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

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    By Ralph Cipriano
    for Bigtrial.net

    A week after a panel of Superior Court judges reversed his landmark conviction and ordered him to be "discharged forthwith," Msgr. William J. Lynn remains in jail.

    It's not known whether Lynn will be out by Sunday, his 63rd birthday. But on 12:30 p.m. Monday, the prisoner is scheduled to return to the courtroom of Judge M. Teresa Sarmina, for another ritualistic humiliation.

    "I want him in front of me when I tell him what his conditions are," Judge Sarmina warned ominously from the bench last week, regarding what she described as her "conditions pending bail." This is the same judge who presided over Lynn's now discredited show trial in 2012, a judge whose application of the law in that case was unanimously panned by a panel of three Superior Court judges as "fundamentally flawed."

    Sarmina isn't through with Lynn yet. Concerned about about the monsignor's possible flight to the Vatican, the judge has ordered the official scapegoat of the archdiocese prosecution to turn in his passport and put up $250,000 bail. She also wants the monsignor to wear an electronic ankle bracelet, and report on a weekly basis to a Philadelphia parole officer.


    Not to be outdone in theatrics, District Attorney Seth William threw a temper tantrum outside the Union League on New Year's Eve over Lynn's impending release.

    If nothing else, the judge and the district attorney have definitely put a damper on the monsignor's victory party.

    "She keeps throwing up roadblocks," Lynn's lawyer, Thomas A. Bergstrom, said of Judge Sarmina. "And he [District Attorney Williams] keeps pouring gasoline on the fire."

    And the media keeps letting both of them get away with it.

    On New Year's Eve, the district attorney teed off on the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for  posting a bail deposit of $25,000 to free Lynn.

    "It is disgusting that they would pay to free this man," Williams told reporters at what The Philadelphia Inquirer described as a "hastily called press conference." The archdiocese, Williams said, is conducting "business as usual" by "protecting their own." The church has closed churches and schools, the D.A. complained, but they have the money to bail out Lynn. As a Catholic and a former altar boy, Williams declared, "I am shocked and overwhelmed."

    In Bergstrom's view, Seth Williams has crossed a line here.

    "If he's going to criticize the archdiocese this way he might as well criticize the panel of Superior Court judges who studied the case and found his position in the case to be lacking in fact and in law," Bergstrom said of the D.A. "In my view the archdiocese all along supported Msgr. Lynn because they knew full well what the Superior Court found, that the [state's original child endangerment] law didn't apply to him."

    "Why shouldn't they [the archdiocese] post his bail," Bergstrom asked; "He [Msgr. Lynn] is innocent."

    In Bergstrom's view, Williams' conduct is unbecoming of his office and position as the city's top law enforcement officer.

    "All of a sudden he [Williams] is now judge, jury and executioner, and he's still railing about this man being guilty, and he's innocent," Begrstrom said of his client.

    Lynn has served more than 18 months at SCI-Waymart, some 2 1/2 hours north of Philadelphia. When the Superior Court issued its Dec. 26th opinion reversing Lynn's conviction, officials at the Waymart prison were ready to release Lynn and send him off to the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility on State Road in Philadelphia, in preparation for the prisoner to be "discharged forthwith."

    But Bergstrom objected, saying he didn't know if the monsignor would be safe at the local prison. Especially when, thanks to Judge Sarmina, it became obvious that Lynn's expected release was not going to happen right away.

    "We had to fight to keep him there," at Waymart, Bergstrom said. In the view of prison officials, Bergstrom said, Msgr. Lynn is a free man because of the Superior Court opinion reversing his conviction, and ordering him to be "discharged forthwith."

    "But she [Judge Sarmina] disputes that, saying he [Msgr. Lynn] is still under a sentence of the [trial] court," Bergstrom said. As far as Bergstrom is concerned, Judge Sarmina's application of the law continues to be "fundamentally flawed." But, Bergstrom said, he doesn't anticipate filing any challenges to Judge Sarmina's conditions of bail.

    "As long as he [Lynn] is comfortable and safe," Bergstrom said.

    [This morning, the Associated Press, quoting a state prison spokesman, said that Lynn had left the Waymart prison, and was being transported by the Philadelphia sheriff's department to a city jail, where he will be fitted with an electronic ankle bracelet. By the end of the day, Lynn was in custody  at Curran-Fromhold in Philadelphia, as news helicopters circled overhead.]

    I missed the D.A.'s so-called "press conference." I used to be on his email list, but he no longer invites me to his press conferences, or sends me alerts telling me what he's up to. He also doesn't answer any of my questions. This has been going on for more than a year. Why? Because I raised questions about his self-described and now discredited "historic" prosecution of the church.

    Williams doesn't want to answer any of those questions. He has no answers. What he does know how to do, however, is to keep inciting on behalf of mob rule. And the rest of the press corps continues to let him get away with it.

    Williams's latest diatribe is a puzzler on several fronts.

    The high amount of bail wasn't Lynn's fault. It was Judge Sarmina who set bail at $250,000. The archdiocese has already shelled out at least $1 million for Lynn's trial defense. Lynn is basically a pauper. Who did Williams think was going to post this kind of bail on his behalf? The ACLU?

    So all of the principal characters in this show trial continue to play on according to type.

    The judge still treats Lynn, who just got his conviction reversed, as a dangerous criminal, about to flee the country, and run off to Vatican.

    The district attorney is carrying on like Al Sharpton.

    And the media continues to give both of them a pass.

    The media, however, has an obligation in this case to set the record straight.

    They have trumpeted Seth William's 2011 grand jury report as gospel, the same grand jury report that has more than 20 factual mistakes in it. The same grand jury report that relied on a faulty interpretation of the law, as well as a thoroughly discredited and unreliable "victim" dubbed Billy Doe.

    It's a grand jury report that tarred and feathered Lynn and the rest of the defendants, while they and their lawyers were silenced, under years of judicial gag orders.

    Nobody did more tarring and feathering than The Philadelphia Inquirer, the same newspaper that uncritically reported the judge's recent draconian bail conditions, as well as Seth Williams's recent temper tantrum.

    A data base search of the Inquirer displays 160 stories that mention that 2011 grand jury report.

    For more than a year now, I have published stories on this blog, as well as in a long National Catholic Reporterpiece, that have drawn on formerly secret grand jury transcripts and police records to raise serious questions about the D.A.'s now-unraveling "historic" prosecution of the church.

    It's a local and national issue; its even an international issue. Officials at the Vatican have closely followed the Lynn case.

    As the city's paper of record, what has the Inquirer done about a controversy in their backyard concerning the church and a landmark legal case?

    They have willfully ignored it.

    It gets worse.

    When the Catholic League wanted to pay the Inquirer $58,000 to publish a two-page ad in that newspaper that would have raised questions about the D.A.'s historic prosecution, mainly through the reporting on this blog, what did the Inquirer do?

    They turned down the money; they refused to publish the ad.

    The Inquirer took a stand against the First Amendment.

     Meanwhile, they keep enabling Judge Sarmina and Seth Williams in their continued efforts to tar and feather a man that a higher court just said should never have been charged in the first place.

    Disgraceful.

    Ralph Cipriano can be reached at Ralph@bigtrial.net.

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    Frankie The Fixer [left] with Bent Finger Lou
    By George Anastasia
    For Bigtrial.net

    Frankie the Fixer changed his tune.

    And the music wasn't quite as sweet for the defense in the racketeering retrial of mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and his nephew, George Borgesi.

    A government informant whom the prosecution opted not to call this time, Frank DiGiacomo, 49, took the stand today as the final defense witness in the eight-week old trial that is expected to go to the jury next week.

    While DiGiacomo, an admitted con man, hustler and mob enforcer, helped the defense with his testimony in the first trial last year, his performance this morning was a mixed bag, not as pointedly hostile toward key government witness Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello and on occasion damaging to Ligambi and Borgesi.

    Last year, much to the prosecution's chagrin, DiGiacomo discredited Monacello and undermined much of his testimony. This time, while still labeling his former mob associate a "greedy," sneaky and dangerous individual, he emphasized that both he and Monacello worked for and reported to Borgesi and Ligambi.
    "I never called him boss," DiGiacomo said of his relationship to Monacello, a statement that was at odds with his testimony in the first trial.

    "That was my boss, right there," he added, pointing to the 74-year-old Ligambi seated at the defense table.

    DiGiacomo also testified that Monacello told him that the profits from a loansharking operation they were running for Borgesi would be split among the three of them. He said that Monacello told him that he, Monacello, "was handling" a lucrative sports betting and loansharking business "for Georgie" and that "all orders came from Joe."

    The decision to call DiGiacomo as a witness could backfire on the defense since his story in many ways supported the testimony of Monacello and Anthony Aponick, two other Borgesi associates who testified that Borgesi was running a gambling and loanshark business from behind bars.

    Borgesi, 50, was convicted in an unrelated racketeering case and sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2001.

    DiGiacomo began cooperating with the FBI and the Pennsylvania State Police in 2007. He wore a body wire and recorded dozens of conversations that were used to convict Monacello, 46, on state charges for which he was sentenced to less than two years.

    DiGiacomo said he was Monacello's associate and muscle from 1998 until Monacello's arrest in the state case in 2008. He described Monacello as a blowhard who often dropped Borgesi's name. But his testimony lacked the bite that it had in the first trial where he described Monacello as someone who had bragged that "This is my crew and I'm the boss."

