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

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Legal bill throws temporary wrench into prosecution of Emilio Fusco, 4th defendant in 'Big Al' Bruno murder case

The prosecution of a fourth defendant in the 2003 murder case of Adolfo "Big Al" Bruno, already slowed when the man fought extradition from his native Italy, is being hobbled once again by a dispute over $5,500 in lawyers' fees.
Emilio Fusco, 42, of Longmeadow, appeared in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on Tuesday for a status conference and to introduce a brand-new lawyer to the case after recently firing another one. The outgoing attorney, William I. Aronwald, told the court he intends to hold hostage 15,000 pages of alleged evidence in the case until Fusco pays his bill.
But, according to his new lawyer, Richard Lind, Fusco contends he was overbilled by Aronwald and doesn't intend to pay him any more money. The legal standoff that played out in court prompted U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel to order Aronwald and Lind into a private room - or even better yet, to lunch together - for no less than 45 minutes to arrive at a compromise.
"Plan A, is a set a schedule (to litigate the matter of the legal fees). or you two go into the jury room and see if you can work this out ... or better yet, break bread together," said Castel, who falls on the stern side in terms of judicial temperament.
Fusco, 42, of Longmeadow, was arrested in southern Italy last year by authorities dressed as utility workers and trash men, according to police. He was named in a racketeering indictment along with several other defendants including three who were sentenced to life in prison on Sept. 12: West Springfield mob enforcers Fotios "Freddy" Geas and his brother Ty Geas, and Arthur "Artie" Nigro, of the Bronx, onetime acting boss of the Genovese crime family. Those three stood trial in March and were convicted by a jury in just a few hours after three weeks of testimony.
Fusco is accused of being one of several local gangsters who sought Nigro's approval to put a hit out on Bruno, a prominent figure in the Springfield faction of the Genovese family, whom Fusco learned had passed on information about his own status in the clan to an FBI agent in 2001. Fusco also is accused in the murder conspiracy against Gary D. Westerman, a low-level organized crime associate who disappeared the same year Bruno was murdered, and whose remains were unearthed in a wooded lot in Agawam last year.
Coincidentally, Fusco booked a flight to Italy days after the dig for Westerman's remains began. Prosecutors argue he fled, while Aronwald argued he had a prescheduled flight to Italy to attend to family engagements and business. The Italian government ordered his extradition in June. That decision is being appealed by Fusco's European lawyers, according to court records.
Mafia turncoat Anthony J. Arillotta, of Springfield, testified during the Geas trial that he and the Geases recruited Fusco to help kill Westerman in 2003. Westerman, Arillotta's brother-on-law, was correctly suspected of being a Massachusetts State Police informant and had angered Arillotta and the Geases on a number of levels including during criminal enterprises and by marrying Arillotta's much younger sister-in-law and sending her family into a furor.
Over two days of testimony in federal court in March, Arillotta told jurors that he called Fusco to help with the plot against Westerman, and Fusco, reached while having dinner at an East Longmeadow restaurant, said he was game but wanted to finish dessert first. Arillotta testified the Geases lured him to a home off Springfield Street in Agawam under the guise of a home invasion. The Geases shot Westerman, who was not immediately felled by the bullets, and Arillotta said he and Fusco popped out of the garage to bludgeon him with the shovels they used to dig an eight-foot grave in the woods.
Fusco has denied any involvement in the killings; further, his lawyers have a motion pending arguing the Italian government never intended that Fusco be prosecuted for murder and are trying to exclude the alleged evidence in both the Bruno and Westerman slayings. Most European countries will not extradite citizens for crimes that are "death eligible." Fusco is not facing the death penalty for th racketeering charges, however.
Aronwald, who has an assertive courtroom style, was once an Assistant U.S. Attorney and Mafia prosecutor in New York. According to published reports, the mob in 1987 ordered a hit on him and then-prosecutor and former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. The hit men erroneously killed Aronwald's 78-year-old father, a parking violation hearings officer, instead. Aronwald has refused to discuss it, saying it was a personal matter.
He was willing to discuss Fusco's outstanding bill at length, however. Aronwald told Castel that the $5,500 bill included over $2,000 in expenses he paid out-of-pocket to get documents by the Italian government translated and related services.
Lind said Fusco has "dutifully paid Aronwald, a White Plains, NY attorney, a lot of money" after negotiating a flat rate to handle the case. That price tag was not discussed in court.
Fusco is scheduled to stand trial April 16, 2012.



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