Convicted organized crime boss Martin Taccetta of East Hanover, who is hoping the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn his life-in-prison stint for racketeering, was sentenced Wednesday in Morristown to eight years behind bars for an unrelated racketeering case.
Taccetta, 64, joked, chuckled and tried to cajole state Superior Court Judge Salem Vincent Ahto in Morristown to give him anywhere from three to six years punishment on the guilty plea he entered in June to racketeering.
The judge listened to Taccetta and defense lawyer Jay Surgent speak at length, but Ahto said he would abide by the eight-year plea recommendation of state Deputy Attorney General Christopher Romanyshyn, largely because of Taccetta's long criminal history.
His past also includes acquittals on two murder charges, including the golf club beating death in 1984 of Toms River resident Vincent Craparotta, who allegedly refused to share profits from illegal Joker Poker video slot machines.
"I've got to give you credit, you never give up (on appealing for less time in prison)," Ahto told Taccetta, who was transported to the courthouse from state prison by a special operations team of officers.
Taccetta admitted to racketeering, which means engaging in a pattern of organized criminal conduct -- in this case, illegal gambling and money laundering. He was supposed to be sentenced by Ahto on Sept. 3, but at that time said he was thinking of withdrawing his guilty plea. He also claimed on Sept. 3 and again on Wednesday that he originally was given a plea offer of three to five years in prison, but Romanyshyn said no such deal was ever extended to Taccetta to his knowledge.
Surgent also noted that Taccetta only participated in illegal gambling and money laundering to constitute the racketeering charge and he wanted the record to reflect that Taccetta had no role in violence or drug trafficking as some other defendants did.
Surgent even objected to the racketeering case being labeled part of organized crime, but Romanyshyn hotly replied that it was.
"He seems to be targeted by law enforcement," Surgent said of Taccetta.
Taccetta currently is serving an unrelated sentence of life plus 10 years out of Ocean County for racketeering. He must serve at least 30 years of that sentence before parole eligibility. He is attacking that conviction and sentence on multiple fronts and wanted as short a sentence as possible out of Morris County in case he is successful on the Ocean County case.
Taccetta, who authorities and an Ocean County jury found is a member of the Lucchese crime family, is awaiting word from the U.S. Supreme Court on whether it will hear his appeal of the Ocean County conviction and told Ahto he also plans to file an appeal in state court of the "illegal" Ocean County sentence.
Taccetta's life sentence stems from his 1994 conviction for racketeering -- participating in an illegal gambling enterprise in New Jersey -- as well as extortion counts. During the same trial he was acquitted of the Craparotta murder. He was sentenced in 1994 as a "persistent offender and professional criminal," according to court records.
Taccetta served 10 years behind bars on the Ocean County case but was released in 2005 after winning his appeal that claimed ineffective assistance of legal counsel. The state Supreme Court in July 2009 overturned the ruling on ineffective assistance of counsel and ordered Taccetta back to prison. Unless he wins a further appeal, he has about 14 years left to serve before he reaches his first parole eligibility date.