    In that first trial, DiGiacomo also testified that Monacello relentlessly squeezed him for money. And he repeatedly contradicted other parts of Monacello's testimony. That left the government with two key witnesses who told decidedly different stories.

    Today it was Borgesi's lawyer, Christopher Warren, who had to deal with the inconsistencies. Warren, who called DiGiacomo as a witness, had to challenge DiGiacomo several times on the seeming contradictions between what he was saying on the stand and what he had said last year.

    Some examples:

    Today DiGiacomo said that Monacello went to visit Borgesi in prison about twice year. That's consistent with prison records and Monacello's testimony. Last year he said Monacello told him he visited Borgesi every other month, or about six times a year.

    In the first trial, DiGiacomo said he knew very little about money that Monacello was funneling to Borgesi through Borgesi's wife. This time he said he was required to kick in $200-a-month and that cash was given to Alyson Borgesi on a monthly basis.

    "Lou collected it," said DiGiacomo who told the jury this morning that he believed another friend, Sal Zangari, delivered the money. He said he knew nothing of Monacello's claim that he, Monacello, dropped an envelope of cash in the glove compartment of Alyson Borgesi's car, but insisted that cash was given to her as Borgesi's share in their illegal activities.

    Dressed in a brown suit, white shirt and bronze tie, DiGiacomo spent less than an hour on the stand. He said he has been relocated and is a candidate for the Witness Protection Program. He was questioned by Warren, but Ligambi's lawyer, Edwin Jacobs Jr., opted not to ask any questions.

    In the first trial, DiGiacomo described the mobsters he associated with as "good guys" who were fun to hang out with and he described himself as someone who had "betrayed" his friends by becoming a government informant.

     His story today was more matter-of-fact and lacked the poignancy and personal deprecation. He said he became a cooperator because he was deeply in debt to several mobsters and couldn't repay the money.

    Asked by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Han if he feared for his life, DiGiacomo responded, "Yes...There was no more options, no more choices."

    That response goes to one of the key issues in the prosecution case -- the position that the mob's reputation for violence, even when no violence was committed, was a prime factor in controlling the criminal underworld.

    DiGiacomo repeatedly told the jury that he worked in a crew being run by Monacello but controlled by Borgesi. And just as often, he described Ligambi as the boss. Those comments go to the heart of the racketeering conspiracy charge that both Ligambi and Borgesi face. They were never as clearly stated by DiGiacomo in the first trial.

    Monacello, 46, began cooperating after he was indicted with Ligambi, Borgesi and a dozen other defendants in May 2011. He has pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy charge and has twice testified that he hopes his cooperation will play a role in helping him receive a lighter sentence.

    The first trial, which ended in February, lead to a mixed and confusing verdict. Four defendants were found guilty of at least one charge, one defendant was acquitted and the jury hung on the principal charge against Ligambi and Borgesi, leading to the retrial.

    Judge Eduardo Robreno has scheduled closing arguments in the current case for Monday morning. They are expected to take about a day and a half. Robreno hopes to charge the jury on the law Tuesday afternoon. It was unclear if deliberations would begin then on Wednesday morning.

    Borgesi was acquitted of 13 of the 14 counts he faced in the first trial. The jury hung on the overarching racketeering conspiracy charge that is at the center of the retrial. Ligambi was found not guilty of five of nine counts and the jury hung on four others.
     
    In the retrial, the case against Borgesi appears to hinge entirely on whether the anonymously chosen jury panel believes the testimony of Monacello and Aponick. While DiGiacomo, as a government witness, went a long way toward discrediting Monacello in that first trial (Aponick was not called as a witness in that case), his testimony today fell far short of that. Ironically, as a government witness last year, DiGiacomo may have aided the defense. This time, as a defense witness, he may have helped prop up the prosecution's case.

    But until the jury comes back with its verdict, that is merely courtroom speculation.

    DiGiacomo conceded under questioning from Warren that pressure from Monacello, to whom he also owed money, was a factor in his decision to cooperate.

    "The greed got out of control," he said of Monacello.

    Then, pointing to the prosecution table, he added, "That's why I'm with these guys today."

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

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    By Ralph Cipriano
    for Bigtrial.net

    After more than 18 months in prison, Msgr. William J. Lynn is a free man.

    Shortly before 10 a.m. this morning, Lynn walked out of the Currann-Fromhold Correctional Facility on State Road in Northeast Philadelphia, where he was greeted by family members and some friends in collars.

    He doesn't look the same. In prison, Lynn lost some 80 pounds.

    "He looks good," said his lawyer, Thomas A. Bergstrom. "He was on the treadmill every day and [in prison] the food is not that great."

    Lynn was wearing an electronic ankle bracelet when he walked out of jail. On Monday at 12:30 a.m., he has to report to Courtroom 507 in the Criminal Justice Center, where Judge M. Teresa Sarmina will personally review her conditions for paroling Lynn.

    "He's prepared to go in Monday and tolerate whatever he has to tolerate," Bergstrom said. "He has no problem abiding by the court's rules."

    Lynn will remain on administrative leave with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, according to a letter issued today by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput.

    "As such," Chaput wrote, "he may not function publicly as a priest."

    The archbishop's decision to keep Lynn on administrative leave is fine with the monsignor, his lawyer said.

    "He's not looking to serve in ministry right now anyway," Bergstrom said. So the administrative leave "is academic."

    Lynn, the archdiocese's former secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004, was the first Catholic administrator in the country to be convicted and jailed for the sexual sins of the clergy. Lynn never touched a child; instead he was charged with failing to prevent an abusive priest under his supervision from harming another child. Lynn was convicted of one third-degree felony count of endangering the welfare of a child.

    On Dec. 26th, the state Superior Court reversed Lynn's conviction, saying Judge Sarmina's handling of the law in the case was "fundamentally flawed." The state's original child endangerment law only applied to adults who had direct contact with children, such as parents, teachers and guardians, the Superior Court found. The law did not apply to Lynn, who was a supervisor of other priests. The state child endangerment law has since been amended to include supervisors.

    District Attorney Seth Williams has announced he will appeal the Superior Court's reversal of Lynn's conviction to the state Supreme Court. If the state Supreme Court decides not to take the case, Bergstrom said, Lynn hopes to be taken off of administrative leave by the archdiocese.

    Bergstrom said Lynn was not bitter at anyone, and was grateful to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for putting up a $25,000 bail deposit.

    In his letter "to the clergy and faithful of the church in Philadelphia," Archbishop Chaput defended that decision.

    "At my direction, the Archdiocese has provided 10 percent of Msgr. Lynn's bail -- $25,000 -- to assist his release," Chaput wrote.

    "The Superior Court ruling does not vindicate Msgr. Lynn's past decisions," Chaput wrote. "Not does it absolve the Archdiocese from deeply flawed thinking and actions in the past that resulted in bitter suffering for victims of sexual abuse and their families."

    "Msgr. Lynn has already spent 18 months in prison," the archbishop wrote. The reversal by the Superior Court "is not a matter of technicalities but of legal substance. That is made very clear in the text of the Superior Court's decision."

    "Msgr. Lynn presents no danger to anyone," Chaput wrote. "He poses no flight risk. The funding for his bail has been taken from no parish, school or ministry resources, impacts no ongoing work of the Church, and will be returned when the terms of bail are completed. Nor does it diminish in any way our determination to root out the possibility of sexual abuse from the life of our local Church."

    "As a result, I believe that assisting Msgr. Lynn's family and attorney with resources for his bail is both reasonable and just," Chaput concluded. "We have acted accordingly."

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    By Ralph Cipriano
    for Bigtrial.net

    The new owners of The Philadelphia Inquirer are at it again, suing each other in the courts of two different states.

    First, Lewis Katz, leader of a minority group of owners, filed a motion in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, seeking to dissolve Interstate General Media [IGM], and publicly auction off the company that owns the Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and philly.com.

    Then George Norcross III, leader of a majority group of owners, filed a petition in the Court of Chancery in the State of Delaware that would compel a private auction of the company that would be restricted to the current owners.

    The war in two state courts was revealed by the Norcross side in a letter made public from owners Norcross and William P. Hankowsky to Katz. In the letter, dated Jan. 3, owners Norcross and Hankowsky accuse Katz of putting the survival of the city's only two daily newspapers at risk.

    Norcross and Hankowsky wrote Katz that they had hoped to avoid going to Chancery Court, "but your surprise decision to file a motion to dissolve the company risks not just the progress the company has made, but presents a real threat of another bankruptcy and additional job losses for our employees."

    "It is clear from your actions," Norcross and Hankowsky write to Katz, "that you are focused, and have been for many months, on creating a crisis in the company, risking the progress the company has made since its purchase and threatening the jobs of IGM employees."

    In his letter to Katz, Norcross and Hankowsky detail a half-dozen settlement proposals that they claim were rejected by Katz.

    "You have referred to referred to the newspapers and philly.com as 'public trusts,' important to protect and preserve," Norcross and Hankowsky wrote Katz. " It is past time to begin treatment them as such. We have taken this action because we cannot let the future of our company, our employees and readers be held hostage by your unwillingness to act in its best interests."

    Among the proposals rejected by Katz, Norcross and Hankowsky said, was an offer made last Oct. 13 to purchase Katz's shares for "a 12 percent premium over your initial investment," or $29 million, a $3 million increase over an initial investment of $26 million.

