Prosecutors argued Fusco was a shrewd Mafia killer, while Fusco’s defense lawyer countered that the prosecution relied squarely on a government witness and habitual liar looking to deflect a life sentence of his own.
Fusco, 43, is standing trial for the 2003 murders of Springfield, organized crime boss Adolfo “Big Al” Bruno and police informant Gary D. Westerman, both of whom threatened the power structure of the New York-based Genovese crime family, according to prosecutors. Fusco also is accused of racketeering acts, including extortion and narcotics trafficking. He has denied involvement in any of the alleged schemes.
In short, government witness Anthony J. Arillotta testified under a plea deal that Fusco spearheaded a movement to take Bruno out because he learned through a court document that Bruno had confirmed Fusco was a “made guy” to an FBI agent in 2002; and that Fusco was among four men who helped shoot, bludgeon and bury Westerman in a show of solidarity to the “Springfield Crew” of the Genovese family.
Arillotta also told jurors over four days of testimony that Fusco provided a .45-caliber gun to Bruno shooter Frankie Roche, and acted as the spotter to alert Roche when Bruno would be at one of his frequent haunts, the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Society social club in Springfield’s South End neighborhood.
Bruno was gunned down there after his regular Sunday night card game on Nov. 23, 2003.
During his summation, Lind argued to jurors that the government had no DNA evidence, phone records, fingerprints or other physical evidence tying his client to either murder — they just had Arillotta, who has already pleaded guilty to both killings and other crimes.
“The question is not whom did (Arillotta) lie to? It’s whom didn’t he lie to?” Lind said during a 90-minute closing.
Previously, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas McQuaid told the panel that Fusco became a rising star in the Springfield Genovese faction after he emigrated there from Italy in the 1990s.
“Just like it’s the job of a baker to bake bread; just like it’s the job of a barber to cut hair, it’s the job of a mobster to commit crimes. That was Emilio Fusco’s profession,” McQuaid said.
The problem with mob trials, both sides admit: government witnesses, defendants and victims alike were predators at some point.
Lind highlighted for jurors that Arillotta lied and killed his way to the top of the Springfield faction until his arrest in connection with the Bruno murder in 2010. Lind also argued that the Bruno murder initiative was in place long before Fusco came across the document that showed Bruno had spoken to an FBI agent about mob business. And, after Arillotta’s arrest, Arillotta still hid $80,000 in a Zip-lock bag in his basement in Springfield while his now ex-wife was forced to support their three children on food stamps.
“If Anthony Arillotta could deceive his wife of 17 years, the mother of his three children ... Do you think he would hesitate to deceive you? Complete strangers?” Lind asked the jury. “The government would have you believe that Anthony Arillotta was reformed once he signed the deal.”
Arillotta admitted during direct testimony to a startling history of violence including murder plots against longtime friends, and his mentor, Bruno; and an attempted fatal shooting of a union boss he had never met at the behest of then-Genovese acting boss Arthur Nigro; plus, the grisly killing of Westerman, who had married his young sister-in-law; and the baseless extortions of several Springfield business owners just because he thought they were fair game. His sentencing will not be scheduled until the resolution of Fusco’s case.
And to be sure, Bruno himself got on board with stepped-up shakedowns and violent measures against businessmen in Springfield when he became a captain 2001. Testimony showed Bruno fell out of favor around 2002 when he himself got scammed by Florida gangsters after investing $250,000 in an ill-fated cigarette exporting deal. He began bad-mouthing Nigro, and Lind argued that was the beginning of the end for Bruno — not the court document in his client’s case.
Even Westerman, who probably had the least power among the key players in the trial, was lured to his own death by the promise of committing a home invasion at an Agawam property before learning he had been fatally duped by Arillotta and his former henchmen, Fotios “Freddy” and Ty Geas, of West Springfield. They are now serving life prison sentences in connection with this case along with Nigro after a trial last year.
An FBI agent testified that Arillotta in 2010 led investigators to the site where Westerman had been killed and buried off Springfield Street in Agawam. In the hole where Westerman’s battered skull, sneakers and clothes were unearthed, investigators also found a ski mask and a stun gun that were Westerman’s intended robbery tools.
Lind spent the balance of his closing argument arguing to the jury that the government’s evidence against Fusco was flimsy, and the cigarette filters uncovered in the dig for Westerman’s body were the victim’s, not Fusco’s.
“How stupid would that be? Why wouldn’t you just leave a business card and a photo and say: ‘I was here!’ ” Lind argued.
The government countered that the cigarettes were Fusco’s and linked him to the crime. Also, problematic for Fusco: he boarded a plane to Italy within days of the Westerman dig in April of 2010 and only returned to the United States when Italian authorities arrested him at a bus stop in July and returned him to this country for trial. Lind put on witnesses who testified Fusco was there on family business.
Jurors are expected to begin their deliberations after eight days of testimony starting Tuesday morning. Fusco faces 20 years to life in prison if convicted.