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

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Philly district attorney uses indicting grand jury in mafia murder case


Eight months after Pennsylvania's Supreme Court revived use of indicting grand juries by county prosecutors, the Philadelphia District Attorney's office has opted to use one in the case of reputed mob soldier Anthony Nicodemo.
Nicodemo, 41, was arrested Dec. 13 in the daytime slaying of Gino DePietro outside his South Philadelphia home.
The slaying occurred as a federal court jury was hearing evidence in the racketeering trial of seven alleged Philadelphia mobsters. Some trial observers speculated about a possible connection between trial and killing and lawyers feared the news might taint the jury.
Nicodemo's preliminary hearing on murder and related charges was supposed to have been held today before a Municipal Court judge.
Instead, the hearing was canceled and defense attorney Brian J. McMonagle confirmed that prosecutors chose to take their case to an indicting grand jury rather than the public forum of a preliminary hearing.
McMonagle said Nicodemo is next set for a status hearing on March 11 before a Common Pleas Court judge.
Assistant District Attorney Edward Cameron, the prosecutor in the Nicodemo case, was not immediately available for comment.
Court records involving the Nicodemo case show two orders, filed Feb. 12 and 14, by Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey P. Minehart that refer to an "indicting grand jury." The documents are sealed.
The Supreme Court announced last June that it was reviving the statewide the use of county indicting grand juries, giving prosecutors the option of an indictment to bring criminal charges, or use a public preliminary hearing.
Though the impact of the high court's action was statewide, it was directed at Philadelphia where threats against victims and witnesses are widespread.
The intimidation problem is especially critical at a preliminary hearing where a Municipal Court judge decides if the prosecution's evidence is sufficient to justify a criminal trial.
The Supreme Court action followed a 2009 Inquirer investigative series, "Justice: Delayed, Dismissed, Denied," which documented witness intimidation and other problems crippling Philadelphia's justice system.
Preliminary hearings are typically held several weeks after a crime has been committed when witness memories of an event are believed to be sharper.
So too are feelings of emotion and fear and prosecutors complain that allies of criminal suspects can threaten or intimidate and cause a witness to refuse to testify or claim not to remember.
In other cases, no intimidation is needed; in some crime-plagued neighborhoods a "no snitching" culture has taken hold.
Prosecutors contend that using indicting grand juries in cases involving violent crimes gives witnesses and victims a chance to testify outside the public's view. Later, the witnesses may be called to testify in public if the criminal defendant goes to trial.
Unlike trial juries of 12 people, grand juries have 23 members. Grand juries meet in secret and generally hear only evidence presented by a prosecutor.
Defense attorneys say the secrecy guarantees prosecutors an indictment, or criminal charges, against the target of the investigation.
But defense lawyers also say a grand jury may mask weaknesses in a prosecution case that might have been evident sooner at a public preliminary hearing.

http://articles.philly.com/2013-02-20/news/37202691_1_grand-juries-preliminary-hearings-witnesses


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