    The feuding owners were in court last year over the decision by Publisher Bob Hall to fire Inquirer Editor Bill Marimow. Katz filed suit first in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court; Norcross countersued in the state of Delaware's Chancery Court, where IGM was incorporated.

    Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Patricia McInerney decided she had jurisdiction. Then Judge McInerney ruled that both Hall and Marimow should return to office, insuring the stalemate among the feuding owners would continue into the New Year.

    Hall was supposed to retire by New Year's Eve; Marimow has a contract to stay on until April 2014.

    In rejected settlement proposals, both Marimow and Hall would have been paid through the end of 2014. In addition, Inquirer Editor Nancy Phillips, Katz's girlfriend, would become a reporter and return to the protection of being a member of the Newspaper Guild.

    An immediate search was supposed to begin for a new publisher and Inquirer editor.

    Now, judges in two states will have to figure out which court has precedence. And whether to hold a public or private auction.


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    A slimmer Msgr. Lynn arrives at the Criminal Justice Center
    By Ralph Cipriano
    for Bigtrial.net

    It was a dog and pony show that was over in a few minutes.

    A noticeably slimmer Msgr. William J. Lynn made a totally unnecessary appearance this afternoon in the courtroom of Judge M. Teresa Sarmina to review conditions of his bail.

    Lynn, who lost 80 pounds in jail, was released Friday after his conviction on one count of child endangerment was reversed by the state Superior Court.

    The judge told Lynn his appearance was required to "personally have addressed you to make sure you understand what the conditions of your release are."

    "Yes, Your Honor," Lynn replied.

    The conditions basically amount to house arrest. Lynn has to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet on his ankle at all times. He will be restricted to staying on two floors of the rectory at St. William's parish at 6200 Rising Sun Avenue in Northeast Philadelphia. He will have to check in with his parole officer every week. He will need his parole officer's permission whenever he wants to leave the rectory to visit, say his doctor or his lawyer.

    Sarmina asked Lynn if he was aware that if he violated any of the judge's conditions, that his bail would immediately be revoked and he would "return to prison."

    "I am," he replied.

    Sarmina asked Lynn if he was aware that she had already signed an arrest warrant that would be issued if the monsignor violated any provision of his electronic monitoring.

    "I am," the monsignor said.

    With that it was over. If Lynn behaves, it should be his last appearance in Judge Sarmina's courtroom.

    Sarmina presided over the monsignor's show trial in 2012. It was her application of the law in that case that was described by the Superior Court as "fundamentally flawed."

    Sarmina was true to form today in requiring the monsignor to return to her courtroom to tell him something he already knew, her conditions for bail that Lynn's lawyers had already agreed to.

    If Judge Sarmina had told Lynn to stand on his head, he would have done so.

    But the judge got last burst of headlines out of the case, and the news media got a chance to get some fresh pictures of a slimmer monsignor.

    So presumably everyone went home happy.

    Outside the courtroom, Msgr. Lynn declined to speak to the media. He answered only one question, how he lost 80 pounds in prison.

    "Taking care of myself and exercising," he said.

    Downstairs, in the lobby of the Criminal Justice Center, Lynn accepted hugs from family members and other well-wishers, while his brother straightened his collar.

    His lawyer, Thomas A. Bergstrom, took care of the rest of the questions.

    While Bergstrom was addressing the media outside the CJC, Lynn tried to sneak out another door and leave without being noticed. But reporters and photographers made a mad dash after the monsignor. While Lynn walked away a couple of brain-dead hecklers chased him as well, repeatedly yelling "pedophile" at him.

    Bergstrom, meanwhile, repeated his criticism of District Attorney Seth Williams, who had slammed the archdiocese for posting a $25,000 bail deposit on behalf of Lynn.

    "He [Williams] shouldn't be out there denigrating the court and denigrating the archdiocese for posting bail," Bergstrom said.

    Bergstrom was more forthcoming on how Lynn lost so much weight.

    He was on "a strict diet and he worked out on a treadmill" every day, the lawyer said.


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    By George Anastasia
    For Bigtrial.net

    The federal government is still fighting a war it won more than a decade ago, the lawyer for mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi told a jury this afternoon while asking the panel to reject the prosecution's case against his client and co-defendant George Borgesi.

    "There was a sea change in 1999," Ligambi's lawyer, Edwin Jacobs Jr. told the jury. La Cosa Nostra in Philadelphia, he said, "is a shell" (of what it once was). "It's every man for himself...The FBI won the war."

    And the result, said Christopher Warren, Borgesi's attorney, is a case built around "a theater of the absurd."

    Those were two of the high points of more than two hours of spirited closing argument by the defense today in the racketeering conspiracy retrial of Ligambi, 74, and Borgesi, 50.

    The prosecution, to no one's great surprise, presented the anonymously chosen jury panel with a decidedly different take, painting the two defendants as leaders of an organized crime family that engaged in gambling, loansharking and extortion and that used its reputation for violence to further the criminal conspiracy at the heart of the case.

    "La Cosa Nostra, This Thing of Ours, Our Thing," said Assistant U.S. Attorney John Han. "It was Joe Ligambi's thing. It was George Borgesi's thing."

    As is often the case with closing arguments, the two sides took the same set of facts and evidence and spun them in different directions. The ultimate decision rests with the jury which is expected to begin deliberations either late tomorrow or the first thing Wednesday morning. There are approximately two more  hours of closing arguments scheduled for tomorrow by the defense and prosecution. Judge Eduardo Robreno will then spend a good part of the afternoon explaining the laws that apply before the jury can begin deliberations.

    Neither Ligambi nor Borgesi showed much emotion during the five hours of closing arguments today, although Borgesi occasionally shook his head in disagreement over some of Han's comments.

    In a methodical and detailed presentation, the federal prosecutor spent nearly 30 minutes of his two and one-half hour closing explaining the racketeering conspiracy charge that is at the heart of the case. The government, he said, does not have to prove that either defendant committed a crime, but merely that they conspired with others to commit crimes in furtherance of the organized crime family.

    In fact, there was little, if any, direct evidence tying Ligambi or Borgesi to specific criminal acts. But Han argued that both defendants "embraced" the crime family's reputation for violence and "exploited it to their benefit."

    While acknowledging that several key government witnesses were themselves mobsters or mob associates with checkered criminal pasts, Han said, "the government didn't choose them, the defendants did."

    Referring to witnesses like Peter "Pete the Crumb" Caprio, Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello and Anthony Aponick, Han pointed to the defense table and said, "they were their associates, their partners-in-crime."

    "It's all about the money," Han said several times while outlining a government case that alleges that Ligambi and Borgesi received a piece of the mob's gambling and loansharking proceeds from 1999 through 2011 when the indictment was handed up in the current case.

    Even though Borgesi was in prison for most of that time -- he was jailed in 2000 in an unrelated racketeering case -- Han said he still benefitted from the mob money-making gambits he had left in place and that Monacello ran for him.

    Han described Ligambi, Borgesi and their associates as "bullies taking lunch money from a weak child on the playground."

    That's the way the mob operates, he said.

    He sarcastically challenged the defense argument that Aponick, a New York mob associate who had been Borgesi's cellmate, came to Philadelphia to develop a construction and home-building business with Monacello and for Borgesi. The only reason Aponick came to Philadelphia to meet with Monacello, he said, was to discuss mob business Borgesi was trying to set up from prison.

    Monacello and Borgesi met at Ralph's, an Italian restaurant on Ninth Street. Borgesi called Monacello's cell phone from prison during the dinner.

    "Is there a shortage of Italian restaurants in New York?" Han asked.

    He also dismissed defense arguments that a $25,000 loan Ligamb's top associate, Anthony Staino, made unknowingly to an FBI undercover agent was anything other than a loanshark deal. The agreement was struck in the men's room of a restaurant with urinals flushing in the background and the money was delivered in cash in a cereal box.

    "Is this a new way of banking?" the prosecutor asked the jury.

    The defense countered with an attack on both the truthfulness and reliability of the key government witnesses and with its own sprinkling of sarcasm.

    Warren said a linchpin of the government case is a secret recording of Ligambi and nine other mobsters from the Philadelphia crime family and New York's Gambino organization meeting for lunch at a LaGriglia, a North Jersey restaurant, in May 2010.

    But four hours of tape recorded conversation from that meeting did not result in even one mention of an active criminal enterprise, he said. Warren cited an FBI report that called the lunch a "social meeting" and said the discussions were "a drunken stroll down memory lane" with talk of Lucky Luciano and Albert Anastasia [ Editor's note - no relation]."

    "The anisette was flowing, so was the wine," said Warren of the lunch which prosecutors have labeled a meeting of the "board of directors of organized crime." As he had in the first trial, Warren also pointed out that the mobsters ate and drank in the main dining room, passing up an offer to meet in a private room on the second floor.

    Warren and Jacobs also hurled verbal barb after verbal barb at the chief prosecution witnesses.

    Monacello was described as a convicted racketeer and perjurer who was using his association with Borgesi as a get out of jail free card. And Aponick was portrayed as a liar and con man who, even after he began cooperating with the FBI in 2003, committed a series of bank robberies.

    He is "the poster child for why you need to shut this bad production down," Warren said of Aponick and the government's case. Even though Aponick deceived federal authorities, "they want you to believe him," Warren said incredulously.

