DiGiacomo as a witness if the prosecution does not.

    Monacello took several verbal potshots at DiGiacomo today, claiming he "owed the world money" and was not a good witness. He admitted, however, that DiGiacomo had made incriminating tapes that resulted in his arrest and conviction in Delaware County.

    Monacello pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, gambling and perjury charges in the Delaware County case and pleaded guilty to plotting an assault on Angelina in a related case brought in Philadelphia. He was sentenced to a total of 23 months in prison and five years probation, serving a little more seven months in jail.

    In coaching DiGiacomo to lie to the grand jury, Monacello admitted that he told him "it's only perjury if you get caught" and also coached him to answer "I don't remember" or "I don't know" when he didn't want to answer a question.

    Jacobs hammered at that point every time Monacello used that response to a question he posed.

    Moncello also acknowledged that not every act of violence was on behalf of the mob. His assault on Palermo in the basement of Gavone's, a bar-restaurant Monacello had opened at 10th and Wolf Streets, was personal, he said.

    Moncello said he was separated at the time and had begun going out with other women.

    He said he was cheating on his wife, but not with some of the women Palermo had named.

    "He had no right to do that," Monacello said.

    He also testified that while he kicked Justin Nastasi in the face over a $50,000 gambling debt, he was just trying to scare him.

    "It was a check kick," said Monacello, who said he had a black belt in a form of Korean martial arts. "If I had kicked him I would have knocked him out or broken his jaw."

    Nastasi, he said, paid the debt, adding that he later learned Nastasi's family had remortgaged their home to provide the cash.

    Jacobs also questioned him on several other debts and money transactions and went into detail about a $6,400 dispute between DiGiacomo and an Angelina associate. Monacello admitted that he coached DiGiacomo to lie to Ligambi about some of the details.

    When Jacobs asked if lying to a mob boss might result in death, Monacello replied that DiGiacomo was "not going to get killed for this."

    "Because it's not that kind of mob," said Jacobs, who has argued repeatedly that Ligambi is not like the violent mob bosses who ruled in the 1980s and 1990s. Monacello quickly replied, "It's not that kind of lie."

    Jacobs and Monacello clashed again over the details of a $30,000 debt that Monacello said he and a business partner were owed. Ligambi and Angelina settled the debt, he said, by taking $11,000 for themselves. Jacobs raised questions about the $19,000 discrepancy, pointing out that this was hardly a loanshark debt since no interest and less than half the principal were paid.

    But Monacello said he considered the $11,000 paid to Ligambi and Angelina "a shakedown...what you call an extortion."

    "I lent the money," Monacello said. "It wasn't their loan."

    Monacello also admitted under cross-examination that he didn't like Borgesi, Ligambi or Borgesi's brother Anthony.

    "At this point I'm just glad I'm away from them," he said.

    But you don't like them, Jacobs persisted.

    "No," Monacello replied.

    "And when you don't like someone, there are consequences," Jacobs replied.

    The defense is expected to argue that while Monacello could use the butt of a gun, a baseball bat or a martial arts kick to settle scores on the street, once he cut his deal with the government, the only way he could lash out at those he disliked was from the witness stand.

    The question for the jury is whether Monacello is using lies or the truth to impose those consequences.

    George Anastasia can be contacted at George@bigtrial.net.

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    By Ralph Cipriano

    Manny and Anthony Borgesi
    for Bigtrial.net

    Bent Finger Lou was looking at a picture from happier times.

    There he was, posing for a snapshot between two smiling women. One was George Borgesi's mother, Manny; the other was Borgesi's wife, Allyson.

    "We were all friends," Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello admitted from the witness stand. That was before Monacello became a cooperating witness for the government in the case against Borgesi, the alleged mob underboss, and his uncle, Joe Ligambi, the alleged boss of the Philly mob.

    Monacello had the most difficult time talking about Borgesi's mother. "I always thought Manny was the only sincere one through the whole process," he testified.

    But a few minutes later, Monacello was ripping George's younger brother, Anthony, as someone who was so jealous of Bent Finger Lou's favored position in the crime family that he was "constantly looking to stab me in the back."

    While Monacello was teeing off on Anthony Borgesi, "Ant" was sitting right there in the courtroom soaking it up. Manny Borgesi draped a protective arm around her youngest son's muscular shoulders as Bent Finger Lou piled on the abuse.

    Christopher Warren, George Borgesi's lawyer, used cross-examination to delve into such pressing legal issues as how Monacello used to date one of Anthony Borgesi's old girlfriends, and how Bent Finger Lou's ex-wife cut Anthony Borgesi's hair. Isn't this whole mob feud really just some bullshit over women, Warren asked.

    Women had nothing to do with it, Monacello said. It might be bullshit, but "this bullshit could cause a serious problem," said Bent Finger Lou.  He was staring at Anthony Borgesi when he said it.

    It was that kind of a day at the mob trial, as the cross-examination of Bent Finger Lou descended into soap opera, petty gangland feuds, and plenty of name-calling. Why was Uncle Joe pissed at the Geator with the Heater? Did George Borgesi really bite Fat Angelo Lutz on the forehead? And why did Bent Finger Lou label one government witness "a nut case" and another government witness "a mental misfit?"

    "This is hysterical," Manny Borgesi was overhead saying. Better than court TV or any reality show, spectators agreed.



    The day in court began with George Borgesi and Uncle Joe wishing Anthony Borgesi a happy birthday.

    Ed Jacobs, Ligambi's lawyer, asked Bent Finger Lou on cross-examination why he called government witness Anthony Aponick a "nut case."


    Aponick was a New York mobster-turned-informant who was Borgesi's cellmate in a federal prison in West Virginia back in 2002 and 2003. According to Monacello, Borgesi and Aponick used to work off their frustrations by engaging in jailhouse wrestling matches.

    Bent Finger Lou decided Aponick was a nut case because minutes after they first met, Aponick was hitting Bent Finger Lou up for a $10,000 loan.

    "He was a New Yorker," Bent Finger Lou told the jury. Aggressive, and a typical "New York gangster." The introduction between the two men was barely underway when Bent Finger Lou's cell phone rang.

    It was George Borgesi on the line, calling from prison. Of course, the feds were wiretapping Borgesi. The feds caught Borgesi trashing Aponick as a wrestler. "You can pin him in 10 seconds," Borgesi told Monacello. "Tell him I can pin him in 5 seconds."

    Aponick was a made member of the Bonnano crime family. "I was very leery of him," Monacello said, but he added charitably, "I wouldn't say he was an idiot." The two men went to Lou's Crab Bar, played the jukebox, and downed some shots. They talked about working together. But after the initial meeting, "I never heard from him again," Monacello testified.

    Monacello was asked by Jacobs about the early stages of his relationship with George Borgesi.

    "At the time I liked him," Monacello conceded. It was George Borgesi who introduced Bent Finger Lou to Frank "Frankie the Fixer" DiGiacomo, a South Philly plumber and wannabe gangster.

    Frankie the Fixer "borrowed money from me constantly," Monacello complained. Bent Finger Lou labeled Frankie the Fixer as a "mental misfit""who loves the life of being a wiseguy." But DiGiacomo was also a chronic deadbeat, Monacello said, a guy he had to repeatedly threaten to collect his money.

    Monacello testified how he ran George Borgesi's loansharking business while Borgesi was in jail. And how he paid George Borgesi $300 a month, plus $16,000 every Christmas for seven straight years. He also regularly left money in the glove compartment of Borgesi's wife. She would leave the doors unlocked. Monacello said he would make a deposit and then lock her doors for her.

    Jacobs was skeptical of Bent Finger Lou's story. He pointed out that Monacello was under FBI surveillance from 2003 to 2008, but was never spotted making money drops to benefit Borgesi's wife.

    "I made sure I wasn't followed," Bent Finger Lou testified.

    Yeah right, Jacobs said.

    On cross-examination, Monacello was shown photos from the 1999 wedding of Anthony Borgesi. A few weeks before the bachelor party, Monacello testified, George Borgesi got so angry at another gang member, "Fat Angelo Lutz," that he bit Lutz on the forehead and spit out on the sidewalk a piece of flesh the "size of a quarter."

    What was Fat Angelo's offense? Monacello said that the 5-foot-4, 400-pound Fat Angelo was responsible for setting up the bachelor party for Anthony Borgesi, and George Borgesi apparently thought Lutz did a terrible job.

    Jacobs showed Monacello a picture from Anthony Borgesi's wedding. There was George Borgesi and Fat Angelo beaming like a couple of old pals.

    "Do you see any kind of wound on Angelo?" Jacobs asked.

    There's a "mark on his forehead," Monacello testified. He said he didn't know how many weeks before the wedding did they stage that bachelor party. Monacello added that "Angelo was often, as I described, beaten by George Borgesi." Monacello described Lutz as George Borgesi's "lackey" and "slave."

    Jacobs questioned Monacello about a 2009 incident caught on camera by Fox 29 News, where Uncle Joe Ligambi was seen screaming at Bent Finger Lou. The incident took place outside Ligambi's South Philly house.

    Uncle Joe was "venting" about DJ Jerry Blavat, Monacello said, for talking him into a disastrous interview with Philadelphia magazine.

    Winding up his cross-examination, Jacobs took Bent Finger Lou through the conditions of his cooperation agreement with the feds. Jacobs emphasized that under the contract, the government had the "sole discretion" to decide whether Monacello had told the truth, and determine how valuable Monacello's cooperation had been. 

    "So their hooks are in you forever," Jacobs said. If Bent Finger Lou came up short, the government had the right to take another look at his case, right?

    "They could re-charge me all over again," Monacello admitted.

    When Christopher Warren, George Borgesi's lawyer, cross-examined Monacello, Bent Finger Lou argued over Warren's questions, and frequently made speeches to the jury.

    "Are you finished?" Warren asked.

    "Yeah," Monacello replied. 

    At one point, Monacello turned to Judge Eduardo Robreno. "Your Honor," he said, " I have no idea what this guy's talking about."

    When Monacello and Warren argued over the status of a mob associate, Monacello settled the dispute by saying, "I'm in the mob, not you. I know who the associates are."

    When Warren tried to question Monacello about a conversation between Monacello and George Borgesi that was recorded by the government, Bent Finger Lou insisted that the entire tape be played in court.

    The 2003 tape, the product of a government wiretap, caught George Borgesi lecturing Bent Finger Lou about keeping his mouth shut when it came to their joint loansharking operation.

    "Don't tell people your business," Borgesi told Monacello. "Don't tell people my business."

    Monacello explained to the jury that on the tape, Borgesi was asking Bent Finger Lou to drive down to West Virginia to visit him in prison on a Sunday, if he was "bored."

    George Borgesi had just gotten a visit from his brother, Anthony, who lodged many complaints about Bent Finger Lou.

    Anthony Borgesi was jealous because George Borgesi was letting him run the loansharking operation. Anthony Borgesi would do anything to cause trouble between Monacello and George Borgesi, Monacello testified.

    Monacello had previously testified that George Borgesi had allegedly told him that Anthony Borgesi was not smart, and did not know how to make money. "The only thing he's capable of," Monacello claimed George Borgesi told him, was "screwing young girls and lifting weights."

    When Monacello and Warren argued over the meaning of the taped conversation between him and Borgesi, Bent Finger Lou said, "Let's play the tape again."

    This time, the judge cut him off.

    "We're not going to play the tape again," the judge said.


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    By George Anastasia
    For Bigtrial.net

    An outsider can buy his way into the Philadelphia mob for $10,000.

    Cash.

    That, at least, is what New York mob informant Anthony Aponick said he was asked to cough up to George Borgesi while they were cellmates in a federal prison in West Virginia back in 2003.

    "He said I would become a member of his crew," said Aponick as he testified today at the racketeering conspiracy retrial of Borgesi and his uncle, mob boss Joe Ligambi. "He wanted $10,000."

    The membership fee was just 10 percent of what Boston mobster Bobby Luisi said he had to pay Joey Merlino back in the late 1990s to become a made member of the organization. Whether that was a reflection of an economic downturn in the underworld or whether Aponick was getting a special discount could not be determined. Like Aponick, Luisi became a close associate of Borgesi's. And like Aponick, he eventually became an FBI informant.

    Aponick said his dealings with Borgesi also came with an ominous warning.

    "Listen, no matter what, don't fuck me," he said Borgesi told him as Aponick was about to be released from prison in 2003. "If you fuck me, I'll kill you and your whole family."

    Aponick, who was already cooperating with the FBI by that time, disregarded the warning.


    Aponick celebrated his 43rd  birthday this morning by making his public debut as a government witness. Describing himself as an associate of the Bonanno crime family in New York, he said he befriended Borgesi after being transferred to the federal prison in Beckley, W. Va., in 2002.

    Borgesi was serving a 14-year sentence for a racketeering conviction. Aponick had been sentenced to 93 months for a series of armed robberies. They and several other mob members and associates hung out together in the federal institution, Aponick said.

    He described Borgesi as a "serious" mobster, but also as a funny and witty individual whom he genuinely liked. He said that laughed, joked and cooked meals together, and eventually became cellmates.

    While reticent to discuss mob business at first, Aponick said Borgesi eventually confided in him and also urged him to move to Philadelphia after he was released from prison. While he was not a full-blooded Italian-American (his mother was Italian, but his father was Ukrainian and Lithuanian), Aponick said Borgesi assured him that he could become a made -- formally initiated member -- of the Philadelphia mob.

    The price tag was $10,000.

    Aponick is due back on the stand when the trial resumes tomorrow. His testimony is considered crucial to the government's case against Borgesi who prosecutors allege continued to run a mob operation from prison while serving his 2001 sentence for a racketeering conviction.

