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

Friday, April 15, 2011

At Mob Murder Trial, Judge Criticizes Defense Lawyers’ Actions

Nicholas GaraufisJudge Nicholas G. Garaufis A federal judge in Brooklyn chided defense lawyers on Friday for their actions during the trial of a Mafia boss accused of murder.
The trial of the defendant, Vincent Basciano, who is charged with ordering the 2004 murder of a fellow mobster, Randolph Pizzolo, has gained widespread attention because a former leader of the Bonanno family, Joseph C. Massino, has been testifying for the government. Mr. Massino, who is serving two consecutive life sentences for eight murders, is the first official boss of a New York crime family to cooperate with federal authorities.
A defense lawyer for Mr. Basciano, Richard Jasper, began a cross-examination of Mr. Massino on Thursday. But in a move that Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis later called “unheard of,” he turned over the cross-examination to a colleague, George R. Goltzer, who pursued a confrontational line of questioning, raising his voice and asking Mr. Massino if he felt like a hypocrite.
Federal prosecutors objected to the unusual move, saying that allowing two separate lawyers to question their witness amounted to giving the defense a “second bite of the apple.” The defense lawyers countered that Mr. Jasper had ceded the questioning to a colleague because he was not feeling well.
On Friday, Judge Garaufis appeared to question that explanation.
“He didn’t look the slightest bit under any disability to me,” he said, referring to Mr. Jasper, adding that a review of security cameras had showed that Mr. Jasper was present in the courthouse for about 20 minutes after the proceeding on Thursday had finished.
The judge next turned his attention to Mr. Goltzer’s questioning of Mr. Massino, which he called “loud and continual,” adding, “You just can’t do that in my courtroom.”
Judge Garaufis then said he had observed that Mr. Basciano’s lawyers consulted over and over again with two other lawyers who had been watching the proceedings from the gallery. He wondered whether those lawyers, Jane Simkin Smith and Michael Bachrach, were being paid to participate in Mr. Basciano’s defense.
“They are not being paid,” Mr. Golzer responded. “I didn’t ask them to be here.”
The judge said that Ms. Smith had been remarking on his rulings and added: “She has an obligation to be proper and decorous. I don’t need her in the back of the room commenting.”
Ms. Smith, who is representing Mr. Basciano in an appeal in a related case, disagreed on Friday.
“Judge Garaufis’s comments are without merit and out of bounds,” she said. “I am an interested observer of this trial, and it is not the judge’s concern with whom I share my observations.”
There are a few odd twists to the case. It was Judge Garaufis who sentenced Mr. Massino to his life sentences. And, the authorities said, Mr. Basciano at one point plotted to kill the judge.
As the judge wrapped up the session, he said, “This week was an outrageous situation in a number of senses,” then asked if any of the lawyers had questions.
None of the lawyers replied, but the defendant, Mr. Basciano, held a finger in the air.
“Just one issue about my lunch,” he said, before the judge cut him off, shaking his head and adjourning the proceeding.



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