    "Don't buy a ticket to this theater of the absurd."

    Both defense attorneys argued that the prosecution used rhetoric and hyperbole in place of facts to build the conspiracy charge.

    At one point Warren referred to the case as "bovine excrement" while Jacobs called the racketeering conspiracy charge a "wastebasket."

    Jacobs argued that the mob as a viable underworld operation in Philadelphia was dismantled in a 1999 case and that what is left is disorganized organized crime. While Ligambi and Borgesi may be members -- "It's not a crime to be a member of La Cosa Nostra," he said  -- neither were the beneficiaries of the actions of other mobsters who ran gambling and loansharking operations during the period covered in the indictment. 

    It was, instead, "a group of independent operators," he said.

    "This is not a mob," he told the jury. "This is not even a shell of a mob anymore. We are not what they say we are."

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

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    By George Anastasia
    For Bigtrial.net

    A jury is expected to begin deliberating early tomorrow in the racketeering conspiracy retrial of mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and his nephew and co-defendant George Borgesi.

    The anonymously chosen panel of 10 women and two men heard more than two hours of closing arguments this morning and then sat through  two more hours of Judge Eduardo Robreno's explanation of the laws that apply to the case.

    Robreno's methodical charge is expected to conclude tomorrow morning shortly after court is brought back into session at 9:30 a.m. Deliberations will begin once the judge completes his explanation.

    Arguments today were a reprise of defense and prosecution positions outlined for the jury Monday.

    Ligambi's lawyer, Edwin Jacobs Jr. continued with the two themes he had offered earlier --  the mob in Philadelphia no longer exists and the government failed to provide evidence to back up its charges.

    Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Labor returned to the issues he had underscored in his opening statement back on Nov. 7. "What this case is about is how the mob makes money through crime," he said.

    Labor scoffed at Jacobs' argument that the mob is only a shell of what it once was. He said Ligambi, 74, and Borgesi, 50, were leaders of a mob family that generated income through gambling, loansharking and extortion and that the victims of those crimes would dispute Jacobs' contention that the mob no longer exists.

    Jacobs said Ligambi was a"titular" boss of a crime family that had been reduced to an "impotent shell."

    "They no longer do the stuff that was done under Scarfo and Natale," he added, referring to former mob boss Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo and Ralph Natale. 

    Scarfo, currently serving a 55-year prison sentence on racketeering-murder charges, was considered one of the most violent mob bosses in America. His bloody reign as Philadelphia crime boss in the 1980 was marked for dozens of murders and attempted murders.

    Jacobs again and again pointed out that there are no murder charges nor any acts of violence alleged in the current indictment. Labor, however, said that didn't matter because the case is about how the mob uses its reputation for violence to control the underworld and generate illegal income.

    He urged the jury to focus on the "big picture" and not get lost or confused by minor and contradictory details.

    A prime example, he said, was the defense notion that two key cooperating witness, Borgesi associates Louis Monacello and Anthony Aponick, offered different versions of how they reacted to one another during a meeting at Ralph's, an Italian restaurant on Ninth Street in December 2003.

    Their relationship, Labor argued, was a secondary issue. The "big picture" question, he said, was how Aponick, a New York mob associate and former cellmate of Borgesi's, and Monacello, Borgesi's point man on the street, came to be at that restaurant meeting. The meeting, Labor said, was arranged by Borgesi from prison so that they could discuss mob business. And that, he said, proves the conspiracy charge.

    Jacobs, on the other hand, told the jury that the government's case was built around theories, but not backed up by facts,. He said there was an "institutional bias" against the defendants because of the mob "labels" authorities had attached to them. And he said the prosecutors had used "misleading" evidence and "half truths" to build their case.

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

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    Nicky Scarfo Jr.
    By George Anastasia
    For Bigtrial.net

    There's racketeering conspiracy and then there's RACKETEERING CONSPIRACY!

    Federal juries on opposite sides of the Delaware River began dealing with the differences today as the jury in the retrial of mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi started deliberations in his eight-week old trial and the jury in the fraud case against mobster Nicodemo S. Scarfo, the son of jailed mob boss Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo, heard opening arguments in his case.

    The Ligambi jury got the case in federal court in Philadelphia shortly before 11 a.m. and deliberated for the rest of the day without a verdict. The panel is due back tomorrow. The case, against Ligambi and his co-defendant and nephew George Borgesi, is built around allegations that the two mobsters ran an organized crime enterprise that generated tens of thousands of dollars through illegal gambling, loansharking and extortion.

    Scarfo, Elkins Park businessman Salvatore Pelullo and five others went on trial at the same time in federal court in Camden. The government alleges that Scarfo and Pelullo orchestrated the systematic looting of a Texas-based mortgage company, FirstPlus Financial, by secretly taking  control of the board of directors in June 2007. Over the next 10 months, authorities allege, Scarfo and Pelullo lined their pockets with cash for the company. The take? A staggering $12 million.

    The difference underscores what lawyers in the Ligambi case have argued continuously -- that the government has taken a penny ante gambling case and turned into into a mob conspiracy.

    "Racketeering lite," Edwin Jacobs Jr., Ligambi's lawyer, said of the charges which, nevertheless, carry a maximum 20-year prison sentence for the defendants.

    Scarfo and Pelullo, both convicted felons, could face even more jail time if they are found guilty at the end of their trial which is expected to last about four months.

    The jury, 12 panelists and six alternates, heard about four hours of opening arguments today and will be back for more tomorrow. Testimony is not scheduled to begin until Monday.

    In a sharply detailed opening, Assistant U.S. Attorney Howard Wiener, one of three prosecutors in the case, used charts, power point displays and snippets of secretly recorded conversations to paint a picture of the case that will be laid out over the coming months.

    "This is a case about lying and cheating and stealing," Wiener said.

    But lawyers for Scarfo and Pelullo, in their openings, said the prosecution had misinterpreted and slanted the facts. Both lawyers claimed that the alleged mob ties to the case were a smoke screen designed to sensationalize the case. Both said their clients had engaged in legitimate business deals and were innocent.

    Paul Fishman, the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, was one of dozens of spectators in the crowded courtroom for opening arguments,. At the time indictments were handed up in the case two years ago, Fishman said the FirstPlus looting gave new meaning to the phrase "corporate takeover."

    Without using those words, Wiener hit on that same theme during his two-hour address to the jury.

    Money was funneled out of FirstPlus, the prosecutor said, after Scarfo and Pelullo took control of the board of directors in June 2007. The money was used to fund purchases of bogus or straw companies that Pelullo and Scarfo had set up and as phony consulting fees.

    Wiener said $6 million was spent to purchase the phony companies. He also told the jury that Pelullo and Scarfo used FirstPlus cash to support a lavish lifestyle. They purchased a yacht for $8000,000 and named the boat "Priceless." Pelullo also bought a $200,000 Bentley automobile. Scarfo bought a $75,000 Audi and used more than $200,000 as a downpayment on a $700,000 home in Egg Harbor Township.

    The prosecutor said the pair used their alleged ties to organized crime to instill fear and to intimidate anyone who tried to block their takeover of the company. Co-defendant William Maxwell, a Texas attorney, aided the scheme after he was appointed special counsel to the company with a contract that paid him $100,000-a-month plus expenses.

    Maxwell them arranged consulting contracts for Pelullo and Scarfo that were also financed by FirstPlus.

    Other defendants in the case include Maxwell's brother, John, who was CEO of FirstPlus; Scarfo's longtime criminal defense attorney, Donald Manno, and lawyers Gary McCarthy of Philadelphia and David Adler of New York.

    Several other defendants in the case, including Scarfo's wife Lisa, have pleaded guilty to related charges.

    Wiener cited several secretly recorded conversations which he said supported the government's allegations. On one, he said, Scarfo boasted about how the takeover was set up with a series of business transactions and companies.

    "Layer upon layer, like an onion," he said Scarfo told an associate on one tape.

    He also said that Pelullo once threatened an associate who he and Scarfo feared might talk to authorities, telling him that his wife would be raped and his children would be sold into prostitution "if you ever rat."

    Michael Riley, Scarfo's lawyer, told the jury that his client was paying a price for his father's reputation.

    Nicodemo D. "Little Nicky" Scarfo, who ruled the Philadelphia-South Jersey mob for most of the 1980s, was considered one of the most violent mob bosses in America. But Riley said the younger Scarfo decided to go in a different direction after he was shot and nearly killed in a mob hit at Dante&Luigi's Restaurant in South Philadelphia on Halloween night in 1989.

    That shooting, Riley argued, is the government's jumping off point for organized crime charges that have no basis for being in the case.

    "No one's gonna wake up with a horsehead in their bed," Riley said, referring to a classic scene in The Godfather. But, he said, the government wants to portray the case as an extension of that world.

    Would you rather watch a financial report on television or The Godfather movie, Riley asked the jury. The government, he said, is trying to glamourize and sensationalize what amounts to a dull, boring financial case by introducing the specter of the mob.

    Troy Archie, Pelullo's attorney, hit on that same point, telling the jury that the government "misunderstood" the facts in the case and began an investigation with the premise that "where's there's Mafia smoke, there must be Mafia fire."

    He described Pelullo as a "brash talking, foul-mouthed businessman," but said his dealings with FirstPlus were legitimate. Neither he nor Scarfo had broken the law, he said.