    Dressed in a gray, sharkskin suit, white shirt and tie, and speaking with a thick Brooklyn accent, the five-foot-six Joe Pesce-look-alike gangster testified for nearly four hours. Much of what he said supported and corroborated the testimony of Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello, another Borgesi associate who finished three days of testimony on Tuesday.

    Among other things, Aponick said Borgesi boasted of his own involvement in 11 mob murders, some of which he had been charged with and acquitted, and others for which he had avoided prosecution.

    "He told me he beat 11 murders," said Aponick. "I'm from the streets. When you say you beat something, that means you did it."

    Like Monacello, Aponick described Borgesi, 50, as someone who enjoyed his status as a mob leader and his reputation for violence.

    "He told me he was the `coon-see' (consigliere)," Aponick said. He also said that Borgesi told him his uncle (Ligambi) was the boss but that the crime family "belonged" to Joey Merlino, Steven Mazzone and Borgesi, all three of whom were convicted in the 2001 racketeering case.

    Borgesi is the only one of seven defendants in that case still in jail.

    "He said the family belonged to him, Merlino and Mazzone," Aponick said. "His uncle was minding the store (and) would have a step aside" when they came out of prison. If not, Borgesi said, Ligambi or anyone else trying to run the organization "would have serious problems."

    Aponick said he began cooperating with the FBI in September 2002 while he was Borgesi's cellmate. He said he did so because he was finishing his 93-month sentence and didn't want to go back into the mob life. His cooperation earned him a six-month reduction in that jail term.

    Born and raised in Brooklyn, Aponick said he was a Bonanno crime family associate for more than 20 years and was engaged in gambling, drug dealing, hijacking, extortions and robberies for the organization. He said Borgesi encouraged him to leave New York and move to Philadelphia where he would become part of the crew being run by Monacello while Borgesi's was in jail.

    He said he described Monacello as "his man on the street."

    "I had never been to Philadelphia," Aponick said. But he went along with the plan as part of his cooperating agreement with the FBI.

    He, like Monacello, also said he was surprised that Borgesi used his wife Alyson to communicate  about mob business with him and other associates.

    "It's not customary to get a woman involved to that extent," he said after detailing messages relayed to him in letters and phone calls by Borgesi's wife.

    He said he and Borgesi discussed setting up an after hours club and a men's clothing store through which they could run gambling and loansharking operations in the Philadelphia area. But he said Borgesi told him repeatedly to stay away from his uncle.

    "He said his uncle was greedy," Aponick said.

    The jury was also shown a video of Aponick meeting in Brooklyn with Borgesi's brother Anthony and Mauro Goffredo, a Borgesi associate in the trash business, while Aponick was in a halfway house in New York completing his prison term.

    The jury has already heard a phone conversation Borgesi had with Monacello and Aponick after Aponick came to Philadelphia and met with Monacello at Ralph's, a restaurant on Ninth Street. The tape is expected to be played again so that Aponick can explain parts of what the government contends was coded conversation. Borgesi made the call from prison where all phone calls are taped and monitored.

    Aponick's motivation for testifying and his credibility are both expected to be challenged when cross-examination begins some time tomorrow. One of the things the jury has yet to hear is that shortly after his release from prison in 2003, and while he was cooperating with the FBI, Aponick robbed several banks in New York. He was arrested for those robberies and his cooperation agreement negated.

    But he managed to convince federal authorities to give him a second chance. His new deal resulted in a three-year sentence for the bank robberies and his agreement to help make the case against Borgesi.

    Aponick was not called as a witness in the first trial that ended with a hung jury on the conspiracy count that Borgesi and Ligambi now face.

    The defense will argue that Aponick has used Borgesi as a trading chit to get out from under his own criminal problems. That same argument has been presented to the jury in an attempt to undermine Monacello's testimony.

    George Anastasia can be contacted at George@bigtrial.net.


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    By George Anastasia
    For Bigtrial.net

    What was said in a taped telephone conversation or written in the letter or Christmas card was not in dispute.

    But what the words meant was the focus of nearly four hours of cross-examination today as mob informant Anthony Aponick, 43, spent a second day on the witness stand in the racketeering conspiracy retrial of George Borgesi and his uncle, mob boss Joseph Ligambi.

    Aponick, a New York mob associate who was Borgesi's cellmate in a federal prison in Virginia for parts of 2002 and 2003, clashed repeatedly with Christopher Warren, Borgesi's defense attorney.

    Warren, trying to underscore in the jury's mind that much of what Aponick has testified to is uncorroborated, came back again and again to a simple query.

    "We just have to take your word?" the lawyer asked.

    "It's the truth," Aponick responded.

    The verbal tap dance went on for most of the day and will likely continued tomorrow when Warren concludes his questioning and Ligambi's lawyer, Edwin Jacobs Jr., takes his turn at discrediting the second key prosecution witness to testify in the case.

    Aponick was forced to concede that some of the conversations and letters he had received from Borgesi and Borgesi's wife Alyson were, in fact, about legitimate business ventures they hoped to undertake in the Philadelphia area, including home building and remodeling.

    But he said mobsters often use legitimate businesses as "fronts" or "covers" for illegal activities and that was what he said he and Borgesi were planning.

    To which Warren again posed the question, "To give that criminal meaning we again have to believe you?"

    At other times Aponick said words like "house,""chick" and "paper" that appeared in letters or were spoken in taped conversations were coded references to Borgesi's demand that Aponick cough up $10,000 in order to become a member of Borgesi's mob crew in Philadelphia.

    Warren also focused on the $134,000 federal authorities had spent to relocate Aponick and provide him with a monthly stipend and other expenses while he was a cooperating/protected witness. An itemized rundown of the payments that was part of the cross-examination resulted in a barbed exchange between the witness and lawyer.

    "I'm confused," Aponick said at one point.

    After Warren had gone over some numbers again to clarify, the lawyer asked, "Still confused?"

    Aponick quickly replied, "A little bit. I think everybody is."

    The expenses the government paid, Aponick said, included surgery for an eye problem. And in an apparent reference to a comment made by Borgesi, he said, "Now I'm not a cross-eyed, junkie fat rat, I'm just a rat."

    That, in its own way, was another reference to the debate over words and meanings. That Aponick is a former mobster turned cooperating witness -- a rat in underworld terminology -- is not in dispute. Whether he is telling the truth is the issue.

    At another point Aponick told Warren that the lawyer had a problem with "past, present and future tenses" when framing his questions. In his turn, Warren asked Aponick again and again about Christmas greetings, holidays cards and references to food, football games and family members that were part of the written correspondence between Aponick and the Borgesis.

    "Is this some cryptic, hidden Mafia meaning?" Warren asked a half dozen times after pointing to seemingly innocuous comments. Aponick conceded in most cases the words were simply what they implied....but not always.

    Neither the witness nor the lawyer gave an inch during the verbal sparring match.

    Aponick conceded he had "betrayed" the trust federal authorities had placed in him by committing eight bank robberies after his release from prison in September 2003 and while he was working as a confidential informant for the FBI in building a case against Borgesi.

    "I made some bad personal choices," he said. But then he offered a classic underworld explanation,

    Aponick said he was in debt to members of the Colombo crime family for about $50,000 in gambling losses.

    "I figured all the government could do was put me back in jail," he said. "They (the Colombos) could kill me." He said about $25,000 from the bank robberies went to the Colombos, but stumbled when asked about the total amount he had grabbed and what the rest of the money was used for.

    He denied Warren's inference that he was a drug addict -- "I haven't used drugs since 1997," he said -- but said the money went for "expenses."

    Aponick also tried to refute Warren's contention that he has consistently "played" the government by working deals to get out from under his own criminal problems. When he was asked if he hadn't offered to cooperate back in 1997 when he was arrested for a series of armed robberies, Aponick said he had "talked" with authorities, but never agreed to cooperate.

    "If I had cooperated," he said, "the entire Bonanno crime family would be in jail and we wouldn't be here."

    Warren also hammered away at a "pitch" letter Aponick wrote to authorities seeking their help yet again after his arrest for the bank robberies. In the letter, Aponick said he was hoping for a three-year sentence, rather than the four-to-eight years he was facing. He said if the feds would vouch for him, he'd gladly go back to work on the Borgesi case, writing that he'd be "back in business against old Georgie Boy" and offering to "work for free."

    Warren zeroed in again, asking Aponick if his entire plan was simply to "set Georgie up" in order to curry favor with the government.

    Aponick denied it.

    "I'm just here to tell you what he told me," he said.

    He also admitted that he had been drummed out of the Witness Security Progam again in August after an arrest. But he said the charge was unfounded. While the judge has barred specific questions about the incident, a pretrial hearing provided some details.

    Aponick was arrested in a domestic dispute case for allegedly throwing his wife out of a moving car. Those charges were later dismissed. Judge Eduardo Robreno said at the pretrial hearing that he would not allow the conspiracy trial to become a stage to rehash that case.

    The conspiracy case against Borgesi is based primarily on the testimony of Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello and Aponick. The government alleges that while serving a 14-year sentence for a racketeering conviction in 2001, Borgesi continued to run a mob operation from prison.

    Monacello, who testified earlier, has been described as Borgesi's  "point man" on the street in gambling and loansharking businesses. Aponick said he was to join Monacello in those businesses and expand them for Borgesi.

    The debate over what was said and what it meant is expected to continue when Aponick returns to the stand tomorrow. A key issue for the defense is trying to offer a legitimate reason why Aponick, a New York mobster, ended up meeting with Monacello in a Ninth Street Italian restaurant shortly after his release from prison and why Borgesi, from prison, called Monacello while the dinner meeting was in progress.

    The tape of that call has been played twice for the jury with both Monacello and Aponick offering explanations of what was said and what was meant. That meeting and that phone call go to the heart of the case against Borgesi.

    George Anastasia can be contacted at George@bigtrial.net.

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    Hands-On Inky Owner Lewis Katz
    By Ralph Cipriano
    for Bigtrial.net

    At The Philadelphia Inquirer on Tuesday, owner Lewis Katz raised eyebrows by sitting in on a morning news meeting attended by at least 10 editors. Katz, according to two sources, discussed a story that ran in that morning's paper about the surprise resignation of Peter Luukko, president of Comcast-Spectacor, the company that owns the Philadelphia Flyers.

    Owners don't usually attend news meetings. Katz, however, has asserted previously in court that he has an "open door" to visit the Inky newsroom whenever he wants.

    And Katz doesn't have to stop by the newsroom to influence news coverage. Last week, an Inky obit writer was informed by a funeral director that Katz had personally Ok'd an obituary to run in the paper; the funeral director claimed that Katz was a "personal friend" of a relative of the deceased. The obituary was for the father of actress and Philadelphia native Kim Delaney. The obit writer, concerned about editorial interference, reported the incident to the Newspaper Guild.

    Both incidents occurred at a newspaper where all six new owners, including Katz, made a public pledge not to meddle in editorial operations. The same owners who are busy suing each other over allegations of past meddling, by recently filing three appeal briefs in Superior Court over a period of nine days.

    When he testified in Common Pleas court last month, Katz was asked about the no-meddling pledge, and whether it "places a wall around the newsroom and tells the owners to stay out of the newsroom?"

    "No, there's no wall, it's an open door," Katz replied. "You can walk in there as owners and talk to reporters and editors."

    That's just what happened Tuesday at the morning news meeting of editors. It's a session usually held to discuss the stories that ran in that day's newspaper, and the stories that reporters are working on for the next day's paper. The meeting was attended by Marimow, Inquirer City Editor Nancy Phillips, who is Katz's girlfriend, and other editors.

    Katz spoke about the Luukko story written by Inky reporter Bob Fernandez. It's not known what he said. When contacted on his cell phone, Katz responded, "Who is this," and said he would call back, but he didn't.

    Maybe he had to attend the afternoon news meeting.

    In response to Katz's visit to the news meeting, Dan Fee, a spokesman for the Norcross ownership faction, which comprises 4 of 6 feuding owners, said, "This is another example of why it is so important that the publisher be the one in control of the newsroom."

    Friend of Lew's
    Last week, Tim Dinan of the Dinan Funeral Home emailed Bonnie Cook, an Inky obituary writer on Nov. 30, about writing an obituary for John Delaney. "The family mentioned that the daughter Kim Delaney is personal friends with the owner of the paper, Mr. Lewis Katz," Dinan wrote. In his email, Dinan included Katz's cell phone number.

    In another phone call to the obit writer, funeral director Chris Dinan told Cook, "Mr. Katz OKed it to go in."

    Cook forwarded the notes from the funeral director  to Bill Ross, executive director of the Newspaper Guild. On Dec. 3, Ross replied, "I'm lost. Is this interference by one of the owners?"

    "Yes," Cook responded. "It is an assigning editor's job to okay obits to go in, not an owner through a funeral director."

    Can you imagine the cozy reception Katz receives when he visits that Inquirer news meeting, and says hello to his girlfriend, the city editor, or Marimow, the editor of the paper that his girlfriend handled the negotiations to hire?

    Maybe it sheds some light on the disparate treatment Katz receives from our two daily newspapers.

    On Jan. 11, Chris Brennan of the Daily News wrote a short 491-word story about 8th and Market as a potential location for a new casino. In the story, Brennan interviewed Ken Goldenberg, the developer leading the investors' group seeking the casino license. Brennan talked about how the Goldenberg Group owns 60 percent of two acres along Market Street. Then he writes: "Lewis Katz, a managing partner of the company that owns the Daily News, and philly.com, is a limited partner in Goldenberg, but is not involved in the casino application."

    But when Inquirer columnist Karen Heller wrote a 687-word column Nov. 25th about Market East, "the gaping hole in Center City's success," she discusses the property at 8th and Market -- "a tract of failed dreams" gambling on "the crapshoot of a state casino license." But Heller doesn't mention Katz's interest. Neither does Inky business writer Chris Hepp in a 435-word story Dec. 2 on how to "jump-start East Market Street" that also discusses the land at 8th and Market.

