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

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Jury selection starts in mob trial

As jury selection got under way Monday in a federal mob murder and racketeering trial expected to showcase notorious witnesses and misdeeds from the Pioneer Valley, a pool of prospective panelists was whittled down by hardship, biases and religious beliefs.
Once a panel of 12 jurors and six alternates is seated, the group will hear the case of the 2003 murder-for-hire plot against Western Massachusetts crime boss Adolfo "Big Al" Bruno, the grudge slaying of low-level associate Gary D. Westerman the same year, the attempted murder of a New York union official, shake-downs of strip club owners in Springfield and Connecticut and a list of other organized crime strong-arm schemes from Springfield to Connecticut and New York, according to prosecutors.
Standing trial are reputed mob enforcers Fotios "Freddy" Geas, 44, of West Springfield; his brother Ty Geas, 39, of Westfield; and reputed onetime New York Genovese crime boss, Arthur "Artie" Nigro, 66, of Bronx, N.Y., whom law enforcement officials say controlled rackets for the most dangerous of this city's five mafia crime families.
The defendants have pleaded innocent to all charges. They face life in prison if convicted.
U.S. District Court Judge P. Kevin Castel began weeding out jurors with standard questions of potential personal and economic hardships given that the trial is expected to last at least a month. Candidates who cleared that hurdle were then herded into a courtroom to answer more specific questions as a group: Whether they work in law enforcement jobs or know someone who does, whether they had an aversion to witnesses testifying under plea agreements, whether they, a friend or family member had been the subject of a criminal prosecution.
The last question created a small swell of possible red flags.
One man, prospective juror No. 65, announced that he had a friend he believed had been falsely charged in a drug case.
"There were false witnesses; false wiretaps. He lost his home and a lot of time, then was let go with no charges," the man told Castel, shortly before being excused.
Another woman had a son in jail; another said she had a brother who served time for drug trafficking a second brother who was imprisoned for his involvement for a murder. Not all of several potential jurors who answered "yes" to that question were excused.
As the evening neared, a woman in the back row told the judge her 17-year-old son caught a stray bullet in a drive-by shooting on Jan. 6, but survived, and she believed she could serve as an impartial juror.
Bruno was shot seven times on Nov. 23, 2003, by a paid gunman amid a power play; the Geases and others are alleged to have planned the ambush with Nigro's blessing. Westerman was shot twice in the head and buried in a wooded lot in Agawam over a grudge and correct suspicions he was a police informant, according to prosecutors. Union boss Frank Dadabo was allegedly shot six times because he angered Nigro by giving a contract to the wrong man.
Prospective juror No. 62 tentatively raised her hand nearly at the end of the day, telling Castel she may not be able to sit on the jury for religious reasons.
"I've been trying for Lent to not pass judgment ... this is all making me a little uneasy," she said.
Jury selection will continue today in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.



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