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

Friday, January 28, 2011

Al Bruno murder trial: Ty Geas gets an iPod; judge says both brothers need more library time to research defense

A federal judge presiding over an organized crime murder and racketeering case involving two Western Massachusetts defendants threatened on Tuesday to release the men pending trial unless the U.S. Bureau of Prisons boosts their allotment of research time to help prepare their own defenses.
Fotios "Freddy" and Ty Geas, brothers and reputed mob enforcers accused in the 2003 murders of one-time regional organized-crime boss Adolfo "Big Al" Bruno and low-level associate Gary D. Westerman, are scheduled to stand trial in U.S. District Court in Manhattan beginning March 8.
The Geases and former alleged New York Genovese crime family leader Arthur "Artie" Nigro are accused of hatching the Bruno murder plots plus a litany of other crimes, including shake-downs of businesses from Massachusetts to Florida and New York, drug trafficking and beat-downs of rivals. While the Geases were charged in the Westerman murder, Nigro was not.
Charged with a series of crimes through a string of indictments over 2009 and 2010, the brothers pleaded innocent to a new set of charges brought Jan. 20, which tacked on an additional, thwarted murder plot against East Longmeadow, Mass., restaurant manager Guiseppe Manzi and the robbery of a drug dealer of $100,000 in drugs at gunpoint in 2002.
The case originated in the state court, Hampden Superior Court, in Springfield, Mass., where Bruno's admitted shooter, Frankie Roche was first charged until he turned informant for the federal government. It was ultimately transferred to federal court in Springfield until New York authorities seized control of it last year.

Al Bruno Murder Case 
Defense lawyers for the Geas brothers, who witnesses say acted as "the muscle" for Bruno's reputed successor, Anthony J. Arillotta, of Springfield, complained during Tuesday’s court hearing to the judge about limitations which Bureau of Prisons officials place on pretrial defendants needing to access computer files for research to bolster their defense strategies.
Arillotta was charged in the case before turning on his co-defendants. He is expected to be one of the prosecution's prime witnesses against the Geases and Nigro at trial. Filings by the government indicate Arillotta is expected to testify about crimes he, the Geases, Roche and others plotted after they first met in state prison during the early 1990s.
Bruno, the longtime Genovese leader in Western Massachusetts and northern Connecticut, was gunned down on the eve of his 58th birthday on Nov. 23, 2003. Roche told the FBI that Fotios Geas paid him $10,000 to ambush Bruno amid a power struggle to pave the way for new, younger leadership. The alleged murder-for-hire was a classic mob hit approved by Nigro and other New York-based gangsters, according to witnesses.
Roche pleaded guilty in federal court in 2008 in exchange for a shot at a significantly shorter prison term. He and Arillotta are cued up to describe to jurors a violent spree that peaked around 2003 with the murders of Bruno and Westerman.
Westerman disappeared in 2003, just weeks before Bruno was shot. Investigators did not turn up his remains until April, shortly after Arillotta turned informant and led law enforcement officials to a wooded lot in Agawam, Mass. According to court filings, Arillotta and Fotios Geas lured him there under the guise of committing a robbery, shot him and buried him in an 8-foot grave.
Westernman had been a Massachusetts State Police informant since 1996, according to prosecutors. Consequently, the Geases face a special charge of murder to obstruct justice.
However, defense lawyers in court filings quarrel with the government's portrayal of the alleged motive for Westerman's killing. Bobbi Sternheim, a lawyer for Ty Geas, in a recent filing characterizes Westerman, 48, as a "cokehead and drug dealer" who angered Arillotta by marrying Arillotta's significantly younger sister-in-law and allegedly roping her into various unseemly activities.

In the same filing, Sternheim also notes that government witness John Bologna, a New York gangster on loan from the Gambino crime family, was an FBI informant since 1997 but nonetheless traveled to Springfield in 2003 and played some role in plotting the hit on Bruno. Sternheim contends prosecutors report that Bologna lied to his FBI handler about the circumstances around Bruno's death. Not surprisingly, the government does not intend to call Bologna as a witness at trial, according to the defense lawyer.
Emilio Fusco, a convicted loan shark from Longmeadow, Mass., also has been charged in the case, but fled to Italy before he was charged and is fighting extradition. A sixth defendant, Felix Tranghese, of East Longmeadow, Mass., was indicted but also has entered into a cooperation with federal prosecutors and is expected to testify at trial, according to court records.
What is becoming clear is that, between all the defendants and government witnesses, testimony will include a tangle of former allies who allegedly carried out murder, extortion, assault, robbery and double-crosses. Statements suggest that the laundry list of crimes was part and parcel of their given industry, but talking to law enforcement was perhaps the single unforgivable breach.
To that end, defense lawyers are fighting hard to minimize evidence of Westerman or Bruno getting killed for cozying up to law enforcement. While an FBI agent submitted one report regarding a 2002 conversation he had with Bruno about Bruno's assessment of the organized crime landscape at the time, the extent of his relationship with authorities remains unclear.
On the issue of the defendants’ access to documents they need to review, Sternheim on Tuesday told judge Kevin Castel that a Manhattan correctional facility has only sporadically allowed her client two hours per week over four months to pore over thousands of pages and hundreds of hours of audio recordings, all of it potential evidence offered by prosecutors.
Castel said he will sign an order increasing the time to 12.5 hours a week, or to consider letting the defendants out of prison pending trial.
"The alternative to that is to release the defendants from custody before trial so they can participate in their own defense," Castel said.
Prosecutors countered that they will work with the Bureau of Prisons on the concession, and added that they purchased an iPod so Ty Geas can listen to audio recordings in his cell at the Manhattan Detention Center.
Castel scheduled an evidentiary hearing for Feb. 22. The trial is expected to last approximately a month.



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