    There may be many legitimate reasons for both Inky writers not to mention Katz's interest. Maybe the writers put it in the story and some editor took it out. But if the Inky is going to be advocating for more development and more resources to be poured into East Market Street, and one of their owners stands to benefit, it just looks bad not to disclose that interest.

    We now turn our attention to the battle of the legal briefs being fought in Superior Court.

    In their filings, the majority ownership faction headed by George Norcross, the Democratic boss of South Jersey, claims that Katz  meddled in the newsroom to prevent the justifiable firing of Inquirer editor Bill Marimow. The appeal claims the newspaper is being irreparably harmed by Marimow's court-ordered reinstatement, because it will continue to allow Katz, acting through Marimow, to keep meddling in the newsroom.

    The minority ownership faction headed by Katz counters that Marimow is doing a great job, and deserves to stay on. The minority faction charges that Publisher Bob Hall was meddling on behalf of Norcross when he fired Marimow. The Katz faction claims the Inquirer needs Marimow to stay on the job to prevent Norcross from doing any further meddling in the newsroom.

    In a document filed Nov. 26th in Superior Court, the Norcross faction is asking for "special relief in the nature of a request for expedited appeal."

    "At stake in this appeal is the editorial and journalistic independence of the Philadelphia Inquirer ... one of the oldest, most influential and widely-circulated newspapers in our Commonwealth."

    "On Oct. 7, 2013, the Publisher of the Inquirer discharged the editor for failing to implement critical journalistic and editorial measures designed to halt the downward spiral of the Inquirer, and lead it into the new age of successful print and digital media," the appeal states.

    The appeal says that Common Court Pleas Judge Patricia McInerney wrongly decided that editor Marimow could only be fired by two owners, Norcross and Katz, who sit on a management committee. Judge McInerney made her ruling "despite the fact that both Mr. Katz and Mr. Norcross (and the other owners) expressly pledged in IGM's governance agreement -- and to the employees of the paper and the public at large -- that they would not 'attempt to directly or indirectly control or influence any of the editorial or journalistic policies and decisions" of the newspaper, the appeal says.

    Interstate General Media [IGM] is the parent company that owns the Inquirer, Daily News and philly.com website.

    The appeal asks the Superior Court to overturn Judge McInerney's decision, "thereby upholding the proper governance of the Inquirer and restoring the public's confidence that the editorial and journalistic decisions of the Inquirer will remain free from the influence of its owners.'"

    "Every day that Mr. Marimow serves as the Inquirer's editor endangers the paper's chances of survival," the appeal states. "The Inquirer and its newsroom are currently operating under a cloud of uncertainty." The appeal claims that Inky publisher Bob Hall had the right to fire Marimow, according to journalism tradition, and that the Inky's no-medling clause prevented Katz from having a vote on whether to fire Marimow.

    In response, on Dec. 3, lawyers for the Katz faction filed a "memorandum of law in opposition" to the Norcross faction's application for special relief. The memorandum said without Judge McInerney's decision to reinstate Marimow, Norcross, with the help of publisher Bob Hall, "would have continued Norcross's campaign to control the operations of The Philadelphia Inquirer, and to run roughshod over the protections against such unilateral control" included in the company's limited liability agreement.

    The memorandum of law said that after Judge McInerney ruled that Marimow had to be immediately reinstated, "Marimow returned to applause and a strong showing of support from the Inquirer's newsroom."

    Did they expect his underlings to boo him?

    The memorandum states that "far from championing journalistic independence," Publisher Hall was "merely carrying out Norcross's wishes and directives, subverting the voting/veto rights of management committee member Katz. The "clear purpose" of the non-interfernce policy "was to prevent the owners from interfering with news content," the memorandum states.

    The memorandum said the accusation that Marimow is irreparably harming the Inquirer does not take into account "The Inquirer's improved performance under Marmow's direction." The memorandum states that Marimow went along with every change Hall wanted to make, with the exception of terminating "three distinguished and award-winning editors, who were clearly targeted for firing because they had antagonized someone in Norcross's family."

    It's a clear shot at Lexie Norcross, the 26-year-old daughter of George and corporate VP who oversees digital operations.

    While Marimow was editor, the memorandum states, "paid online circulation nearly doubled," Sunday digital circulation "soared 72.5 percent, and the Inquirer's total daily circulation rose to 258,127, an 8.9 percent increase.

    In response, on Dec. 4, team Norcross filed a "reply in support of" their request for an expedited appeal. They stated in their reply that the Inquirer editor is "a key player with respect to the paper's editorial and journalistic policies and decisions."

    "Thus, the power to influence and control the Inquirer's editor is the power to influence and control its editorial and journalistic policies and decisions," the reply states. Team Norcross continues to assert that the owners no-meddling pledge prevents the management committee composed of Norcross and Katz from "having the power to interfere with the firing of the editor."

    Judge McInerney, the reply states, never addressed this issue. The reply says that during the recent court battle in Common Pleas court, owner Katz and another owner allied with him, H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest, "admitted" that the no-meddling pledge "reaches beyond 'news content' to the very 'operations of the newsroom.'"

    "Surely then, controlling and influencing the editor, the person in charge of the newsroom's operations, would conflict with the" no-meddling pledge, the reply states. By allowing the Inky editor to serve at the pleasure of "a single member" of IGM's management committee, the reply states, Judge McInerney's decision "calls into doubt the journalistic independence and integrity of a paper that can ill afford such questions."


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    By George Anastasia
    For Bigtrial.net

    The anonymously chosen jury in the conspiracy retrial of mob boss Joe Ligambi and his nephew George Borgesi headed home this afternoon for a five-day break.

    There will be no trial Monday through Wednesday to accommodate judicial scheduling issues. The trial is set to resume on Thursday. 

    For all intents and purposes the prosecution has wrapped up its case against Borgesi, 50, who faces only a racketeering conspiracy charge.

    The jury this week heard crucial testimony from two mob informants who tied the volatile South Philadelphia mobster to ongoing organized crime activities while Borgesi was in prison following a conviction in an unrelated racketeering case in 2001.

    Anthony Aponick, 43, a cellmate of Borgesi's in a federal prison in West Viriginia, completed his testimony this morning with a brief cross-examination by Ligambi's lawyer, Edwin Jacobs Jr.

    Aponick first took the stand on Wednesday. His testimony largely corroborated the story told by Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello who testified before him. Monacello, 47, has been described as Borgesi's "point man" in gambling and loansharking operations.

    The two witnesses were both hammered on cross-examination with defense attorneys challenging  their stories and their reasons for cooperating. Both admitted to committing a series of crimes and being part of an organized crime network.

    "We're criminals," Aponick said at one point.

    His matter-of-fact descriptions were in synch with Monacello who toned down his delivery considerably from the first time he took the stand last year in a trial in which Ligambi and Borgesi were defendants.

    The jury in that case hung on the racketeering conspiracy charge that both defendants now face. Ligambi, 74, is also facing two gambling counts and a witness tampering count.

    Prosecutors hope to complete their case before Christmas. Judge Eduardo Robreno has indicated that court will not be in session Christmas week. How many witnesses the defense opts to call could determine how much longer the trial will last.

    Speculation is that jury deliberation will begin shortly after the New Year.

    In the last trial, which included seven defendants, the jury deliberated for nearly three weeks. At one point Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Labor likened the process to wandering in the dessert. Four defendants were convicted in a confusing jury verdict in which the panel rejected the bulk of the prosecution's case. Of 71 charges, the jury came back with guilty verdicts on only five.

    Joseph "Scoops" Licata was acquitted and walked out of court a free man. Borgesi came close to walking away with the jury finding him not guilty of 13 of the 14 counts he faced. But the panel hung on the racketeering conspiracy charge, resulting in the retrial. Ligambi beat five of the nine counts he faced.

    A month into this trial it's obvious the prosecution has streamlined its presentation. The fact that there are only two defendants is part of the reason. But the case has also been presented in a clearer and more understandable fashion.

    The consensus after the last trial was the that jury had no idea what a conspiracy was.

    This time the panel, based on the comportment and approach of the jurors each day, appears to be following the case closely. There is little indication of any confusion. If that assessment is correct, it might not bode well for the defendants.

    The panel includes ten women and two men. There are four alternates.

    A conspiracy charge is heavily weighted in the prosecution's favor. As explained by the judge to the jury, a defendant doesn't have to commit a crime, but merely conspire with others who carry out the criminal activity.

    The prosecution has tried to put Ligambi into a conspiracy by introducing evidence that he was the boss or acting boss of the Philadelphia crime family. Among other things, the prosecution keyed in on a lunch meeting at a restaurant in North Jersey in May 2010 in which Ligambi and several other Philadelphia crime family leaders meet with leaders of the Gambino crime family.

    One of the mobsters at that meeting was cooperating with the FBI and wore a body wire in which he taped conversations.

    Borgesi, jailed since 2000, has been tied to a conspiracy through the testimony of Monacello and Aponick, according to the prosecution's presentation. A key part of that allegation is Aponick's trip to Philadelphia after he was released from prison to meet with Monacello.

    The meeting, at Ralph's Italian Restaurant on Ninth Street, was set up by Borgesi, both Aponick and Monacello said. Borgesi called from prison during the dinner and that taped phone call (all prison calls are monitored and taped) was played twice for the jury.

    While the defense tried to argue that Aponick and Monacello were meeting to discuss legitimate business deals, both witnesses said the meeting was set up to expand on Borgesi's proposal for Aponick to move from New York to Philadelphia and become part of a gambling and loansharking operation that Monacello was overseeing.

    In separate testimony today, the jury heard about how authorities closely watched Borgesi while he was an inmate in a federal prison in Beckley, West Virginia. Aponick was his cellmate there for about a year between 2002 and 2003.

    Borgesi, because of his mob connections, was designated "an inmate of concern." All his phone calls were monitored and recorded and all his correspondence (letters he wrote and those he received) were read, copied and copies forwarded to the FBI.

    The jury was also shown prison records indicating that Ligambi visited Borgesi 14 times between 2002 and 2009 and Monacello visited 12 times. Other records showed that Ligambi had placed $7,700 in Borgesi's prison commissary during that period and that mobster Anthony Staino, who visited five times, placed an additional $1,600.

    A prison official testified that inmates were limited to spending $250-a-month from their commissary account. He also said the $7,700 provided by Ligambi was "excessively" high and out of the ordinary for most inmates.

    The jury also heard that Borgesi had two prison violations while at Beckley, once for fighting with another inmate and once for assaulting his wife in the prison visitation room while she was visiting him.

    Testimony and evidence introduced during the trial has portrayed Alyson Borgesi as her husband's most loyal confidante. Both Monacello -- who referred to her one time as "Alyson Corleone" -- and Aponick said they were surprised that Borgesi  shared mob business information with his wife and used her to pass messages.

    "It's unusual for a woman to be involved," said Aponick who held himself out as an associate of the Bonanno crime family in New York and one who from the age of 12 had been around the mobster "life."

    George Anastasia can be contacted at George@bigtrial.net.

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    By Ralph Cipriano
    for Bigtrial.net

    After a judge ordered his immediate reinstatement on Nov. 22nd, Philadelphia Inquirer Editor Bill Marimow made a triumphant return to the newsroom, where he was greeted by a standing ovation from staffers.

    Now, the union that represents those staffers, the Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia, is complaining that the standing ovation wasn't  a spontaneous event.

    In a Dec. 7th email to Chris Bonanducci, vice president of human resources, Bill Ross, the Guild's executive director, wrote, "when Bill Marimow's return to the newsroom was announced, [Inquirer City Editor] Nancy Phillips went around the newsroom telling employees to give him a standing ovation."

    "Some members were uncomfortable with this request, which of course seemed like an order when asked by the city editor," Ross wrote. "Others have asked about her credibility after she admitted concocting a cover story about Marimow's rehire during her testimony in the recent court case."

    "As you might imagine, people are fearful for reprisal or punishment so I am not attaching any members names to this," Ross wrote, "but I thought you should know what is out there, while also trying to help avoid anyone feeling like they are working in a hostile environment."

    Phillips and Marimow did not respond to a request for comment. In her testimony in Common Pleas Court, Phillips explained how she had recruited Marimow to return as Inquirer editor, on behalf of new owners Lewis Katz and George Norcross. And how she came up with an "official story" about how former publisher Greg Osberg had been involved in the decision to rehire Marimow, when Osberg testified that he was not part of the decision-making process, and did not want Marimow to return.

    In his email to Bonanducci, Ross also brought up "various complaints" he had received from Guild members about alleged meddling in the Inky newsroom by owner Lewis Katz.

    "I have been asked by several members how Mr. Katz attending an editors' meeting would be allowed under the ownership pledge that the owners would not be involved with newsroom matters," Ross wrote. "Mr. Katz was also involved by a funeral director placing an obit for actress Kim Delaney's father who passed away. In Mr. Katz's defense, it could have been a name-dropping, but the Guild member involved informed me they felt it was interference."

    Katz raised eyebrows by appearing at an editors' news meeting, where owners don't normally tread. Katz is one of six new owners that have taken a non-interference pledge when it comes to the newsroom.

    The funeral director of a local funeral home used Katz's name to get an obituary published on behalf of the father of actress and Philadelphia native Kim Delaney. The funeral home director told an Inquirer obit writer that Katz had already approved the obit, which previously ran in the Atlantic City Press. The  funeral director included Katz's cell phone to show that Katz had supposedly approved publishing the obituary.

    A ten-paragraph obituary published Dec. 4th in the Inquirer noted the passing of John S. Delaney, 83, a worker and union leader at an electrical firm who was also a Purple Heart-decorated Army veteran during the Korean War. The obituary's only mention of the actress came when she was listed among  survivors as "daughter Kim."