    Pelullo's only offense, Archie said, was that "he was friends with Nicky Scarfo."

    Pelullo, who has two prior convictions for fraud, "turned his life around," Archie said, becoming a "consultant and entrepreneur." But, he added, the government "got confused because he's with Nicky Scarfo and they're making money."

    Closing arguments are to continue tomorrow morning in federal court in Camden while in federal court in Philadelphia an anonymously chosen jury to 11 women and one man will begin its first full day of deliberations. (A male juror was dismissed before the start of deliberations after acknowledging that he had fallen asleep during the lengthy charge of Judge Eduardo Robreno.)

    Racketeering conspiracy is the overarching charge in both trials.

    On a personal note, I may not be able to cover the rest of the FirstPlus trial because Salvatore Pelullo has listed me as a potential witness and witnesses are not permitted in the courtroom during testimony. Judge Robert Kugler permitted me to remain during opening arguments.

    The issue may be appealed by Bigtrial.net. 

    Pelullo's second attorney, J. Michael Farrell, would not say why I might be called and said he was reluctant to discuss the issue with me because I might tell the prosecution. In a brief discussion during the morning break, Farrell would offer not further explanation. I have never discussed the case with Pelullo's lawyers and am hard pressed to understand why I would be called as a witness. 

    Having me on the witness list, however, would keep me from covering the trial. 

    Farrell cryptically asked if I had ever written about Salvatore Pelullo before his name surfaced in this case. I told him I believed I had not. What he was getting at remains unclear to me.

    I told him, 'You don't want me on the stand.' He called that a `threat' and said I would remain on the list. 

    Everything I know about this case has appeared in stories that I wrote for The Philadelphia Inquirer from the time search warrants were executed in the spring of 2008 until I left the paper in October 2012. I have probably written more about the alleged scam than anyone else.

    But what I could provide as a witness for the defense is baffling.

    I know and have written a lot (including several books) about the Phiadelphia mob and the Scarfo family. I know about the younger Scarfo's connections to the Lucchese crime family, a key element in the prosecution's case. 

    Does Pelullo want me on the stand talking about that?

    I could also talk about the late Harold Garber, an Atlantic City criminal defense attorney who ended up on the board of directors of FirstPlus after the government alleges Scarfo and Pelullo took over the company behind the scenes. 

    Garber died of cancer shortly after he was appointed to the board. He had represented Little Nicky Scarfo and Crazy Phil Leonetti in the 1980s. In fact, he had his law license suspended for a year after a witness in a murder case against Leonetti, whom Garber was representing, recanted his story. Garber also represented that witness.

    So Garber's appointment to the board of directors of FirstPlus was a red flag for me. How, I wondered, did a criminal defense lawyer from Atlantic County end up on the board of directors of a relatively obscure mortgage company based in Irving, Tx.?

    Or maybe Farrell and Pelullo would like me to talk about a story I wrote for The Inquirer in July 2008. That story was based on wiretaps from a mob case in North Jersey tied to the Gambino and Lucchese crime families.

    On one tape Pelullo and Martin Taccetta, a Lucchese crime family member, talked about business and the mob; business that had very little to do with FirstPlus but a lot to do with the allegation that Pelullo was a mob associate. 

    Would Farrell and Pelullo like to ask me about that?

    Stayed tuned. We'll see.

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


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    By Ralph Cipriano
    for Bigtrial.net

    She's a judge who's developed "a true ability to keep an open mind."

    She strives to "advance the fair administration of justice." One of her "special strengths" is "the ability to look at both sides" of an argument,  balance competing interests, and "arrive at a well-reasoned and just decision."

    She can think "outside the box." She's skilled at research, reading and writing. That's why "it's not infrequently" that the appellate courts "are praising" her opinions.

    Who is this Wonder Woman in judicial robes? Is it Sandra Day O'Connor? Judge Judy Sheindlin? Nope, it's Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina.

    Back in 2008, Judge Sarmina touted her "special strengths" on a 15-page questionnaire for the Pennsylvania Bar Association when she briefly campaigned for the state Supreme Court.

    The judge's claims are in stark contrast with a unanimous opinion delivered by a three-judge panel of Superior Court judges on Dec. 26th that reversed the 2012 conviction of Msgr. William J. Lynn. In their opinion, the Superior Court judges  described Judge Sarmina's trial summary in the Lynn case as conveying "not an accurate impression;" they also labeled her application of the law as "fundamentally flawed."

    Sarmina, 61, served as a former Philadelphia assistant district attorney from 1984 to 1989, according to how she filled out the questionnaire. She was a Pennsylvania deputy attorney general from 1989 to 1993, working with a drug strike force; and a senior deputy attorney general from 1993 to 1995, working with a medicaid fraud control unit.

    On Nov. 4, 1997, she was elected to a 10-year term as a Common Pleas Court judge. On Nov. 4, 2007, she was elected to a second 10-year term. But she had higher aspirations.

    "Throughout my tenure on the bench, I have endeavored to advance the fair administration of justice," Judge Sarmina wrote to the Pennsylvania Bar Association in 2008. "I am now ready and prepared to have a  more far-reaching impact on the citizenry of Pennsylvania."

    The Pennsylvania Bar Association asked, "What special strengths do you feel you possess that would particularly well qualify you for the position of judge or justice?,"

    In her reply, Judge Sarmina talked about her experience of the prior 11 years, where she presided over "96 homicide trials, including 12 capital trials, three of which resulted in the imposition of the death penalty."

    "I have developed a true ability to keep an open mind, to allow the litigants to present their case, to maintain a level 'playing field,' to follow the law, and to see that justice is done," Judge Sarmina wrote. "In this setting, it often takes courage to do the right thing, because there are very high stakes and great pressures that are brought to bear. Thus, my special strengths include experience, fairness, impartiality, courage and integrity, and the proper exercise of discretion."

    It's hard to square her claims about fairness and impartiality with the Lynn case, where Judge Sarmina allowed into evidence 21 supplemental cases of sex abuse dating back to 1948, three years before Lynn was born. For the defendant, that's not exactly a level playing field.

    Andrew Katz, the judge's law clerk, said in an email that he had passed along a request for comment to the judge, but there was no further response from either the judge or her clerk.

    "During the course of my experience as a trial judge, in reviewing the case law as may concern a particular issue, I have learned that what very often must be done is to balance the competing interests in arriving at a decision, such as the police interests vs. the accused's interests, the state's interests vs. the rights of the citizenry," Judge Sarmina wrote on the bar association questionnaire.

    "Balancing is also critical in my day to day work, such as in making evidentiary rulings, and in imposing sentence in each case where there is a conviction. Thus, one of my special strengths is the ability to look at both sides and to arrive at a well-reasoned and just decision."

    Tell that to the half-dozen defense lawyers in the Lynn case. They lost one motion after another, and were dressed down time and time again while the prosecutor was allowed free reign.

    "Having presided as a trial judge over thousands of cases over the courts of the past 11 years, I have learned when compassion is called for, and have the courage to be compassionate," Judge Sarmina wrote.

    "I am able to think 'outside the box' and to be creative."

    Maybe it is creative in the Lynn case to take a complete reversal on the law by a higher court, and a unanimous opinion that required the defendant to be "discharged forthwith," and turn that into a house arrest for the defendant, complete with an ankle bracelet, and weekly reporting to a parole officer.

    On the Pennsylvania Bar Association questionnaire, Judge Sarmina said she was used to scrutiny from higher courts.

    "The nature of the trial work which I have handled over the past five and half years, and of the stakes involved, has resulted in appeals being taken in almost every case that proceeded to trial," Judge Sarmina wrote. "Thus, I have had the opportunity to engage in research, and to read and write extensively and have developed the ability to be coherent and persuasive in my opinions."

    She specifically mentioned having her work reviewed by the state Superior Court. According to Judge Sarmina, the judges on the Superior Court were big fans of hers.

    "It is not infrequently that the Superior Court is praising my opinions and adopting them into their own decisions," Judge Sarmina wrote. "Thus, my special strengths include research and reading and writing, all key skills  for a Justice to possess."

    Contrast that to what the Superior Court opinion had to say about Judge Sarmina's work in the Lynn case.

    The Superior Court quotes Judge Sarmina's trial record. Judge Sarmina wrote that Lynn "did not include any information whatsoever" when he notified an archdiocese treatment facility in writing about Father Edward V. Avery's prior molestation of a teenage victim back in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

    "When asked about these allegations, Father [Avery] did admit to taking the minor into a place serving alcohol while he was disc jockey," Judge Sarmina recounted in her trial summary about Lynn's interview where he confronted Avery with the victim's claims.

    Lynn "also failed to mention that Avery admitted that" the prior abuse "could be" something that had happened, and that he had reportedly been under the influence of alcohol, Judge Sarmina wrote in her trial summary. "Though [Lynn] provided St. John Vianney with an incomplete, misleading referral, the facility still recommended inpatient hospitalization."

    Those paragraphs of the judge's trial summary were flagged by the panel of Superior Court judges

    "Here, the trial court's summary leaves the impression that [Lynn] did not indicate the real reason he referred Avery for an evaluation, or that he had misrepresented the reason as being that Avery had provided alcohol to minors," the Superior Court judges wrote.

