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

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Day 15 ends without a verdict at Philly mob trial

Gary Battaglini stood in the middle of the 15th floor hallway of the federal courthouse this afternoon and slowly turned in a circle. Once. Twice. Three times.

"This is where we're going," Battaglini, who along with mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and five co-defendants, has now been waiting 15 days for a jury to decide his fate.

The jury wrapped things up at 4:30 p.m. without a decision and will be back at it again tomorrow morning.

"Who knows?" Battaglini, 51, said when asked  where he thought the process was. Then he slowly turned in a circle again.

Ligambi, 73, and his co-defendants are charged with racketeering conspiracy in a case built around a 12-year FBI investigation that began in 1999. The 52-count indictment also includes charges of gambling, loansharking and extortion.

To convict the defendants of the racketeering conspiracy count -- the most serious -- the jury would have to decide that the defendants knowingly engaged in plans to commit crimes on behalf of the criminal organization. Among other things, the defense has argued that even if their clients are guilty of individual crimes like bookmaking, the evidence does not support a finding that the crimes were part of a criminal enterprise.

The prosecution has argued that all seven defendants worked for and conspired on behalf of the Philadelphia Cosa Nostra.

Whether the conspiracy count is what has hung up the jury is an open question as the now marathon deliberation process continues. Three earlier mob racketeering cases, in 1988, in 1995 and in 2001,  that included murders and attempted murders were decided by juries that deliberated for about a week. This panel has deliberated for 15 days over what is now a three-week period.

The anonymously chosen panel finished the afternoon by asking for exhibits tied to video poker machines that were seized by law enforcement during the course of the investigation of Ligambi and the others. They will be provide when deliberations resume tomorrow morning.

The jury asked for similar exhibits a few days after deliberations began on Jan. 8, leading to speculation that the panel has indeed come full circle. But whether the eight men and four women on the jury are any closer to reaching a verdict remained the unanswered and bewildering question.

"I've never seen anything like this," said one veteran defense attorney.

The defendants and their friends and family members seemed upbeat this afternoon. Anthony Staino, who like Battaglini is free on bail (Ligambi and the others are not) said he believes the jury has split into two factions, one favoring convictions and the other acquittals. But he said he believes the longer the deliberations take, the better it is for the defense.

Most lawyers agreed that the lenghty deliberations raised questions about the govenment's case, but no one will predict where the process will eventually lead. Adding to everyone's concern was a question posed by a few jury members concerned about deliberations this weekend.

Judge Eduardo Robreno told the jury on Monday that if it did not reach a verdict by Friday he would have the panel deliberate Saturday and Sunday. To date the panel has only been meeting on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Sunday is the Super Bowl. According to several courtroom sources, a few jurors have balked at the idea of working on the weekend, claiming it would create a "hardship." What the hardship would be has not been disclosed.

But more problematic is the fact that jurors were even posing the question, an indication that at least some of them believe they will not be finished deliberations by Friday.

At what point does a jury decide that it is hung? That was the question circulating in the hallway as Battaglini slowly twisted in a circle.


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