    Katz did not respond to a request for comment.

    Ross declined comment on his email, but Howard Gensler, Guild president, said, "The Guild is firmly against the owners having a carte blanche policy with regard to the news coverage, and without knowing more about this particular isolated incident, I just hope it's an isolated incident."

    Regarding the controversy over the Delaney obit, Gensler said, "that's troubling if somebody calls up and says the owner wants you to run that story. We hope it doesn't happen again. If it happens on a regular basis, then it's something we're gonna have to deal with."

    Gensler, a Daily News columnist, didn't have much to say over the standing ovation for Marimow.

    "I have no personal knowledge of this," he said. "I hope it's not an accurate representation of what occurred."

    Jay Devine, a public relations consultant employed by Marimow during the recent court battle over the editor's job, did not respond to a request for comment. But he did post a comment on this blog:

    "We chose not to respond to your inquiry today based on our belief that your blog has consistently reported biased, one-sided and defamatory information. It is not a credible journalistic entity that subscribes to the principles of quality, fair and unbiased journalism. -- Jay Devine."

    Mr. Devine and I have a history. He's been making false accusations against me for 20 years. As a former spokesman for the late Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua, Devine was part of an archdiocese spin machine that employed a couple of predator priests to burnish the cardinal's image. The archdiocese spin machine was responsible for concocting a phony story about why the cardinal couldn't sell his mansion, an alibi that unraveled a few years ago when the mansion was finally sold. In 2009, Devine  invented another phony story and hired a lawyer to threaten a phony libel suit against me in a vain attempt to cover up an incredibly stupid comment that Devine actually made to one of my editors back in 1998.

    Please feel free to read these stories, and then make up your mind about the truthfulness of Mr. Devine's latest charges. It's amazing he can show his face after the way he's been exposed.

    It's also amazing that any credible journalist or newspaper would employ a man with such a wretched track record when it comes to the truth.

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    By Ralph Cipriano
    for Bigtrial.net

    Vince Fumo finally walked out of court a winner.

    The former Pennsylvania state senator won a case in New Jersey Superior Court on Tuesday Dec. 10th in Atlantic County when a judge denied a $73,000 claim against Fumo brought by Mitchell Rubin. He's a former Fumo political ally and the husband of Ruth Arnao, Fumo's co-defendant at his 2009 federal corruption trial.

    It's a tale of three former political buddies who went in on a condo development down the shore a decade ago and then wound up suing each other after everybody got convicted by the feds and had a bitter falling out.

    Fumo built the five-unit development located at 6601 Mommouth Avenue in Ventnor on land his mother bought back in the 1960s for $1,800. He rented the units out before he converted them into condos, and sold one unit to Rubin in 2003, for $135,000.

    Rubin filed suit in 2011, claiming he was owed as much as $174,000 for money he had allegedly spent on improvements that included rebuilding decks and docks. The cased was tried on Oct. 15th and 16th before Judge Michael Winkelstein.

    According to Kevin Kotch, Fumo's lawyer, Rubin complained that the condo association as well as Fumo had agreed to pay him back on that alleged $174,000 investment on property improvements.

    During discovery, however, it was learned that Rubin had only paid $63,000 in cash for that condo he had originally agreed to purchase for $135,000. Arnao was in charge of collecting the rest of the purchase price from Rubin, but apparently, she never got around to it. Rubin and Arnao claimed they had paid the remainder of the purchase price by advancing funds for improvements.

    Subsequently, Rubin's claim against Fumo was whittled down to $73,000. The judge, however, in remarks read into the record on Dec. 10th, ruled that there never had been any agreement to grant any portion of marina assets to Rubin or Arnao. The judge further found that the statute of limitations barred any claim, which should have been filed by 2010.

    The only real claim Rubin had would have been against the condominium association, the judge said, but during the lawsuit, Rubin dismissed the condo association as a defendant. The judge found that Rubin could not substantiate his claim for reimbursement. He presented a set of incomplete records, and used various formulas to calculate his credit against the purchase price for the unit, according to Kotch.

    The judge said in court that he based his decision on the credibility and demeanor of the witnesses. During the trial, the judge heard testimony from Fumo, Rubin and Arnao. All three are convicted felons.

    Fumo was convicted July 14, 2009 of 137 counts of fraud, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and filing a false tax return. He was released in August, after spending four years in prison.

    Arnao was convicted during that same trial of 45 counts of the 137 counts; she served a sentence of one year and one day.

    Rubin, former chairman of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, pleaded guilty in 2010 to one count of obstruction of justice. He served six months of house arrest. Rubin filed suit against Fumo after he was ordered by the feds to pay back $150,000 in restitution.

    In Atlantic County Court, Fumo testified there had never been any agreement to repay Rubin for improvements made to the Ventnor property. It was only in looking through records for this case that Fumo discovered that Rubin never fully paid for the condo unit he bought.

    The judge also found that a $20,000 insurance check for Hurricane Sandy damages that was originally sent to Fumo should be paid to the association so the money could be spent on needed repairs. The $20,000 insurance check was sent to Fumo, because he had taken out the insurance policy on behalf of the condos. The judge told Fumo he wanted that insurance check sent to the condo association within 60 days of the judgment he was issuing.

    The $20,000, however, is in an account currently frozen by the IRS, which has filed a jeopardy assessment against Fumo. If not for the jeopardy assessment, Kotch said, Fumo would have already seen that the money was used for needed repairs.

    The judge also denied a Fumo counterclaim seeking reimbursement for $70,000 of Arnao's legal expenses that Fumo had paid on her behalf to attorney Ed Jacobs. The judge noted that under the statute of frauds, Rubin could not be liable for repayment without a written agreement that showed he was supposed to pay the money back to Fumo.

    Kotch said Rubin's case was hampered by "the confused record after 10 years and that was Mitchell's burden to prove, his right to being reimbursed after so many years."

    "It was a difficult case in that we were looking back 10 years and trying to make sense of what had happened, and there were a number of strong personalities there," Kotch said of the litigants. The judge's decision was "well-reasoned," and "should withstand any attack," Kotch said.

    Rubin has 45 days to appeal in Superior Court's appellate division after final judgement is entered. Rubin's lawyer, Joseph P. Grimes, could not be reached for comment.

    Prior to the Dec. 10th judgment against Rubin, Fumo had lost two federal appeals, the first to lengthen his sentence, the second to increase his fines and restitution. In September, Peter Goldberger, an appeals lawyer representing Fumo, filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court, requesting that it review lower court rulings involving Fumo. That petition, however, was denied last month.

    Fumo also lost a case in Philadelphia Orphans Court involving a trustee he had appointed to administer a $2.5 million trust fund that Fumo had set up to benefit his son and daughter. The case against him was filed by his daughter Allie, one of the beneficiaries. In August, Judge Joseph D. O'Keefe  ruled in favor of Allie Fumo, installing her choice for trustee, Sylvia DiBona, over Fumo's choice of Dr. Anthony Repici.


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     By George Anastasia

    For Bigtrial.net

    For more than a month family members of mob boss Joe Ligambi and of his nephew and co-defendant George Borgesi have sat in the second row behind the defense table at the racketeering conspiracy retrial of the two South Philadelphia wiseguys.

    Today, as the trial resumed after a five-day break, that row was empty.

    Following a highly publicized flap on Friday over possible jury intimidation, the families of the two men opted not to attend the trial today and for the foreseeable future, according to one defense attorney.

    "The government and the press were making them into a distraction," said Christopher Warren, Borgesi's lawyer, during a break in today's session. "They (the family members) have voluntarily decided to absent themselves from the proceedings."

    Warren said a report in Saturday's Daily News and a feature about Borgesi's wife Alyson in the Sunday Inquirer were examples of the kind of media overkill that has plagued the trial almost since its start in November.

    Ironically, members of the prosecution team also complained today about the focus of newspaper articles which, they say, has missed many of the salient points of testimony in the case. It may be one of the few points on which the prosecution and defense agree.

    Warren said a Daily News report that some jurors had felt "intimidated" was incorrect.

    "It was blown out of proportion," he said. "There was no intimidation."

    Warren acknowledged that four members of the anonymously chosen jury panel had complained that family members of the defendants were "staring at them" during Friday's proceeding. But when questioned privately by Judge Eduardo Robreno, none said they felt intimidated.

    "If it (intimidation) were a legitimate concern, we would have moved for a mistrial," Warren said.

    He said family members, including Borgesi's wife, his brother Anthony, his mother Manny (who is also Ligambi's sister), Ligambi's brother Philip and Ligambi's wife Olivia, have opted to stay away so as not to create "a distraction" in the courtroom.

    Maybe now the media will focus on the evidence and testimony, he said, adding that a profile of Alyson Borgesi in Sunday's paper was built around a government attempt to "provoke my client."

    Alyson Borgesi's name surfaced repeatedly last week during testimony from Louis Monacello and Anthony Aponick, two mob associates whom prosecutors say worked for George Borgesi. Both witnesses said George Borgesi, from prison, relayed messages to them and others through his wife.

    Monacello also testified that he made monthly cash payments to Alyson Borgesi to cover her husband's share of the gambling and bookmaking operations Monacello was running for him on the streets. George Borgesi was convicted in an unrelated racketeering case in 2001 and sentenced to 14 years in prison.

    The testimony of Monacello and Aponick go to the heart of the conspiracy charge against Borgesi. The 50-year-old mob leader is charged with conspiring to run a mob operation while he was in jail. Borgesi was found not guilty of 13 other counts tied to Monacello's gambling and loansharking operations in the first trial that ended in February. But the jury hung on the conspiracy count, resulting in the retrial.

    Ligambi, 74, was acquitted of five of nine counts he faced, but is being retried on a conspiracy count, two gambling counts and a witness intimidation count on which that same jury hung.

    Four other defendants were convicted and one was acquitted in that case.

    In a courtroom devoid of family and friends, the focus of testimony today shifted from Borgesi to Ligambi. Two government witnesses, both admitted drug dealers, testified about loanshark debts they owed to members of the crime family.

    Joseph Comerer spent more than two hours testifying about a $500 loan that he owed to Gary Battaglini, a mob associate linked to mob soldier Damion Canalichio. Both Battaglnii and Canalichio were convicted in the first Ligambi trial.

    The $500 debt and Comerer's failure to repay it while working for the Pennsylvania State Police and recording phone calls and conversations seemed to underscore the defense position that the case against Ligambi is built around penny-ante crimes that have been used to fabricate a racketeering conspiracy that doesn't exist.

    Comerer's credibility was also challenged. Among other things, he conceded that he once worked as an informant for the FBI, but that relationship ended when the feds accused him of stealing $500. Comerer denied that he stole the money.

    What the jury wasn't told -- because of its possible prejudice and because it was irrelevant to the case at trial -- was that Comerer helped federal authorities build a drug case against Canalichio.

    More pointed and potentially damaging testimony came from Michael Orlando who began cooperating with authorities after running up thousands of dollars in debts to mobsters between 1998 and 2002.

    On one tape, Orlando complains to Battaglini about the thousands he owes to Canalichio and the late John "Johnny Gongs" Casasanto.

    "I owe all the killers," he said.

    More damaging, however, were comments made by Battaglini about the source of the loans and where the money was ultimately going. It was, he told Orlando, Ligambi's money.

    "He doesn't want to hear nothing," Battagilni said of Ligambi's attitude toward deadbeats and his approach to associates who were running loansharking operations. "He wants his fucking money...every week. He wants his end."

    The prosecution, in building the case against Ligambi, has alleged that as boss he benefitted and shared in the gambling and loansharking operations of those under him in the organization. Battaglini's comment, secretly recorded by Orlando who was wearing an FBI supplied body wire, seemed to support that argument.

    George Anastasia can be contacted at George@bigtrial.net

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    By Ralph Cipriano
    for Bigtrial.net

    On the FBI surveillance tape played in court, the jury heard the gurgling sounds of men standing at urinals.

    In the men's room of the Chop House Restaurant in Gibbsboro, N.J., a tipsy mobster named Anthony Staino was overhead warning a sleazy financial planner named "Dino" what would happen if he didn't repay a $25,000 mob loan with the astronomically high interest rate of 144 percent.

    "If you fuck with me, you know what's gonna happen, right?" Staino was overheard telling Dino amid the sounds of flushing urinals. "Don't fuck with me."

     Dino's real name was David Sebastiani; he's a certified public accountant and an undercover FBI agent. And while he was standing at the urinal in 2004, Dino was wearing a wire that not only recorded the watery sounds of the men's room, but also a successful FBI sting operation.


    On the first surveillance tape played in court, Dino was telling Staino he needed a bodyguard for the money laundering operation he ran out of Elite Business Services on Fellowship Road in Mount Laurel, N.J. Dino was interested in hiring Vincent Filipelli, a former bodybuilder who used to be the bodyguard of jailed mob boss John Stanfa.

    On tape, Staino is heard using corporate takeover language to tell Dino about the South Philly mob
    war of the 1990s. Staino described the mob faction led by Skinny Joey Merlino as IBM, and he labeled the Stanfa faction as GE.

    "I'm IBM, and IBM took over GE," Staino told Dino. "Two different companies. Here's our company; there's the bad company. The bad company gets taken over. I'm with the good company. I'm on the board of directors ... I'm like the CFO."

    Sticking with his corporate takeover metaphor, Staino told Dino Filipelli was available for hire. "He was with GE," Staino said of Filipelli, but now, "he's with me."

    On the witness stand, FBI Agent Sebastiani testified he was pleased to hear Staino's reaction, because he thought Filipelli would make an ideal bodyguard for reasons of "sheer intimidation." Even though Dino never got around to actually hiring Filipelli.

    Sebastiani testified that besides the lecture on the corporate takeover in the mob world, Staino also taught him a code phrase for borrowing money at loan shark interest rates.