    "This is not an accurate impression, as it is unsupported, and, in fact, was contradicted by the record," the Superior Court judges wrote. "The first question on the referral form asked, 'What are the reasons for referral of this client for assessment?' [Lynn] responded, 'Allegations of sexual misconduct made by an adult make against Fr. Avery. The male was in his teenage years when the alleged actions took place.'"

    The Superior Court also took Judge Sarmina to task for failing to properly interpret Commonwealth v. Halye. It's a case where the Superior Court in 1998 reversed a conviction for endangering the welfare of a child [EWOC] because the Commonwealth "failed in its burden of proving" the defendant "was in the position of supervising the children."

    The state's original EWOC law, which went into effect in 1972, 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."


    In Commonwealth v. Halye, a cousin visiting a boy's home snuck into the boy's bedroom; the boy's mother subsequently discovered the cousin sexually assaulting the boy.

    "Despite the criminal nature of" the cousin's actions, "which support his convictions for involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, indecent assault and corruption of minors," the Superior Court decided, "there is insufficient evidence" that the cousin had a "role as a supervisor or guardian of the child to support the endangering the welfare of a child conviction."

    "No testimony was presented to indicate" that the cousin "was asked to supervise the children or that such a role was expected of him," the Superior Court decided in the Haye case.

    The Superior Court judges faulted Judge Sarmina for "having failed to consider the compelling implications of Halye," because that case "directly considered the element in question," namely whether the accused was "supervising the welfare of a child."

    That's the key question in the Lynn case. Lynn's defense was that he never was "supervising the welfare of a child," and that he did not "knowingly" endanger the welfare of a child because he never met the alleged victim in his case, a former 10-year-old altar boy named Billy Doe.

    The Superior Court also faulted Judge Sarmina for "having relied to an excessive extent on the broad mandate outlined by" another appellate case that did not consider the key question, namely whether the defendant had supervised the child.

    Because of those two mis-applications of law, the Superior Court opinion says, "the trial court's endeavor at statutory construction of the pre-amended EWOC statute was fundamentally flawed in this case."

    Regarding the state's original EWOC law, the Superior Court judges criticized Judge Sarmina for adding "ambiguity where none need exist."

    "The plain meaning of the statute requires that, for a person who is not a parent or a guardian of the endangered child to be subject to criminal liability, he must at least be engaged in the supervision, or be responsible for the supervision, of 'a child,'"the Superior Court judges wrote.

    "We reject the interpretation of the trial court, as endorsed by the Commonwealth," the Superior Court judges wrote, that the original EWOC law "does not require that an individual be a 'supervisor of a child' to fall under EWOC's umbrella of criminal liability.'"


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    By George Anastasia
    For Bigtrial.net

    The jury in the racketeering conspiracy retrial of mob boss Joe Ligambi and his nephew George Borgesi headed home at 4 p.m. today after a second day of deliberations.

    Early in the day, the panel of 11 women and one man asked to hear a tape recording that had been introduced as evidence by the defense, then they hunkered down for the next four hours behind closed doors.

    Members of the defense camp were guardedly optimistic. The tape, of a conversation between government informant Anthony Aponick and Borgesi's wife Alyson, was introduced to challenge and discredit Aponick who at the time was a cellmate of Borgesi's in a federal prison in West Virginia.

    Trying to determine why the jury wanted to hear the tape and what it means in terms of deliberations is, of course, speculative. It's like reading tea leaves. But Borgesi's lawyer, Christopher Warren, said it was a good sign that the panel asked for a piece of evidence that the defense had introduced.

    Deliberations are to resume at 9:30 tomorrow. The anonymously chosen jury panel has now deliberated for about 10 hours over two days.

    Across the river in federal court in Camden, defense attorneys completed their opening statements in a racketeering conspiracy case against mobster Nicodemo S. Scarfo, Elkin Park businessman Salvatore Pelullo and five others.

    Testimony is scheduled to begin on Monday.

    Scarfo, 48, and Pelullo, 47, are accused of looting a Texas mortgage company of $12 million by secretly taking control of the company's board of directors. FirstPlus Financial then began to purchase straw companies set up by Scarfo and Pelullo, according to the government. Those purchases and bogus consulting contracts, prosecutors said, were used to siphon cash out of the company and into the defendants' pcokets.

    The jury heard from lawyers for four other defendants today, including Donald Manno, Scarfo's longtime defense attorney.

    Manno, who is representing himself, told the jury he had done nothing wrong and that any actions he took were as a lawyer for Scarfo. Speaking in the third person, he told the panel, "Mister Manno makes no apology, Nick Scarfo is a friend." But he emphasized that Manno had nothing to do with the FirstPlus wheeling and dealing that the government says is at the heart of the case.

    And he said other tangential charges involving an escrow account and the purchase of a home by Scarfo's wife were without foundation.

    He said the government's case was built around "polluted sources" and that it didn't conduct an investigation, but rather was on a "mission" to get Nicky Scarfo because of his reputation and alleged mob ties.

    The Scarfo trial is expected to last about four months.

    In Philadelphia, meanwhile, two days of deliberations led to typical speculation about where the jury was headed. On Wednesday the panel asked a question about the jury tampering charge that is part of the case against Ligambi.

    Ligambi, 74, is charged with racketeering conspiracy, two counts of illegal gambling  and witness tampering, in that order. Some observers believed the question about witness tampering meant the jury had finished with Ligambi.

    The question today related only to Borgesi, 50, who is charged with racketeering conspiracy.

    The conversationoccurred on June 6, 2003, while Aponick was still in prison. On it he discussed a copy of Gangland News -- a weekly news column that focuses on organized crime -- that Alson Borgesi had sent him. He also asked for real estate listings from a Philadelphia paper.

    Alyson Borgesi promised to send him the information and also another edition of Gangland News. Aponick, in his direct testimony, had indicated he was surprised to receive the column. The conversation seemed to contract that part of his testimony.

    Aponick and Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello, two former Borgesi associates, were the key witnesses against Borgesi. Their credibility is the crux of the case against him. A question about Aponick, according to one theory, meant the jury had already gotten through Monacello's testimony and was now focusing on the final phase of the case against Borgesi.

    That scenario would seem to indicate that a verdict could be announced some time tomorrow.

    But that same type of speculation was rampant in the first trial that ended in February after three months of testimony and a staggering three weeks of deliberation. There were seven defendants in that case, however. Four were convicted. One was acquitted. And the jury split on the charges against Ligambi and Borgesi, leading to the retrial.

    Borgesi was found not guilty of 13 of the 14 counts he faced. Ligambi was acquitted of five of the nine charges against him. The remaining charges are now before the new jury.

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

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    Deliberations in the retrial of mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and his nephew and co-defendant George Borgesi were postponed today because one of the jurors had a family emergency.

    The anonymously chosen panel of 11 women and one man is due back in court Monday to continue the deliberation process that began late Wednesday morning.

    Ligambi, 74, is facing a racketeering conspiracy charge, two gambling charges and one charge of witness tampering. Borgesi, 50, is charged only with racketeering conspiracy.

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    Inky, Daily News And Philly.com Head For Auction Block
    By Ralph Cipriano
    for Bigtrial.net

    Lawyers gathered in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court this morning to consider whether Judge Patricia McInerney has the jurisdiction to auction off the city's two daily newspapers.

    Owner Lewis Katz started the current round of litigation by filing a motion in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court. Katz seeks to dissolve Interstate General Media [IGM], and publicly auction off the company's assets that include The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News, as well as the philly.com website.

    Rival owner George Norcross responded by filing a petition in the Court of Chancery in the State of Delaware to compel a private auction restricted to the company's five feuding owners.

    Norcross filed his petition in Delaware, where IGM was incorporated, rather than in Philadelphia, where the company does business. The Norcross ownership faction has argued that if the judge allows a public auction, hedge funds may come in and bid up the price, increasing the likelihood that the new owners will be saddled with heavy debt.

    Judge McInerney met behind closed doors with lawyers for a brief conference on what the judge described as "housekeeping matters." When they emerged from chambers, Judge McInerney gave Katz's legal team until Jan. 16th to file their brief; and the Norcross team until Jan. 22 to file their response.

    The decision over whether the IGM dispute should be resolved in the Delaware or Pennsylvania courts, however, is a potentially tricky issue. There are several legal reasons why the war over the Inky could be transferred to the Delaware courts. Or, in a nightmare scenario, the dispute could be simultaneously contested in both the Pennsylvania and Delaware courts, if judges in both states decide they have jurisdiction.

    Last fall, when rival owners feuded over the firing of Inquirer editor Bill Marimow, Katz sought to overturn the firing in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court. Katz filed a lawsuit that called for Marimow to be reinstated, and the man who fired the editor, Inky publisher Bob Hall, to be terminated.

    Norcross countersued in the Delaware courts, seeking to retain Hall and keep Marimow retired.

    Judge McInerney solved that jurisdictional issue by saying she would preside over the dispute because Marimow was fired in Pennsylvania. The judge subsequently ordered the return of both Hall and Marimow, preserving a corporate stalemate.

    This time around, the jurisdiction dispute is not as easy. The controversy to be resolved is purely a matter of Delaware law. Additionally, both IGM and the Katz company that sued to dissolve IGM  were incorporated in Delaware.

    According to IGM's limited liability agreement, the rights of the parties should be interpreted in accordance with Delaware law. The agreement calls for the dissolution process to occur under the provisions of the Delaware Limited Liability Company Act. But there's no specific provision in the limited liability agreement that stipulates any dispute must be resolved in the Delaware courts.

