Updated news on the Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Lucchese and Colombo Organized Crime Families of New York City.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Murder charge is dismissed against reputed N.J. mob boss

A Superior Court judge today dismissed the murder charge against a reputed mob boss accused of gunning down a man 32 years ago in a Bridgewater motel parking lot.
Michael Coppola, 63, was accused of shooting John “Johnny Cokes” Lardiere, 68, of Maplewood multiple times outside the Red Bull Inn on April 10, 1977.
He wasn’t linked to the crime until 1996, when a mob turncoat told investigators that Coppola had bragged about the killing during a party in the 1980s. The informant told investigators Coppola was formally inducted into the Genovese crime family upon completion of the homicide, court papers say.
Coppola disappeared after he was ordered to provide a DNA sample and remained at large until his 2007 capture in New York City.
Defense attorney Thomas Cammarata filed a motion to dismiss the complaint in 2008, accusing the state Attorney General’s office of taking too long to seek an indictment, denying his client’s rights to due process and a speedy trial.
Superior Court Judge Paul Armstrong initially denied the motion May 6. He gave the state 120 days to go before a grand jury, or else he would be inclined to grant a dismissal.

Following through on that ruling, Cammarata filed another motion, and Armstrong granted the request following a hearing in Somerville. That does not stop the state from continuing its investigation or presenting the matter to a grand jury in the future, Armstrong said.
“The state and the defense are fully aware that there is no statute of limitations on a charge of murder,” Armstrong said.
Coppola is currently serving a 42-month sentence in federal prison after pleading guilty to a fugitive charge last year. In July, he was tried in federal court and was found guilty of conspiracy to violate RICO, but the alleged murder “was not proven” as one of the acts of racketeering. He is to be sentenced Dec. 18.
“As far as we’re concerned, he’s not guilty of the charge,” Cammarata said regarding the murder allegation.
When he first denied the motion in May, Armstrong said length of the delay was not unreasonable given the legitimate reasons, including the ongoing investigation into the overall crime operation.
“Defendant did not assert his right to a speedy trial until after he was apprehended following an 11-year stint as a fugitive,” he said in court papers.
At the hearing, Cammarata said the state’s delay was tactical. They wanted to wait for the outcome of the federal trial, giving them a distinct advantage.
There are 1,875 pages of transcripts that Deputy Attorney General Christopher Romanyshyn says he needs to review, but, the defense says, only about 250 are relevant.
“Two years and nine months is simply too long,” he said. Giving the state more time to investigate means his client’s rights to due process and a speedy trial continue to be violated. “The state of New Jersey’s investigators can’t do a better job than the FBI,” he said.
Romanyshyn said Cammarata was being disingenuous when he said there are only 200 or so relevant pages within the transcript.
“I would be remiss if I simply rushed into another case, subjecting Mr. Coppola to another trial, without taking the time to assess that case,” he said.
“I need to do my job the best way I know how without regard to whether the defense thinks there is some sort of ulterior motive,” he insisted.



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