    "Let's go to dinner in Delaware," was mob lingo for I need to see my loan shark, Sebastiani told the jury.

    So after Sebastiani proposed going out to dinner in Delaware, on Aug. 4, 2004, he met Staino and another mobster, Robert Ranieri, at the Chop House in Gibbsboro. They had drinks and appetizers at the bar.

    Then, everybody went to the mens' room. It was small, about 12 by 10 feet, Sebastiani testified; two urinals and one toilet. Sebastiani and Staino hit the urinals while Ranieri leaned his back against the door, so nobody else could come in.

    Sebastiani told Staino he didn't want to fuck with him, he wanted to make money for him. That didn't impress the mobster.

    "I don't give a fuck about money," Staino replied on the tape. He sounded sloshed, especially when he told Dino, "I love you, but I want to put it  on the table." When asked by a prosecutor what that meant, Sebastiani testified, "I had to pay the money back or he'd hurt me."

    On the tape played in court, Ranieri was overhead telling Dino, "Do me a favor, don't fuck with him," meaning Staino, whom Ranieri referred to as "Unc."

    "I don't know you very well," Staino told Dino on the tape. "I met you in an odd situation."

    "I mean no disrespect, Dean, I swear to God, if you fuck me," Staino warned, there would be retaliation. Because if Dino defaulted on the loan, "I gotta pay the consequences," Staino said on the tape.

    On the witness stand, Sebastiani explained the terms of the $25,000 loan from Staino. On Sept. 1, he had to pay back $3,000 interest. On Oct. 1, he had to pay back another $3,000 in interest. And on Nov. 1, he had to pay back the entire principal of $25,000.

    Sebastiani said Ranieri delivered the money during a rendezvous at the parking lot of the Chop House.

    On another tape played for the jury, Ranieri is heard telling Dino, "Anthony is a fucking baby doll, you know what I mean?" Ranieri described Staino as a "great guy," but he warned, "he'll turn into fucking the devil just like that" if you screw with him.

    In the parking lot, Ranieri handed Sebastiani a Post Carb Well cereal box.

    "It's all in that fucking box," Ranieri said on another government surveillance tape.

    Inside, Sebastiani testified he found $25,000 in cash wrapped in plastic.

    On another tape, Ranieri was overheard lecturing Dino not to talk to Staino on the phone about the $25,000 loan.

    "You don't say shit like that," Ranieri said.

    "I didn't know," Dino said. "I fucked that up."

    When Dino brought up the loan on the phone to Staino, the mobster hung up.

    Sebastiani testified how he made one interest payments of $3,000 on Aug. 30, 2004. And then he decided to repay the loan early.

    On Sept. 9, 2004, Ranieri stopped by Dino's Mount Laurel office wired with cameras and microphones. Sebastiani testified he  repaid the loan just as Staino had directed him.

    He handed Ranieri two bundles of cash, each amounting to $10,000. And then he wrote out a check to Staino for $5,000, from his bogus company. He also promised to issue the mobster a 1099.

    Staino, 56, described by prosecutors as mob boss Joe Ligambi's "right-hand man," is currently in jail doing 97 months after he was convicted on racketeering and extortion charges at the last mob trial.

    During a break, "Uncle Joe" joked with the FBI agent about that sting operation.

    "Did you ever give the $25,000 back?" Ligambi asked. "Anthony said you kept it."

    "It paid for a  few college tuitions," the FBI agent replied with a smile.


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    Mob lawyer seeks bail for wannabe wiseguy
    By George Anastasia
    For Bigtrial.net

    Here we go again.

    Last year it was  mobster Anthony Nicodemo, arrested for allegedly carrying out a gangland hit while mob boss Joe Ligambi was on trial in U.S. District Court.

    This year it's Ronald Galati, a notorious wannabe wiseguy. Galati, whose name surfaced during the testimony of Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello two weeks ago in the ongoing Ligambi retrial, was arrested Saturday for allegedly hiring a hit man (or men?) to knock off a witness in a pending insurance fraud investigation in which he is the principal target.

    Galati, 63, who owns an auto body shop in South Philadelphia, has been in this situation before. The question being asked in law enforcement and underworld circles is whether the fast-talking mob associate, who was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison for insurance fraud back in 1995, is ready to roll the dice in a case that could land him in state prison for the next 15 years?

    The retrial of Ligambi and his co-defendant and nephew George Borgesi resumes this morning before Judge Eduardo Robreno. The case could go to the jury early in January. But there are those who believe the racketeering conspiracy charge the defendants are currently fighting could be the least of their problems if Galati rolls.

    Galati was picked up on a warrant issued by the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office on Friday and formally charged early Saturday morning. He is being in the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility on State Road pending a bail hearing.

    His attorney, Joseph Santaguida, said yesterday that he will seek bail for his client. But the District Attorney's Office, taking a hard line in witness intimidation cases, is expected to oppose that move, setting up the real possibility that Galati could spend both the Christmas and New Year's holidays -- and the months that follow --  in prison rather than in his comfortable South Philadelphia home or his place at the Jersey Shore.

    Galati is facing five counts, including attempted murder, solicitation for murder, conspiracy and witness intimidation. Few other details have been made public. Sources say Galati has been the target of an ongoing insurance fraud investigation launched by the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office. Both the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office and authorities in New Jersey are also involved, those sources say.

    And waiting in the wings is the FBI which has long wanted to have a conversation with Galati about his questionable business dealings and the people he has dealt with.

    Galati's name has been mentioned in connection with a shooting in Atlantic City on Nov. 30, but no one in a position of authority would link that incident to the witness intimidation and murder for hire charges that he now faces.

    According to several sources, a man identified as the boyfriend of Galati's daughter was ambushed by two gunmen outside his home on Carson Avenue in the Inlet section of Atlantic City. The victim survived. And in shades of the Nicodemo case, the two gunmen, both from Philadelphia, were arrested within minutes of the shooting which occurred shortly before 7 p.m.

    Whether those suspected shooters are cooperating is one of several questions that have been raised now that Galati has been charged with solicitation for murder. The boyfriend apparently has some knowledge of Galati's auto body shop business and may have been subpoenaed before a grand jury.

    Another source, however, said the shooting was "personal" and not connected to business.

    Galati was convicted of mail fraud and bankruptcy fraud in the 1995 case in which a federal prosecutor described him as running a "shop of fraud" at his business on 12th Street near Washington Avenue. Galati was charged, but found not guilty, of threatening to kill a postal inspector who was part of an insurance fraud task force in that case.

    In that case, authorities labeled Galati a close associate of then mob boss Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino. Merlino worked in the auto body shop in the early 1990s while in a halfway house completing a four-year sentence for an armored truck robbery in which over $350,000 was taken.

    That money was never recovered.

    Several other mobsters, including Borgesi, also have been linked to Galati's shop.

    From the witness stand in the current trial, Monacello, a Borgesi associate, testified that he worked with Borgesi in the early 1990s in a scheme set up to provide Galati with auto body repair work and opportunities for insurance fraud.

    Monacello said Galati would make copies of the car keys of customers and then provide Borgesi with the key and the customer's address. Late at night, Monacello said, he would drive Borgesi to a customer's neighborhood and if they spotted the car, Borgesi would drive it away. Monacello said he would follow and serve as a "blocker" -- using his car to block police should they pursue Borgesi.

    In the stolen car, Monacello said, Borgesi would cruise South Philadelphia, heading toward the address of another Galati customer. Borgesi would then crash the stolen car into the parked car of the second customer, creating repair work for Galati from both unknowing patrons.

    Borgesi would rip out the steering column in the stolen car and take the key, so that it would appear the car had been hot wired, Monacello said. He testified that he worked with Borgesi for several months, but tired of the job because of the late hours and because, he said, Borgesi was only paying him $100 per night

    Galati was accused to generating tens of thousands of dollars in insurance fraud income.

    His ties to the Merlino faction of the mob also resulted in a problem with mob boss John Stanfa. Stanfa suspected that Galati's auto body shop was used to cut two portholes into the side of a stolen van that was used to ambushed Stanfa on the Schuylkill Expressway in August 1993.

    The shooting, Stanfa's son Joe was wounded, occurred in the midst of rush hour traffic shortly before 8 a.m. Authorities suspected the Merlino faction of being behind that attempted hit, but no one has ever been convicted.

    The shooting was one of the more outlandish during a bloody war between Stanfa and Merlino in 1993. Galati ended up on one of Stanfa's many hit lists as a result.

    Galati has always denied any knowledge of the circumstances behind the Expressway shooting, but what he knows could be a bargaining chip should he decide to cooperate. Authorities also believe that Galati has maintained an ongoing relationship with other mobsters and that some of them, and their family members, may figure in the current insurance fraud probe.

    "Galati doesn't want to go back to prison," said one individual who knows him.

    Whether he would try to bargain his way out from under his current problems is a question that is being asked in both law enforcement and underworld circles. Of course, that same question was asked this time last year when Nicodemo was arrested for the murder of Gino DiPietro in South Philadelphia.

    Nicodemo, 41, was taken in to custody less than 30 minutes after the shooting. Witnesses had spotted him fleeing the scene in an SUV and gave authorities the license tag number. The vehicle was registered in Nicodemo's name and listed at his address, a few blocks from where DiPietro, 50, was gunned down.

    The married father of two young children was arrested at that home without incident. He was charged with murder, conspiracy and weapons offenses after a ballistic test linked a gun found in his car with a bullet fragment from the murder scene. Police also found gloves and a ski mask in the vehicle, a black Honda Pilot, according to an investigative source.

    Nicodemo spent the holidays in jail last year and will be there again this year, setting up the possibility that he and Galati might share some eggnog, or whatever it is that they serve at CFCF during this festive season.

    He is scheduled for trial in May. A hearing to suppress evidence in his case could be the key to his future. If that hearing goes against him, "he's buried" said an investigative source familiar with the case.

    Galati's situation is just as problematic. If the hitmen he allegedly hired are now cooperating, the case against him could be insurmountable.

    "It's bad," said one person familiar with the charges.

    George Anastasia can be contacted at George@bigtrial.net.

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     By George Anastasia
    For Bigtrial.net

    The racketeering conspiracy retrial of mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and his nephew and co-defendant George Borgesi was temporarily derailed this afternoon by a Philadelphia Daily News story about mob associate Ron Galati.

    Meanwhile speculation mounted that the South Philadelphia auto-body shop operator and mob associate may be considering cooperating with authorities.

    Galati, 63, abruptly replaced Joseph Santaguida as his attorney today with Anthony Voci, a criminal defense attorney and former Assistant District Attorney. Santaguida said he was informed of the change in a telephone conversation with Galati's son this afternoon. Santaguida had met with Galati at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility this morning.

    "He didn't say anything (about changing attorneys)," Santaguida said. "Then I heard from his son."

    Santaguida said he wouldn't speculate about the change. Galati is scheduled for a bail hearing on Monday. Several observers say that if he is granted bail -- which was considered unlikely at the time of his arrest -- it could be a sign that he has cut a deal with the District Attorney's Office or is in the process of doing so.

    Voci, who left the DA's Office in 2006, said that "any suggestion that my client is contemplating cooperating is absolutely not true." He said he is focused on the bail issue and getting his client home for the holidays.
    "The charges are bailable offenses and we look forward to our day in court Monday morning," Voci said.

    The impact on the Ligambi trial was temporary, but the Galati situation has added another twist to the ongoing saga of the mob boss and his co-defendant nephew. Both have been identified as friends of Galati's. Borgesi, according to testimony, has also been involved in scams run from the auto-body shop.

    The Daily News article published this morning included a blaring front page headline that labeled Galati a "Wrecketeer." The piece, by William Bender, raised questions about how Galati, who was convicted of insurance fraud and racketeering in 1995, was able to obtain a contract to repair cars for the Philadelphia Police Department.

    The article said that Galati's auto-body shop was awarded a city contract in 2011 that runs through June 2014. Last year he was paid over $400,000 for repair work for the Police Department, according to the story which also detailed Galati's mob associations to Borgesi and former mob boss Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino. (See Bigtrial December 17).

    Galati was arrested Saturday and charged with attempted murder, solicitation of murder and witness intimidation for allegedly hiring hitmen to kill three different individuals who have testified against him in an ongoing grand jury investigation into insurance fraud.

    The targets allegedly included the boyfriend of Galati's grown daughter. The victim was shot outside his Atlantic City home on Nov. 30 , but survived. Two gunmen, both Philadelphians, were arrested within minutes of the shooting and both, according to the Daily News, are now cooperating.

    Members of the Ligambi jury panel were privately questioned by Judge Eduardo Robreno after defense attorneys, at the lunch break today, raised questions about whether exposure to the article could have tainted the panel.

    The trial resumed around 2:40 p.m. after an hour-long delay. Apparently none of the jurors had seen or heard about the Galati piece.

    "No one saw or read anything," said Christopher Warren, Borgesi's attorney, as he emerged from the judge's chambers prior to the start of the afternoon session.

    Robreno made no mention of the issue as he called the trial back into session.

    Despite the delay, Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Labor, the lead prosecutor in the case, said the government hopes to complete its presentation of witnesses and evidence by Friday. With a weeklong recess for the Christmas holiday, the trial would then resume on Dec. 30 with the defense calling its first witnesses.

    Closing arguments and jury deliberation are likely the first or second full week in January.

    Galati's situation, meanwhile, continues to cast a shadow over the trial. The wannabe wiseguy, according to people who know him, has said he does not want to go back to jail. Galati was sentenced to 37 months in 1995 after a federal jury convicted him of racketeering and fraud charges. In that case, he was found not guilty of threatening to kill a postal inspector who was part of an insurance fraud task force targeting him.