    Meanwhile, the Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia filed a petition this morning to intervene in the case. The Guild said in a bulletin that they have "one potential outside investor" who might be interested in teaming up with the Guild to buy the two newspapers and philly.com website. The Guild is seeking the right to bid at any future auction, even if it's a private one.

    The dispute among the current ownership group "has escalated to the point that the integrity and viability" of the two newspapers, along with 550 Guild jobs, "are in jeopardy," the Guild petition states.

    "The company seems to be gridlocked," Bill Ross, the Guild's executive director, explained outside the courtroom, after today's brief conference was over. "No major decisions can be made," Ross said. "Our members are trying to find out what's going on. We're in the dark."

    This is what gridlock looks like.

    Inky Publisher Bob Hall was supposed to retire at the end of last year. Marimow was supposed to be gone by the end of April.

    But under the current IGM partnership agreement, a two-member management team composed of Katz and Norcross has to agree on any important decision. Katz and Norcross, however, can't agree on anything.

    Bob Hall doesn't have a  contract. He's an at-will employee who serves at the behest of the company.

    It will take two votes from the management committee to fire Hall. So under the current stalemate, Bob Hall isn't going anywhere. He's still on the job.

    Bill Marimow has a contract; it expires on April 30th. It will take two votes from the management committee to renew that contract. So under the current stalemate, Bill Marimow has no chance of being rehired at the end of April. When he goes, the Inquirer will be left without an editor. And it will take two votes of the management committee to agree on a replacement.

    The Guild feels like it's been screwed over.

    "These owners came to us a year ago demanding $6 million in givebacks or they would sell the company," a Guild bulletin stated. "Well they got their $6 million from us and millions more from the other unions and independents, and here we are one year later with a part-time publisher who may or may not still work here, no assistant publisher, no editor for philly.com, and they're putting the company up for sale."

    Hall is still on the job, but the assistant publisher quit, and nobody was hired to replace him. Also, philly.com needs an editor.

    The new owners had promised the unions that after years of self-sacrificing, they would share in company profits this year, said Lisa Lori, the lawyer who filed the Guild petition to intervene. But if there's a public auction, and everybody has to hire more lawyers and accountants, those profits might disappear.

    The company has changed hands five times since 2006. Meanwhile, members of the Newspaper Guild have seen nothing but "pay cut after pay cut," along with unpaid furloughs and buyouts, Lori complained.

    "It no longer matters whose fault it is," the Guild bulletin said of the current Inky ownership feud. "It has to stop."


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    Judge Robreno
    By George Anastasia
    For Bigtrial.net

    They've been here before.

    The jury in the racketeering conspiracy retrial of mob boss Joe Ligambi and his nephew George Borgesi told a judge today that it was at an 'impasse" and unable to reach a unanimous verdict in the case.

    But Judge Eduardo Robreno told the panel of 11 women and one man to keep working.

    "It was a long trial," Robreno said in a brief comment to the panel after the jurors had been called back into the courtroom around 2 p.m. "Go back and continue working."

    The jury did just that, then recessed for the day at 4 p.m. Deliberations are to resume tomorrow at 9:30.

    Ligambi, 74, and Borgesi, 50, have been through this before. In their first trial, the jury deliberated for three weeks before returning a split verdict. At one point, Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Labor said it appeared the group was "wandering in the desert" and asked the judge to provide the jurors with a copy of the indictment.

    Robreno denied that request. But in the retrial, both sides agreed prior to the start of the trial that a copy of the indictment would be provided when deliberations began,

    This afternoon, Borgesi's lawyer, Christopher Warren, quipped "At least we know they're not wandering in the desert. This time they have a copy of the indictment."

    The note sent out by the panel read in part, "We have voted at least two times...and we are at an impasse." The note also said that there was no unanimity on any of the five charges they are considering.

    "I think it's very early in the process," Robreno said to the lawyers prior to calling the panel in and responding to the note. Deliberations began late Wednesday afternoon, the judge noted. The jury met for about six hours on Thursday, but did not meet Friday.

    It had deliberated about three hours today before sending out the note.

    In the first trial, the jury deliberated for three weeks after hearing testimony for three months. That case involved seven defendants and 62 counts. The jury returned not guilty verdicts on 46 counts, guilty verdicts on five and hung on 11 others.

    This case involved just two defendants and the five counts on which the jury hung against them.

    Ligambi is facing a racketeering conspiracy count, two counts of illegal gambling and one count of witness tampering. Borgesi faces only a racketeering conspiracy charge.

    Neither defendant said much when they were called into the courtroom today, although both nodded and smiled at a dozen family members and friends who have been keeping a vigil on the 15th floor since deliberations began.

    Borgesi was found not guilty of 13 of the 14 counts he faced in the first trial. Ligambi was acquitted of four of nine counts.

    While it's impossible to determine how split the panel is, the fact that there is not unanimity on any count is, at least in the short run, a victory for the defense. Both Warren and Ligambi's lawyer, Edwin Jacobs Jr., launched blistering attacks on the government's case and their key witnesses.

    They argued that the prosecution had overcharged what amounted to a minor gambling case, cobbling together unrelated crimes by various individuals to create a racketeering enterprise where one did not exist.

    Throughout his closing argument, Jacobs told the jury that the mob no longer exists, calling it "an impotent shell" and describing Ligambi as the "titular head" of an organization that FBI had dismantled more than a decade ago.

    Labor and Assistant U.S. Attorney John Han, the key prsoecutors in the case, argued that Ligambi and Borgesi used the mob's historic reputation for violence to advance gambling and loansharking schemes from which they both benefitted.

    The case against Borgesi is built almost entirely around the testimony of mob informants Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello and Anthony Aponick. The defense urged the jurors to seriously consider whether they could live with themselves if they sent a defendant to jail based on the testimony of two witnesses whose testimony was tainted and self-serving.

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

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    By George Anastasia
    For Bigtrial.net

    One day after declaring they were at an impasse, jurors in the racketeering conspiracy retrial of mob boss Joe Ligambi and his nephew George Borgesi spent about seven hours deliberating behind closed doors, then called it a day.

    The panel is due back 9:30 tomorrow to start what will be the fifth day of deliberations in the trial which began back in November. There were no questions or notes sent to the judge today, but at the end of the day word was that the jury had a list of items and perhaps questions that it would present first thing in the morning.

    It was impossible to determine whether the ongoing talks had broken the logjam. In a note sent Monday afternoon the panel said it had voted twice on all five charges and had not reached unanimity on any question.

    The jury in the first trial deliberated for 21 days.

    According to one source in the defense camp, the panel has already inquired about next Monday -- a federal holiday, Martin Luther King Day -- and whether deliberations would be held in the event there was no verdict before then. 

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

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    By Ralph Cipriano
    for Bigtrial.net

    To Taleah Grimmage, Juror No. 7 in the Msgr. Lynn case, the news that Lynn's conviction had been reversed came as a "slight shock."

    "While I still think he [Msgr. Lynn] ultimately played a part in the atrocities that occurred, he certainly was not the ONLY person that should have been held responsible," Grimmage wrote in an email. "[I'm looking at YOU Cardinals Krol and Bevilacqua]."

    Grimmage, who voted to convict Lynn in 2012 after sitting through a 13 week trial, as well as 13 days of deliberations, said she never understood the district attorney's strategy of charging Lynn with endangering the welfare of a child. She did, however, believe the D.A. had succeeded in sending a message to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

    As far as the monsignor is concerned, Grimmage was curious to know what effect being "unjustly" imprisoned for 18 months has had on the monsignor, who so far, has declined to talk to reporters.

    "Maybe this experience has brought him closer to God," she said.

    "As I understand it," Grimmage wrote, Lynn's conviction "was overturned based on the fact that the statute they used to charge him, only applied to people who had direct contact or interaction with a child."

    Lynn was convicted by the jury of one count of endangering the welfare of a child. In 2005, former District Attorney Lynne Abraham and a grand jury stated that Lynn could not be charged under the state's original 1972 child endangerment law. D.A. Abraham and the 2005 grand jury declared that the original law applied only to adults who had direct contact with children, such as parents, teachers and guardians, and not to Lynn, who was basically a supervisor of priests who had contact with children.

    On Dec. 26th, a panel of three Superior Court judges unanimously reversed Lynn's conviction, saying the state's original child endangerment law did not apply to him.

    "I think that it certainly is curious that the state decided to use this particular statute," Grimmage said. "I don't know if they really banked on it not being overturned so much as they wanted to send a message to the Archdiocese."

    "I also think it's interesting that you can be the [indirect] supervisor or someone in contact with children and not be held responsible for what happens to them."

    "I find this whole thing odd," she wrote. "We need to extend the catch of all responsibility to not just schools and daycare centers, burt churches too! ... I think we should all be held collectively responsible for one another."

    As a direct result of the 2005 grand jury report, the state amended the child endangerment law in 2007 to include supervisors such as Lynn.

    Grimmage never saw the monsignor as a central player. Back in 2012, she had this to say about the monsignor: "Personally, I think Father Lynn was just a cog in a wheel. I think that he was a very good 'yes man' who unfortunately was left holding the bag. I don't think Lynn is a malicious person, and I think in his mind he was doing what he thought was appropriate."

    Grimmage said in 2012 that every juror believed there was a conspiracy among the hierarchy in the archdiocese; she just didn't buy the D.A.'s theory that it was a conspiracy to harm children.

