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

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Emilio Fusco trial set in connection with Al Bruno murder

Longmeadow resident and Italian native Emilio Fusco is charging toward trial in connection with the 2003 murders of Genovese crime boss Adolfo "Big Al" Bruno and underling Gary D. Westerman.
A judge rejected a defense lawyer's argument that Fusco not be tried for the murders since a 2009 criminal indictment charges him only with racketeering conspiracy, with the murder allegations buried in the language within the charging document. Fusco, 43, is the fourth defendant to be tried for the contract hit on Bruno and the third to be tried for the grisly slaying of Westerman, whom a witness said was shot and bludgeoned to death before being buried in an eight-foot-deep grave on a residential property in Agawam.
Fusco's trial is scheduled to begin April 16, and the clock continues to run down on any opportunity to negotiate a plea deal. However, Fusco does not appear to be angling for a deal based on discussions in a pretrial hearing in U.S. District Court on Monday. U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel set deadlines for lawyers to file motions and a final pretrial conference for April 13.
Three defendants were convicted for the Bruno killing at trial in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on April 1: onetime mob enforcers Fotios "Freddy" Geas and his younger brother Ty Geas, both formerly of West Springfield; and Arthur "Artie" Nigro, of Bronx, NY, once an underboss for the powerful Genovese family. The Geases also were convicted of murdering Westerman, a rival drug dealer who had angered Springfield capo Anthony J. Arillotta, who also was Westerman's brother-in-law.
Emilio Fusco 2001.jpgEmilio Fusco takes a smoke break during proceedings in 2001 at U. S. District Court in Springfield.
The Geas brothers and Nigro are serving life sentences; Arillotta was once charged along with them but turned government informant and offered jurors the most damning testimony against the trio during their three-week trial. He is awaiting sentencing, which likely will be scheduled after the resolution of Fusco's case.
Arillotta told jurors that Nigro annointed him a "made member" of the Genovese family during a secret ceremony in 2003. Then, he and the Geases led a coup against Bruno with Fusco supporting the initiative and winning Nigro's blessing by erroneously convincing New York underbosses that Bruno was an FBI informant. Arillotta also testified that Fusco joined him in smashing Westerman in the head with shovels after the Geases shot him in early November of 2003.
Westerman, of Springfield, a career criminal, had been led to a property off Springfield Street under the guise of committing a home invasion there. Investigators who unearthed his remains seven years laser found a ski mask and taser buried along with his bones and clothes. They also found a cigarette pack in the same hole, which Arillotta testified was Fusco's brand of choice.
Fusco will be tried separately because he fled to Italy before he could be charged, according to prosecutors. He was apprehended by Italian authorities in the summer of 2010 in Sorrento, a small village in southern Italy, and fought extradition to the United States.
His co-defendants briefly faced the federal death penalty although the government ultimately rejected that as a potential sentence; Italy and many other European countries will not extradite their citizens while facing capital punishment. Defense lawyer Richard Lind attempted to argue that the details of his client's extradition were literally lost in the translation and the Italian government shipped him back unaware of the full implications.
"We're seeking to preclude trial on these charges," Lind told Castel.
Castel disagreed.
"The Italian courts knew what they were doing," Castel said.
That nuance in international law no doubt influenced prosecutors in New York from charging Fusco specifically with murder, as his co-defendants had been. Consequently, Fusco does not face a mandatory life sentence as his co-defendants had. The maximum sentence for racketeering conspiracy is 20 years, and Fusco could face up to life in prison if jurors find him culpable of at least one of the jurors on their verdict forms, according to lawyers in the case.
But the distinctions in the charges gives Fusco considerably more wiggle room than his predecessors. Investigators in the case have privately groused that Fusco is in essence being rewarded for fleeing the country before the indictment against him was unsealed.
Arillotta testified that Fusco also was a made member of the Genovese family; Fusco was previously convicted of loan-sharking and racketeering in 2003 and was out on bail when he allegedly joined in the Bruno and Westerman murder plots. His prior conviction stemmed from an illegal gambling and loan-sharking ring in Greater Springfield.
In that case, Fusco was picked up on Massachusetts State Police wiretaps wondering aloud whether one debtor would prefer "cement shoes" to paying up. In a recorded jailhouse conversation seven years later, the Geases refer to "the broken English guy" while worrying over a dig for Westerman's body at the site they buried the man. The FBI and state police swarmed the plot of land days after Arillotta began cooperating with the government. Arillotta told jurors he led officials to the burial site shortly after he became a witness.
Fusco has appeared in court with an Italian interpreter on several occasions. He is being held without bail at the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan, which has a reputation of being a cramped, trying environment even by prison standards.
Fusco's trial promises to essentially follow the blueprint of the Geas-Nigro trial over fewer than two weeks, with a third of the defendants and less than a third of the defense lawyers.



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