    The current insurance fraud case is apparently built around the same kind of accusations that landed him in jail eight years ago. The murder threats and the hiring of hitmen, if proven, add a different dynamic to the case and bring substantially stiffer penalties if there is a conviction.

    Galati's dealings with members of the South Philadelphia underworld and any role he may have played in an infamous shooting during the Stanfa-Merlino war in the 1990s could be information around which he could negotiate a deal.

    Galati was targeted for death by mob boss John Stanfa because Stanfa believed it was Galati who aided the Merlino faction by cutting portholes into the side of a stolen van that was used in an ambush of Stanfa on the Schuylkill Express in August 1993. The shooting, in the midst of mid-morning rush hour traffic, resulted in Stanfa's son Joseph being wounded.

    No one has ever been convicted for that crime. And while the statute of limitations has expired on the shooting itself, the act could be part of a broader racketeering case should federal prosecutors opt to go in that direction.

    George Anastasia can be contacted at George@bigtrial.net.

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    Jacobs
    By George Anastasia
    For Bigtrial.net

    The question went to the heart of the case against mob boss Joe Ligambi.

    After verbally sparring with an FBI undercover agent over a $25,000 cash payment by Anthony Staino that was either a loanshark transaction or an investment in an illegal (and ficticious) money-laundering scheme set up by the FBI, Edwin Jacobs Jr. asked, "What does Joe Ligambi have to do with that?"

    That's the question, applied on several different levels, that Jacobs hopes the jury in the racketeering conspiracy retrial of Ligambi and his nephew George Borgesi takes with it when deliberations begin sometime next month.

    Absent a smoking gun (literally and figuratively), the prosecution has built the racketeering conspiracy charge against Ligambi around the criminal activities of other mobsters. Some examples  -- a sports betting operation run by Gary Battaglini for mob leader Steven Mazzone; the loansharking/extortion gambit for which Staino was convicted in the first trial earlier this year, and the operation of a video poker machine company (JMA) by Staino.

    The prosecution says they support the conspiracy charge; that Ligambi as mob boss approved of and benefitted from the crimes committed by his underlings. The defense says the evidence, weak and circumstantial, does not tie Ligambi, 74, to the allegations.

    The only thing that really matters is what the jury thinks. And the anonymously chosen panel probably won't get to debate those points until sometime next month.

    The prosecution is expected to conclude its presentation of witnesses and evidence when the trial resumes on Dec. 30 after a one-week break for the Christmas holiday. At that point, the defense will begin calling its witnesses.

    The government has also used secretly recorded conversations, some dating back more than 10 years, to support the charge that Ligambi sat at the top of the Philadlelphia crime family.

    There was the four-hour lunch meeting at LaGriglia, the North Jersey restaurant, in May 2010 in which Ligambi and three Philadelphia mobsters broke bread with leaders of the Gambino crime family. One of the Gambino soldiers, however, was cooperating and wearing a body wire.

    There were tapes of Gary Battaglini discussing bookmaking and loansharking with a cooperating witness in 2002 and, on one tape, telling the cooperator that part of the payment he made each month was kicked up to Ligambi.

    And there was Staino, on tape with undercover FBI agent David Sebatiani -- posing as a hustler and financial wheeler-dealer named Dino. Staino boasted about his ties to the mob, describing himself as the "CFO" and a member of the "board of directors" of the crime family.

    While more focused than its prosecution in the first trial, the government's case against Ligambi is still largely circumstantial, a fact that Jacobs has alluded to again and again during the six-week trial. Despite an investigation that extended from 1999 to 2012, Ligambi's voice is seldom heard on tape.

    And when it is, the mob boss's comments are often innocuous and open to various benign interpretations.

    Frequently sarcastic and certainly profane, Ligambi largely kept his own counsel. Even at the LaGriglia meeting, his comments were less than incriminating. He joked about the father of an alleged member of a rival mob faction coming to his door after being told by the FBI that Ligambi planned to kill his son.

    "I said, `What the fuck you talking about?'" Ligambi said, recounting the encounter which occurred on his South Philadelphia doorstep. "`Don't ever come around this house again. I don't know what you're talking about.' I mean, that's, that's the kind of nuts you're dealing with."

    At another point he told a story about a mob associate who was so broke "the guy was selling cakes out of the trunk of his car." Ligambi also drew a laugh with a comment about the associate's girlfriend whom he described as "the broken down broad he was going out with in Florida."

    He referred to Ralph Natale, a mob boss who had become a government witness, as "that rat motherfucker." And drew more laughter when he told the story about a phone call that came to his home from a North Jersey mobster who had gotten Ligambi's number from Rita Merlino, Skinny Joey's mother.

    "It was Joey's mother," he said. "I told her, what're you giving this guy my number for? What the hell's the matter with you?"

    But there are other comments that support the government's position, including an introduction made by Joseph "Scoops" Licata at the opening of the LaGriglia meeting. Introducing Ligambi to the New York mobsters, Licata said, "Our acting boss, Joe Ligambi, Philadelphia."

    With the government's case all but completed, it's clear that it won't be Ligambi's words, but the words of others, that will determine his fate.

    The same is true for Borgesi.

    The case against the volatile 50-year-old mobster is built almost entirely around the testimony of two mob associates who became government witnesses.

    If the jury believes the story Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello and Anthony Aponick told from the witness stand, Borgesi was running a mob bookmaking and loansharking operation from prison where he was serving a 14-year sentence for a 2001 racketeering conviction.

    Borgesi's lawyer, Christopher Warren, has attacked the credibility and motivation of both witnesses, claiming they implicated Borgesi with lies and half-truths, presenting a story that curries favor with the government and gets them out from under their own criminal problems.

    Several defense witnesses who are expected to be called after the Christmas break will offer testimony to back up that claim.

    Who do you trust?

    Who do you believe?

    Reasonable doubt?

    Those are the questions that Warren wants the jury to consider.

    Both defendants have been in this situation before.

    In the first trial, which ended in February, Borgesi beat 13 of the 14 counts he faced and Ligambi was acquitted on five of nine charges. But the jury hung on the other counts, leading to the retrial that began in November.

    The jury in the first trial appeared to reject Monacello's testimony (Aponick was not called as a witness in that case) finding Borgesi not guilty of specific loansharking and sports betting charges but inexplicably hanging on the overarching racketeering conspiracy charge.

    The jury hung on that same count against Ligambi as well as on two gambling counts and on a witness tampering count which are also part of the ongoing trial. (Overall, after three weeks of rambling deliberations, the jury in the first trial delivered not guilty verdicts on 46 charges, hung on 11 others and delivered just five guilty verdicts. Four of the seven defendants in that case, however, are now serving lengthy jail terms. One, Licata, was acquitted, and Ligambi and Borgesi are still fighting.)

    With its convoluted verdict, the jury in the first trial apparently couldn't answer the key question posed by Jacobs earlier this week.

    "What does Joe Ligambi have to do with that?"

    We're not sure, the jury verdict seemed to say. Or, more to the point, we can't agree.

    But this is a different jury. And it has heard a more focused government case. How it answers that question will determine Ligambi's fate. And what it thinks of Monacello and Aponick will go a long way toward determining Borgesi's future.

    George Anastasia can be contacted at George@bigtrial.net.

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    By Ralph Cipriano
    for Bigtrial.net

    The Superior Court of Pennsylvania today reversed the landmark conviction of Msgr. William J. Lynn on one count of endangering the welfare of a child.

    The court said the "plain language" of the state's 1972 child endangerment law required that Lynn had to be "a supervisor of an endangered child victim" in order to be convicted of the third-degree felony of endangering the welfare of a child. Lynn, however, never even met Billy Doe, the former 10-year-old altar boy who was the alleged victim in the case.

    In a unanimous 43-page opinion by a panel of three judges, the Superior Court said Judge M. Teresa Sarmina's decision to allow the conviction of Lynn under the state's original child endangerment law was "fundamentally flawed."

    "It's just absolutely wonderful," said Thomas A. Bergstrom, Lynn's defense lawyer. "This whole prosecution was totally dishonest from day one," Bergstrom said of District Attorney Seth Williams and his staff. "They had to know that that statute didn't apply to Lynn. And their attempt to justify it just doesn't wash."

    "The tragedy of this is Lynn should have never been prosecuted," Bergstrom said. "He's been sitting in jail 18 months for a crime he couldn't possibly commit as a matter of law."


    "Now, we're working on getting him [Lynn] out of jail," Bergstrom said. "We're looking for a judge to vacate the sentence. The warden needs more than just our assurances" to let the monsignor out of jail.

    Msgr. Lynn, 62, is now serving a 3 to 6 year prison term after his June 22, 2012 conviction on one count of endangering the welfare of a child, namely Billy Doe.

    Lynn's defense lawyers have long argued that the state's original child endangerment law didn't apply to the monsignor, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's former secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004. Despite the plain language of the law, however, and a 2005 grand jury report that specifically said the law didn't apply to Lynn, it's an argument that fell on deaf ears until today.

    "This was the defense position from day one," said Alan J. Tauber, a member of Lynn's defense team. "It's a shame that Msgr. Lynn had to spend even a day in jail, much less a year and a half, before the defense argument was vindicated."

    "This is a triumph for the rule of law," Tauber said. "It's a complete rejection of the district attorney's application of the law."

    District Attorney Seth Williams, who does not talk to this blog, told Maryclaire Dale of the Associated Press that he strongly disagreed with the decision, and would most likely be appealing it.

    For more than a year, Williams has stonewalled all questions regarding his self-described "historic" prosecution of the monsignor, three priests and a Catholic school teacher. Lynn was the first Catholic administrator in the country to be sent to jail for the sexual sins of the clergy, even though he never laid a hand on any child. His crime was not properly supervising abuser priests in the archdiocese, so that they wouldn't harm any more children.

    On the eve of Lynn's trial, one accused priest, Father Edward V. Avery, implicated Lynn as an accomplice and pleaded guilty to sex abuse in order to receive a lesser sentence, but later recanted. At a second archdiocese trial that concluded Jan. 30th, another priest, Father Charles Engelhardt, and a school teacher, Bernard Avery, were convicted of sex abuse.

    D.A. Williams' historic prosecution of the local Catholic archdiocese, however, was based on a faulty interpretation of the state child endangerment law as well as the dubious testimony of Billy Doe, the D.A.'s star witness.

    Billy Doe is a former heroin junkie and thief who's been arrested six times, including one bust for possession with intent to distribute 56 bags of heroin. The D.A.'s star witness has been in and out of 23 drug rehabs; he also told authorities an unbelievable and constantly changing story.

    Even people inside the D.A.'s office doubted Doe's credibility, but D.A. Williams said damn the torpedoes, let's go ahead with the case. D.A. Williams also presided over a fatally-flawed 2011 grand jury report that contained more than 20 factual errors that have never been corrected.

    That grand jury report was based on a compromised investigation that rolled out the red carpet for the alleged victim, the son of a Philadelphia police sergeant. The D.A. waited two years before finally getting around to investigating any of Billy Doe's allegations. By that time, the defendants had been indicted and arrested, and tarred and feathered by the media, which trumpeted that faulty grand jury report as gospel.

    When the D.A. finally investigated those allegations, what did he find? That nearly all the evidence in the case gathered by the district attorney's own detectives, including meticulous calendars kept by the alleged victim's own mother, contradicted nearly every aspect of Billy Doe's improbable story.

    Now that Lynn's conviction has been reversed, the next question is whether Lynn gets out of jail.

    "The short answer is he probably will get out but it may take a bail motion to get that accomplished," Tauber said. Before the Superior Court can free Lynn, Tauber said, the court will have to listen to any further appeal motions from the district attorney's office.

    And although the law on child endangerment is clear, D.A. Williams probably isn't done grandstanding.

    The state's 1972 child endangerment law says: "A parent, guardian or other person supervising the welfare of a child under 18 years of age commits a misdemeanor of the second degree if he knowingly endangers the welfare of a child by violating a duty of care, protection or support."

    For nearly 40 years in Pennsylvania, the law was applied to an adult who had a relationship with a child, such as a parent, guardian or teacher who "knowingly endangers the welfare of a child." Much of the Superior Court opinion reviews the appeal court's own previous rulings upholding those standards.

    In 2005, then-District Attorney Lynne Abraham and a grand jury concluded that the 1972 child endangerment law did not apply to Msgr. Lynn, Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua, or any other high-ranking official of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The grand jury issued a report that said although it would like to, it could not legally indict Lynn or Bevilacqua for the crime of endangering the welfare of a child:

    "As defined under the law," the 2005 grand jury wrote, in remarks quoted today by the Superior Court, "the offense of endangering the welfare of children is too narrow to support a successful prosecution of the decision-makers who were running the Archdiocese. The [1972 child endangerment] statute confines its coverage to parents, guardians, or other persons 'supervising the welfare of a child.' High-level Archdiocesan officials, however, were far removed from any direct contact with children."

    In 2011, however, a new politically ambitious district attorney, Seth Williams, and another grand jury looked at the same 1972 child endangerment law and concluded that it did apply, not only to Msgr. Lynn, but also to Fathers Edward V. Avery, James J. Brennan and Charles Engelhardt, as well as a lay teacher, Bernard Shero. The grand jury indicted the four priests and the teacher, and charged them with endangering the welfare of a child, along with other offenses.

    Avery, Engelhardt and Shero are currently in jail as a result of Billy Doe's testimony and the D.A.'s historic prosecution. Father Brennan, who was accused by another victim, was acquitted on a hung jury, but is scheduled to be retried next year.

    The Superior Court opinion pointed out that two years after he was appointed as the archdiocese's secretary for clergy, in 1994, Lynn conducted "a comprehensive review of the priests within the archdiocese," and "identified 35 priests who had been previously accused of sexual misconduct against minors."

