Prosecutors argued that Anthony Antico gave the go-ahead to a crew of thugs to rob Louis Antonelli because the jeweler was paying cash tribute to the gangster for the privilege of selling his gems and watches in his social club. But the stick-up went bad and Antonelli was fatally shot.
Defense lawyer Matthew Mari said the acquittal on the robbery count was huge, and not only because it would have guaranteed Antico spent the rest of his life behind bars.
"He (Antico) told me he's glad the Antonelli family will finally know he had nothing to do with it," Mari said after the verdict in Brooklyn Federal Court.
The jury rejected the testimony tying Antico to the heist by two thugs who pleaded guilty to participating in the robbery.
Antico was convicted of running from prison an illegal gambling club on Sand Lane in Staten Island, and conspiring to extort Mario Gulinello, a Brooklyn man who had won $1.6 million picking the winners of six horse races at the Santa Anita racetrack in 2004.
The FBI had a wiretap on Genovese associate Joseph Barrafato Jr.'s phone when he was discussing the extortion plot with Antico -- the wire also picked up Barrafato chatting with his dog named "Sparky" while waiting for Antico to get on the line.
The jury also acquitted Antico of shaking down the owner of a Staten Island bagel shop -- a charge that was largely supported by the testimony of former Gambino capo Michael "Mikey Scars" DiLeonardo.