    Two of the district attorney's original charges against Lynn, for conspiracy to endanger the welfare of a child, were thrown during the trial by Judge M. Teresa Sarmina as unproven.

    "We ALL agreed that they [the archdiocese] conspired to hide things from the parishioners and keep things hush-hush to continue receieving monies and etc.," Grimmage wrote in 2012. "As a result kids were endangered, but we didn't believe the endangerment was the actual goal."

    In her most recent comments, Grimmage recalled that several parishioners from St. Joseph's in Downingtown showed up at the Lynn trial to talk about "how great he [Lynn] was as a pastor."

    "Perhaps they will reinstate him as a parish priest," she wrote. "Basically with this being overturned, he's not a convicted felon."

    There will always be, however, people who think of him that way. When he left the Criminal Justice Center after being granted bail on Jan. 6th, two hecklers chased the monsignor down the street, loudly calling him a pedophile.

    Lynn is currently under house arrest at St. William's rectory in Northeast Philadelphia. He wears an electronic monitoring bracelet on his ankle. He is restricted to staying on two floors of the rectory. He reports to his parole officer every week, and needs special permission to visit his lawyer or his doctor.

    In addition, the archdiocese has said that Lynn remains on administrative leave and cannot publicly function as a priest.

    "If I were Monsignor Lynn," Grimmage wrote, "I'd pocket my severance package and move faaaar away for a long time. I'd be curious to hear about his experience in prison. Biblically speaking, you have several people who have been imprisoned [unjustly]. Joseph and Paul come to mind."

    "Maybe this whole experience has brought him closer to God."

    Ralph Cipriano can be contacted at ralph@bigtrial.net.

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    By George Anastasia
    For Bigtrial.net

    It could be a tale of the tapes, and that might not be a good thing for the defense.

    Jurors started their fifth day of deliberations in the racketeering conspiracy retrial of mob boss Joe Ligambi and his nephew George Borgesi by asking to hear replays of several tapes introduced by the prosecution during the eight-week trial.

    And they ended the day by asking to hear a half dozen more.

    The panel of 11 women and one man is due to resume deliberations at 9:30 tomorrow morning. Whether they have overcome the impasse cited in a jury note on Monday remains an open question.

    What does appear clear is that the panel is working.

    Most of the tapes played today were used by the prosecution to support the conspiracy charge that is at the heart of the case.

    But the panel also asked to rehear a now infamous tape picked up on a Pennsylvania State Police wiretap in the late 1990s in which Borgesi is heard boasting and cackling about how he beat up and knocked out mob associate Angelo Lutz.

    While that tape has little, if anything, to do with the conspiracy charge Borgesi, 50, is fighting, it was used by the prosecution to show the jury what authorities allege is Borgesi's arrogant and violent nature. The tape was first played in the 2001 racketeering trial in which Borgesi, Lutz, Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino and four others were convicted.

    It was reprised and played again in the first Ligambi trial last year. Four defendants were convicted in that case, one was acquitted and the jury hung on charges against Ligambi and Borgesi, setting up the retrial that began in November.

    The other tapes the jury asked to hear today focused on the charges against Ligambi. The prosecution alleges that "Uncle Joe" oversaw an organized crime gambling and loansharking operations. Government expert witnesses testified that money is routinely "kicked up" to the boss in a crime family.

    While there was little evidence linking Ligambi, 74, directly to any criminal activity, there were tapes in which his role was mentioned.

    On one tape replayed for the jury today bookmaker Gary Battaglini, who was convicted in the first Ligambi trial, is heard telling a deadbeat gambling that the money he owes goes to "Uncle Joe." On the same tape, Battaglini says that Ligambi doesn't care about anything, "he just wants his money."

    The defense could take some solace, however, in another tape in which Joseph "Scoops" Licata, the only defendant acquitted in the first trial, is heard praising Ligambi as a boss who never asks for anything. Earlier in the same tape, recorded at a North Jersey restaurant, Licata introduced Ligambi to several New York mobsters as "acting boss" of the Philadelphia mob.

    In tapes played at the end of today's session, the jury heard Michael Orlando, who was wearing a wire and cooperating with the FBI, discussing his gambling debts with mobster Damion Canalichio and, on another tape, with mob underboss Joseph "Mousie" Massimino. Canalichio and Massimino  were also convicted in the first trial.

    The defense has portrayed Orlando as a drug addicted degenerate gambler and less than credible witness. The conversations played today centered on debts of about $9,000 that Orlando owed to various mob figures.

    The defense contends Orlando used the FBI to pay off some of those debts and then hid behind the protection of the federal government to avoid paying the rest.

    In a discussion with Canalichio, Orlando explained how he was having trouble coming up with the money he owed. Canalichio, in reply, said, "It's not my money," adding that it was Ligambi's.

    "It's Uncle Joe's?" Orlando asked nervously.

    On another tape, however, Canalichio refers to "Stevie's money," an apparent reference to mob capo Steven Mazzone. The defense has argued repeatedly that many of the debts discussed on tapes played for the jury were money owed to Mazzone, not Ligambi.

    The prosecution, however, says that as boss Ligambi had a piece of everyone's action.

    That could be the question the anonymously selected jury was wrestling with as it headed home after its fifth day of deliberations.

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


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    By George Anastasia
    For Bigtrial.net

    No questions...and no verdict.

    After listening to about 15 minutes of taped conversation this morning, the jury in the racketeering conspiracy retrial of mob boss Joe Ligambi and his nephew George Borgesi hunkered down for a sixth day of deliberations.

    The panel of 11 women and one man called it quits around 4 p.m. and headed home. They will be back at it tomorrow at 9:30. Looming is a three-day weekend (Monday is a federal holiday -- Martin Luther King Day), meaning that if there is no decision tomorrow, the case will go into next week.

    While the group sent a note to Judge Eduardo Robreno Monday afternoon saying there was an "impasse" in deliberations, there has been no indication that the panel has bogged down since then.

    Ligambi, 74, and Borgesi, 50, are both charged with racketeering conspiracy linked to what authorities say was an organized crime gambling and loansharking operation that ran from 1999 through 2011. Ligambi also faces two gambling charges and one count of witness intimidation.

    Over the past two days the jury has asked to hear nearly two dozens secretly recorded conversations that were introduced as evidence during the eight-week. The panel has also asked about some specific pieces of evidence.

    In the note it sent on Monday, the jury said it had voted twice on all five counts and had failed to reach a unanimous decision on any of them. Whether they have taken subsequent votes could not be determined.

    The process continues tomorrow.

    The jury in the first trial that ended in February deliberated for 21 days before coming back with a split decision. That case involved seven defendants and 62 counts. Four defendants were convicted, one was acquitted and the jury hung on the charges that Ligambi and Borgesi are again fighting.

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

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    By George Anastasia
    For Bigtrial.net

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

    But we don't know what it is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Ligambi smiled and nodded.

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

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    By George Anastasia
    For Bigtrial.net

    Jury deliberations ended shortly after they began this morning in the racketeering conspiracy retrial of mob boss Joe Ligambi and his nephew George Borgesi.

    With snow beginning to swirl outside the federal courthouse at 6th and Market Streets and with predictions of a snow storm that would dump eight to 10 inches on the city, Judge Eduardo Robreno dismissed the panel at 10:30 a.m., about an hour after deliberations began.

    The jury of 11 women and one man is due back tomorrow, but with snow predicted to continue through tonight and with strong winds and dropping temperatures to follow, another delay is possible.

    The jury has deliberated for seven days after hearing eight weeks of testimony. On Friday it announced that it had reached a verdict on two of the five counts it is considering and had a "firm difference of opinion" on the other three. Robreno urged the panel to continue deliberations.

    It could not be determined what charges have been decided or whether the jury has voted to convict or acquit.

    Borgesi, 50, faces one count of conspiracy. Ligambi, 74, is charge with conspiracy, two counts of illegal gambling and one count of witness tampering.

    Both men have been held without bail since the indictment in the case was handed up in May 2011. Their first trial ended with a jury unable to reach a verdict on the counts now pending. In that case, four other defendants were convicted and one was acquitted.

    That jury, after three weeks of deliberations, delivered not guilty verdicts on 46 counts, guilty verdicts on five and hung on 11 others, including the charges against Ligambi and Borgesi that are now being retried.

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

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    By George Anastasia
    For Bigtrial.net

    After a two-day snow storm delay, the jury in the racketeering conspiracy trial of mob boss Joe Ligambi and his nephew George Borgesi met for about five hours today without reaching a
    consensus.

    The panel of 11 women and one man asked no questions and sent out no notes. They will return tomorrow at 9:30 for the ninth day of deliberations in the high profile organized crime case.

    The jury announced last week that it had reached a partial verdict, deciding two of the five counts it has been asked to consider. Judge Eduardo Robreno urged them to keep deliberating despite a note that indicated they had a "firm difference of opinion" on the other three counts.

    Whether the days off changed their perspective remains to be seen. The conventional wisdom is that if the panel sends out another note indicating they are deadlocked, the judge would be hard pressed not to take the partial verdict and declare a mistrial on the other counts.

    With a weekend and another potential snow storm looming, several observers were predicting that tomorrow, Friday, will bring some resolution to the case.

    George Anastasia can be contacted at George@bigtrial.net

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