    Lynn's list of 35 priests covered three categories: pedophiles, priests guilty of sexual conduct with minors, and priests accused of sexual misconduct with minors with no conclusive evidence.

    "The first name that appeared under the heading 'guilty of sexual conduct with minors' was that of Rev. Edward V. Avery," the Superior Court opinion noted.

    Lynn's list of 35 priests was later ordered shredded by the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua. A copy, however, was found years later in a locked safe at archdiocese headquarters.

    After the 2005 grand jury report came out, former District Attorney Abraham launched a state-wide crusade to amend the child endangerment law to include supervisors such as Lynn.

    The amended law, which took effect in 2007, applies not only to "a parent, guardian or other person supervising the welfare of a child under 18 years of age," but also to "a person that employs or supervises such a person." 

    Bergstrom argued to the Superior Court, however, that Lynn was charged ex post facto," or after the fact, under the standards of the 2007 law that was amended to include supervisors.

    "Lynn never supervised the child," Bergstrom told the appellate judges during oral arguments made last September. Instead, Lynn supervised  Father Avery, who pleaded guilty to raping Billy Doe.

    The alleged rape of Billy Doe took place during the 1998-99 school year, but was not reported to the archdiocese until 2009. 

    "He [Msgr. Lynn] had no knowledge of it," Bergstrom said, referring to the alleged rape.

    The Superior Court agreed. The court ruled that Lynn "did not know or know of" Billy Doe, and "was not sufficiently aware of Avery's supervision of" Billy Doe, "nor did he have any specific information that Avery intended or was preparing to molest [Billy Doe] or any other child at St. Jerome's," where the alleged crime occurred.

    The Superior Court, in an opinion written by President Judge John T. Bender, said Lynn wasn't blameless when it came to looking out for the welfare of children.

    "We cannot dispute that the Commonwealth presented more than adequate evidence to sufficiently demonstrate that [Lynn] prioritized the Archdiocese's reputation over the safety of potential victims of sexually abusive priests and, by inference, that the same prioritization dominated [Lynn's] handling of Avery," the Superior Court opinion states.

    "Nevertheless, we do not believe such a showing is sufficient to demonstrate intent to promote or facilitate an EWOC offense," the Superior Court opinion stated. "The question of whether [Lynn's] priorities were more with the reputation of the church, or, instead, with the victims of sexual abuse at the hands of Archdiocese priests, is not at issue in this case. The relevant question is whether there was sufficient evidence to demonstrate [Lynn] intended to promote or facilitate Avery's endangerment of [Billy Doe] and other children at St. Jerome's."

    And, the Superior Court concluded, Judge Sarmina was wrong when she concluded there was sufficient evidence to convict Lynn.

    "In sum, the evidence was insufficient to demonstrate that [Msgr. Lynn] acted with the 'intent of promoting or facilitating" an offense of endangering the welfare of a child, the Superior Court opinion states.

    "Having determined that the evidence was not sufficient to support [Msgr. Lynn's] conviction for EWOC [endangering the welfare of a child] either as a principal [actor] or an accomplice, we are compelled to reverse [Msgr. Lynn's] judgment of sentence," the opinion said. "And, as there are no other offenses for which he [Msgr. Lynn ]was convicted in this cased, [Msgr. Lynn] is ordered discharged forthwith."

    The entire 43-page Superior Court opinion can be read here.

    0 0


    By Ralph Cipriano
    for Bigtrial.net

    The state Superior Court has reversed the conviction of Msgr. William J. Lynn, saying he never should have been charged in the first place with the crime of endangering the welfare of a child.

    But whether Lynn gets out of jail is up to Judge M. Teresa Sarmina, the trial court judge who put Lynn away, and whose prior rulings in the case have been described by a panel of three Superior Court judges as "fundamentally flawed."

    At 10 a.m. Monday, Judge Sarmina will convene a bail hearing to determine whether Msgr. Lynn gets out of jail. The hearing will be held in Courtroom 507 of the Criminal Justice Center. Several members of District Attorney Seth Williams' office are expected to attend, and argue that the monsignor deserves to stay in jail for months or years while the D.A. appeals the Superior Court opinion.

    For Msgr. Lynn's lawyer, Thomas A. Bergstrom, this doesn't make much sense.

    "The Superior Court has said he [Lynn] should be discharged forthwith, so I don’t think that requires any interpretation," Bergstrom said. "Seems to me she [Judge Sarmina] has to do exactly what they’ve ordered," Bergstrom said, referring to the panel of three Superior Court judges that reversed Lynn's conviction.


    In the past, however, Judge Sarmina, has not exactly been impartial, or merciful, when it comes to Msgr. Lynn.

    Sarmina is the trial court judge who allowed 21 supplemental cases of sex abuse to be admitted as evidence against Lynn, to show a pattern of conduct in the archdiocese of Philadelphia. The cases dated back to 1948, three years before the 62-year-old monsignor was born.

    Think that could prejudice a jury? Lynn's defense lawyers did, and so they argued the issue on appeal, but it was never addressed by the Superior Court.

    Sarmina presided over a ridiculously slanted show trial of Lynn. She made so many rulings in favor of the district attorney that I wrote that she was "often mistaken for a member of the prosecution team."

    Judge Sarmina allowed the lead prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington, a fire and brimstone specialist, to have free reign. Blessington called Lynn a liar 14 times in one hour; he also attacked Lynn's lawyers as liars and freely insulted them, seemingly to pick a street fight. None of that conduct, however, ever seemed to upset Judge Sarmina, who was too busy slapping down defense lawyers.

    When Lynn was convicted, and his supporters and family members were crying in the courtroom, it was Judge Sarmina who ordered Lynn to be immediately taken into custody. The judge decided that Lynn was too much of a flight risk to be granted bail pending appeal, because, she said, he might try to flee to the Vatican.

    That prompted Lynn to say, The Vatican? The archdiocese won't even return my phone calls.

    Judge Sarmina gave Lynn a sentence of three to six years in jail, which was actually a bit of a break since he was facing a prison term of 3 1/2 to 7 years. But she blasted Lynn at sentencing, saying he had turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the suffering of victims of sex abuse.

    "You knew full well what was right, Msgr. Lynn, but you chose wrong," she told Lynn. As secretary for clergy for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia from 1992 to 2004, Sarmina said, Lynn had displayed insensitivity to victims. He was either promising to do something, and doing nothing, the judge said, or he was doing his best to "callously shield the priests."

    As a consequence, the judge said, Lynn allowed "monsters in clerical garb" to "destroy the souls of children" in "the most terrible way."

    After she put him away, Judge Sarmina held up Lynn's appeal by taking nearly eight months to file a document known as an opinion in support of order, or a 1925 (a) opinion that required the judge to respond to appeal issues raised by Lynn's defense lawyers. 

    Judge Sarmina was supposed to file her opinion within 60 days. The Superior Court eventually ordered Sarmina to file the document forthwith; they also allowed Lynn's defense team to proceed with an appeal in the absence of Judge Sarmina's opinion.

    So you can't blame Lynn's defense lawyers for being cautious Monday when they return to Judge Sarmina's kangaroo court.

    In a bail motion filed Dec. 26th, the same day the Superior Court reversed Lynn's conviction, defense lawyers Bergstrom and Allison Khaskelis argued that "as of Dec. 26, 2013, Msgr. Lynn has been incarcerated at SCI Waymart for more than 18 months."

    "On Dec. 26, 2013, in a unanimous opinion authored by President Judge John T. Bender, the Superior Court reversed [Lynn's] conviction on the merits and ordered him discharged absolutely and forthwith," the defense lawyers wrote. "Pursuant to the opinion of the Superior Court, Msgr. Lynn now seeks an order from the trial court vacating his judgement of sentence and his immediate release on bail."

    "In light of the unequivocal language of the Superior Court opinion, as well as the amount of time Msgr. Lynn has already served at SCI Waymart, justice required that this Court take immediate action in this case," the defense lawyers wrote Judge Sarmina.

    Despite their victory in the appeal court, Lynn's defense lawyers will face a battle in Courtroom 507.

    A spokeswoman for Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams told Allison Steele of The Philadelphia Inquirer that prosecutors will appeal the Superior Court's ruling and ask that Lynn remain in prison while the appeal is being considered.

    "Since we are seeking further review, the appeal is not over and probably won't be over for many months or years," said spokesperson Tasha Jamerson. "The decades-long inaction of Lynn put countless children in harm's way and he is where he belongs -- behind bars," Jamerson told the Inquirer. "We will be fighting bail of any kind for this defendant."

    So now we know where the local district attorney stands on the rule of law.

    We have what the Superior Court described as the "plain language" of the state's original child endangerment law that says under that law, Lynn should never have been charged.

    We have a 2005 grand jury report under Seth Williams' predecessor, District Attorney Lynne Abraham, that says that the state's original child endangerment law didn't apply to Msgr. Lynn, and he couldn't be charged.

    We have a  unanimous panel of Superior Court judges that reversed Lynn's conviction, saying the child endangerment law didn't apply to Lynn, and that in essence, he never should have been charged.

    As Lynn's lawyers have said, their client's been sitting in jail for more than 18 months. serving time for a crime that under the law, he couldn't possibly have committed.

    Msgr. Lynn continues to serve as a scapegoat for the collective sins of the Catholic Church in Philadelphia.

    Two dead archbishops who gave the orders and orchestrated the cover-up were never charged with any crime, and are dead.

    Two bishops who presided over the shredding of a list of 35 predator priests drawn up by Msgr. Lynn have never even been questioned.

    Most of the 60 "monsters in clerical garb" are either free or dead.

    Lynn remains in jail.

    Standing in the way of letting him out we have a biased judge who already screwed up the case. And a unscrupulous district attorney determined to continue the rule of mob law.

    Justice in Philadelphia; what a disgrace.

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    By Ralph Cipriano
    for Bigtrial.net

    Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams is asking Judge M. Teresa Sarmina to deny bail to Msgr. William J. Lynn, on the basis that Lynn is a "flight risk" who may seek refuge in the Vatican.

    A panel of three Superior Court judges on Dec. 26th reversed Lynn's "historic" 2012 conviction on one count of endangering the welfare of a child, and said that the monsignor should be "discharged forthwith." But the D.A. isn't going along with the higher court's opinion at a bail hearing scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday before Judge Sarmina.

    Lynn was labeled a "flight risk" in a six-page answer to a petition for a bail hearing filed by Hugh J. Burns, Jr., chief of the D.A.'s appeals unit. The monsignor is a "high ranking official [in] a worldwide organization, the Roman Catholic Church, that has both diplomatic and non-diplomatic facilities in many nations," Burns wrote.

    The evidence presented at Lynn's trial "established that numerous individuals within that organization are closely associated with [Lynn] and may be willing to improperly assist him out of personal interest without proper sanction," Burns wrote.

    In response, Lynn's lawyer, Thomas A. Bergstrom, said, "The whole thing is idiotic. These guys [in the district attorney's office] are the most unprofessional lawyers I've ever run across in my life. They simply ignore the law and they're gonna continue to do it. But that [Superior Court] order applies to them as well."

    Contrary to what the D.A. is peddling, Bergstrom said, there is no evidence to support the contention that Lynn might flee to the Vatican.

    "It's very difficult to respond to an idiotic statement like that when it's not based on fact, it's just fiction," Bergstrom said. "It's almost delusional."

    Bergstrom said the last time this issue was raised in Judge Sarmina's court, when Lynn was denied bail after his 2012 conviction, Lynn told him, the Vatican? I can't even get the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to take my calls.

    In his six-page brief, however, D.A. Burns outlines a possible international Catholic conspiracy to assist Lynn if he becomes an international fugitive en route to Vatican City.

    "The Holy See maintains diplomatic relations with 179 sovereign states, including every nation in the Western hemisphere, Europe, India, and all but three countries in Africa," Burns wrote. The D.A.'s office in the past has consulted with William Nardini, a Department of Justice attache to Rome, and "Mr. Nardini confirmed that the Vatican City State has no extradition treaty with the United States," Burns wrote.

    In a footnote, Burns argues that officials within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia "are sympathetic to defendant, and possibly disposed to assist him, without regard to his conduct endangering children."

    If Lynn becomes an international fugitive and decides to flee to another country, Burns said, the principle of "dual criminality" may come into play. Under dual criminality, Burns warned Judge Sarmina, "a fugitive may be extradited only if the acts constituting the offense are criminal in both the jurisdiction in which the fugitive is found and the jurisdiction to which the fugitive's extradition is sought."

    "Thus, it might prove to be the case that defendant could be extradited from another country only if that country has an extradition treaty, and it punishes the conduct of endangering the welfare of children as a felony as does Pennsylvania," Burns wrote.

    Burns argues that letting Lynn out of jail now would be "premature" because the appeal process has not been exhausted. Translation: the district attorney may not be through playing politics with the case, even though a higher court has said the jig is up.

    The unanimous Superior Court opinion didn't have much impact on the D.A.'s office, where Seth Williams' self-described "historic" prosecution of the church depends on the monsignor remaining in jail  as a scapegoat for D.A. Williams' bottom-feeder style of justice.

    In Seth Williams' world, archbishops and bishops get a pass, and the guy who carried out their orders gets prosecuted for the collective sins of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia over the past 40 years.

    The unanimous opinion of the three Superior Court judges to reverse Lynn's conviction "is not a proper basis for granting bail pending appeal," Burns wrote. If the order of the Superior Court was "instantaneously effective," Burns said, Lynn "would not require bail at all and the Superior Court would not have referred this request" to Judge Sarmina.

    While the lawyers slug it out, Lynn remains a prisoner at SCI-Waymart in Wayne, about 2 1/2 hours north of Philadelphia. In anticipation of his release, prison officials had discussed transferring Lynn to the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility on State Road in Philadelphia, but Lynn's lawyers objected, because of concerns for their client's safety.

    So it appears likely that officials at SCI-Waymart will continue to hold Msgr. Lynn until Judge Sarmina decides on whether to grant bail.

    If Sarmina decides not to release Lynn, Bergstrom said he would "cross the street" after the bail hearing, and immediately file a brief with the Superior Court, seeking to have Lynn released.


    0 0

    By Ralph Cipriano
    D.A. compares Msgr. Lynn to this guy
    for Bigtrial.net

    After declaring "I am fallible," the Hon. M. Teresa Sarmina today announced she would reverse course, and grant bail to Msgr. William J. Lynn.

    It was Judge Sarmina who denied Lynn bail twice in 2012, before and after she put him away for three to six years after a jury found the monsignor guilty of one count of endangering the welfare of a child.

    A three-judge panel of Superior Court appeal judges on Dec. 26th reversed that conviction, saying the "plain language" of the state's original child endangerment statute plainly didn't apply to Lynn. It only applied to adults who had direct contact with children, such as parents, teachers and guardians, the Superior Court judges said. It did not apply to the monsignor, who never even met the alleged victim in his case. [The state's original 1972 child endangerment law was amended in 2007 to include supervisors such as Lynn.]

    The Superior Court judges went one step further, labeling Sarmina's handling of the law in the Lynn case as "fundamentally flawed." So no wonder Judge Sarmina looked like she was sucking on lemons today when she read a legal soliloquy from the bench that basically amounted to: I may have screwed up the case, but I really don't think so; I'm still the trial judge and you're not; and I bet I'm going to be upheld when the state Supreme Court takes this up on appeal.

    Meanwhile, not to be upstaged, a representative for District Attorney Seth Williams managed to top their previous high standard for rhetorical excess. Only a few days after filing a motion that suggested the hapless monsignor might be masterminding an international plot to flee the country and escape to the Vatican, Hugh J. Burns, Jr., chief of the D.A.'s appeals unit, topped that whopper by comparing Lynn's status as a flight risk to Ira Einhorn, AKA the Unicorn.

    For those of you too young to remember, Einhorn was the notorious killer hippie who, back in 1981, fled the country on the eve of his murder trial in Philadelphia.

    So the D.A. was comparing Lynn, the celibate priest and ultimate company man, to the free-loving, freewheeling hippie sociopath who clubbed his girlfriend to death and stuffed her mummified corpse into a steamer trunk he kept next to his bed for 18 months. Nice.

    Today's bail hearing/comedy act was a fitting capper to the show trial that was the Lynn case.

    It began shortly after 10 a.m. when Judge Sarmina pointed out that in the wake of the Superior Court opinion reversing the conviction of Lynn, the monsignor's defense lawyers tried to get the Superior Court to release Lynn directly, but were told they had to go back to Judge Sarmina's courtroom and ask for a bail hearing.

    As the trial court judge, Judge Sarmina reminded everyone, she alone had the discretion to decide Lynn's fate. Ah, but "what to do with that discretion," that was her dilemma, Judge Sarmina mused from the bench.

    Judge Sarmina mentioned that in the Superior Court opinion, her "application of the law" may have been brought into question.

    "I may have gotten it wrong," she conceded. "I am fallible."

    But then she opined that ultimately, she expected to "be upheld" when the case is taken up on appeal by the state Supreme Court.

    Sure enough, D.A. Burns stood up and announced that the D.A. was going to appeal the case to the state Supreme Court.

    From the bench, Judge Sarmina upbraided Lynn for not doing enough to protect victims from predator priests. She said as the archdiocese's secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004, Lynn "covered up many things."

    But what to do about that unanimous three-judge opinion from the Superior Court, Judge Sarmina pondered. If the "conviction is in question, is not the punishment in question as well?"

    Right on, Judge. That seemed to be what the Superior Court was saying when they reversed that conviction, and said that Lynn should be "discharged forthwith."

    Lynn's lawyer, Thomas A. Bergstrom, argued that bail shouldn't be any higher than the $50,000 originally set when Lynn was on trial in Judge Sarmina's courtroom. That amount of bail would require a 10 percent cash deposit of $5,000, Bergstrom said.

    Besides, Bergstrom kept saying, those Superior Court judges declared that Lynn should be "discharged forthwith."

    D.A. Burns stood up and argued that the Superior Court opinion Bergstrom was putting so much stock in was "subject to review," and that the judge should deny bail to Lynn.

    Bergstrom returned to the "strong language" of the Superior Court. He objected to suggestions by D.A. Burns that it could take up to 30 days to get Lynn out of jail.

    When the judge agreed it might take some time to arrange Lynn's release, Bergstrom got agitated.

    "Discharged forthwith," the defense lawyer repeated, reminding Judge Sarmina of the language of that Superior Court decision. "I think that's meaningful, but I'm not gonna argue about it."

    Bergstrom suggested the D.A.'s appeal to the state Supreme Court wasn't going anywhere, because, he said, the Lynn case was one of a kind. Lynn was the only supervisor ever to be charged under the state's original child endangerment law. That law has since been amended to include supervisors, so why would the state Supreme Court take up a case on appeal that only effects one person, Bergstrom argued.

    Upon questioning from the judge, Bergstrom conceded that he was only offering one lawyer's opinion. The judge reminded the defense lawyer that other lawyers might have different opinions.

    As if on cue, D.A. Burns promptly volunteered: "I don't think you can rule out that the Supreme Court might take it."

    Fifteen minutes into the hearing, Judge Sarmina announced she had made up her mind what she was going to do with her discretion as trial judge: she was going to grant bail pending an appeal to the Supreme Court. But before she would release Lynn, the judge said, she wanted the prisoner brought back to her courtroom.

    "I want him in front of me when I tell him what his conditions are ... conditions pending bail," she said. She said she was still concerned about the possibility that Lynn would "flee the jurisdiction."

    That prompted a discussion that shifted to the judge's chambers. When the principals came out, Bergstrom had heard enough suggestions that Lynn was about to flee the country.

    "It's fantastic," Bergstrom told the judge. "There's not a chance in the world he's gonna flee the jurisdiction. There's no evidence he would flee."

    "Why would he flee," Bergstrom asked. His conviction just got reversed. He's an innocent man. What's the worst thing that can happen to him? The state Supreme Court takes the case, Bergstrom said, and they reverse the reversal. So Lynn has to serve the rest of his sentence.

    He just did 18 months, a clearly exasperated Bergstrom told the judge. "He can do [another] 18 months standing on his head."

    When Judge Sarmina objected to Bergstrom's remarks, particularly that bit about Lynn standing on his head, the defense lawyer told the judge he was just trying to be reasonable. It's not reasonable to suggest that Lynn would flee the country, Bergstrom said. That's not based on reality, that's based on fantasy.

    The judge was annoyed. "You're willing to be reasonable," she said sarcastically. "That's so kind of you."

    Burns stood up and argued that sometimes, "fantasy may be reality." Then he brought up Ira Einhorn. Nobody thought he would flee either, Burns said. Like the Unicorn, Lynn might be harboring fugitive impulses.

    The judge set bail at $250,000, which would require a $25,000 deposit. It was five times the original amount. She ordered Lynn to turn in his passport.

    "I believe I'm gonna require electronic monitoring," she said, which means that Lynn will have to wear an ankle bracelet. The judge said she would also require Lynn to report to his parole officer in Philadelphia every week.

    "I'll get the passport," Bergstrom responded. "We'll post the bail. And I'll deal with the electronic monitor."

    Lynn will report to a parole officer wherever and whenever the judge says, Bergstrom said.

    "We'll learn to live with it," Bergstrom told the judge about her conditions for parole.

    After it was all over, Bergstrom, still recovering from open heart surgery a month ago, said his client would spend New Year's Eve in jail, and New Year's Day, but after that, he'd probably be out "within a week."

    The defense lawyer repeated to reporters his prediction that the D.A's appeal to the Supreme Court wouldn't go anywhere. "It's a fool's errand," he said, "because I think they'll lose."

    The question of what Lynn will do when he gets out of the slammer is still up in the air.

    "He's a priest in good standing," Bergstrom told reporters.

    Lynn would no doubt love to return to the position he held when he was indicted, pastor at St. Joseph's Church in Downingtown. Parishioners at St. Joe's brought their rosary beads to the courtroom when Lynn was on trial, to show their support. They also wrote letters to Judge Sarmina on Lynn's behalf, describing Lynn as a humble and caring shepherd available 24-7.

    But sending Lynn back to St. Joe's might bring some heat on the archdiocese. There's a lot of baggage that goes with being perceived as the disgraced Cardinal Bevilacqua's yes man. While Bergstrom was talking to reporters today, two protesters stood out there with placards that said, "No Bail For Lynn; He Bailed On Victims," and, "Bail Out Victims; Keep Lynn In Jail."

    When asked about Lynn's status, Kenneth A. Gavin, the archdiocese's director of communications, responded, "It's too early in this whole process to provide a definitive answer to that question."

    It's not even known if the archdiocese will spring for Lynn's $25,000 bail.

    "I don't know yet," Bergstrom said, when asked by reporters where the bail money was coming from.

    "Anybody want to kick in?" Bergstrom asked.

    0 0

    By Ralph Cipriano
    for Bigtrial.net

    "It's New Year's Eve,""Uncle Joe" Ligambi yelled at one of the feds. "What are you doing here? You should be getting ready for tonight's parties."

    For a guy stuck in jail on the holidays, the boss of the Philadelphia mob was in surprisingly good spirits today.

    The prosecution had wound up its case, and the defense was putting on its witnesses. They included a former car dealer who once sold Uncle Joe a Cadillac, and a gambling expert who tried to show that the people overheard on federal surveillance tapes were actually part of somebody else's bookmaking operation, and not Uncle Joe's.

    It was a half-day for the mob trial on New Year's Eve, as the judge and lawyers in the case knocked off early, but not before they talked about scheduling. It looks like the defense will wind up its case on Thursday by calling "Frankie The Fixer" DiGiacomo, a former government witness.

    At the first mob trial, DiGiacomo, a South Philly plumber and wannabe wise guy, sounded more like a defense witness last year when he described Uncle Joe and his co-defendants as "good people, great people." Frankie the Fixer also ripped fellow government witness "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello as somebody who "should have been dead a long time ago."

    Judge Eduardo Robreno said he expected closing statements on Monday and Tuesday, and then, after the judge delivers his charge on Tuesday afternoon, the case will go to the jury.

    Ligambi greeted the defense's first witness today, Patrick W. Ferraro, by telling him, "You look like a judge," and "I like that white on white shirt."

    Ferraro is the father of Alyson Borgesi, the wife of George Borgesi, Ligambi's nephew and co-defendant.

    Before court got started, Ligambi made small talk with the Ferraro, swapped jokes with the feds, and commiserated with his lawyer, Eddie Jacobs, about Jacobs' back problems.

    The veteran defense lawyer has a herniated disc. He seems in obvious pain as he hobbled around on a cane, and stood while court was in session. But a back operation will have to wait until the mob trial is over.

    Jacobs told Ligambi it was time to start interviewing surgeons. "I don't want to be walking around this in June," Jacobs told his client.

    When Ferraro took the witness stand, he described how the FBI showed up at his former car dealership in Delaware County about ten years ago, looking for records of sales to Ligambi, Borgesi and Monacello. Ferraro said he told his employees to give the feds whatever records they wanted.

    On cross-examination, Ferraro admitted he gave all three mobsters a discount. But hey, it was no big deal.

    "I give everybody a discount," Ferraro told the prosecutor. "I was the only Cadillac dealership in Delaware County. Everyone came to us."

    When defense lawyer Christopher Warren got another crack at Ferraro, he asked if there was anything crooked about those car deals a decade ago involving Ligambi, Borgesi and Monacello, he'd have probably heard about by now, right?

    Objection, said the prosecutor.

    Sustained, said the judge.

    The next defense witness was Donald Fredericks, a mustachioed former Pennsylvania state trooper and private eye who's an expert on sports betting. As part of his role as a defense expert, Fredericks told the jury that he listened to some 3,000 government surveillance tapes.

    Fredericks was asked to explain to the jury how a betting line works. He brought up Saturday night's playoff game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New Orleans Saints.

    Right now, the Eagles are favored by two points, Fredericks told the jury.

    "You want to bet on New Orleans? New Orleans already has two points," Fredericks explained.

    Fredericks was quizzed about several wiretapped conversations involving Damion Canalichio, a former mob enforcer who was sentenced in July at the last mob trial to 137 months in prison after he was convicted for racketeering and conspiracy.

    "I'm more into collections," Canalichio told an undercover FBI agent posing as a gambler on one surveillance tape, a transcript of which was displayed in court. "That's my thing."

    "You pay your fucking debts," Canalichio was overheard telling a delinquent bettor. "You understand?"

    The point seemed to be that Canalichio had said on another surveillance tape that "This is Stevie's money," referring to mobster Steve Mazzone, who's not charged in the case. And that any collecting Canalichio might have up to was not on behalf of Uncle Joe.

    During a break, Ligambi quizzed one of the feds about some other local bookmaking action.

    "You bet the Eagles?" Ligambi asked with a knowing smile about the home team's narrow two-point win last Sunday over the Cowboys.

    The Eagles were favored by 6 1/2.

    "It hurts," replied the fed.

    Meanwhile, Borgesi was talking about lunch.

    "The pizza," he said to Uncle Joe. "That's all I care about."

    The judge told the jury they might have to call in on an inclement weather hotline on Thursday to see if court will go on as scheduled, in the face of a forecast calling for snow.

    With that warning, and an admonition not to read any trial coverage in the media, the judge send the jury of 14 women and 2 men home for the holiday.

    "See you Thursday at our regular time, God willing," the judge said. "And Happy New Year."


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