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

Monday, September 11, 2023

Jailed Bonanno Soldier seeks to overturn life sentence in killing of witness in murder case


A Bonanno crime family soldier who whacked a witness in a murder case will get a hearing to determine whether one of his lawyers screwed up by telling him not to take a plea deal.

Stephen “Stevie Blue” LoCurto, 62, argues that he thought he could only get 20 years maximum, not the life sentence he’s currently serving, because one of his attorneys misunderstood whether a change to the federal racketeering law applied to his case.

“If I had known there was no chance of me getting less than life I would have taken the plea,” Locurto wrote in a 2010 motion to vacate his sentence. “Why would I take a 20 year plea when I had nothing to lose? All I could get is 20 years if I blew trial anyway.”

A judge ordered a hearing on the matter in 2016, but it was pushed back after years of procedural delays — and a 2022 psychiatric exam that followed a series of bizarre claims that correction officers were trying to poison him and hiding in his walls, while a group of onlookers bet on when he’d die while he was hospitalized.

“While dying in the ICU unit at NYU-Langone, there was a man in the wall, behind my bed, cursing me, telling me to hurry up and die, pouring soda from bottle to bottle and playing his ring tone over and over,” he wrote in a 2021 complaint to the Department of Justice.

His hearing was initially supposed to happen in Brooklyn Federal Court this Thursday, but it’s been pushed back to a later date.

LoCurto was convicted in Brooklyn Federal Court back in 2006 of racketeering and the 1986 murder of Bonanno associate Joseph Platia.

The mob marked Platia for death because he was hanging out with his pal, fellow Bonanno associate Robert Capasio, on May 9, 1986, when members of the crime family lured Capasio from Manhattan to a Brooklyn apartment where they fatally shot him in the head.

Rather than risk the killers’ identities getting out, LoCurto’s mob higher-ups ordered him to rub out Platia.

LoCurto shot Platia several times in the head as he sat in a car near W. 35th St. and 10th Ave. in Manhattan. Unluckily for LoCurto, a nearby cabbie flagged down police, who caught the mob killer with the murder weapon still warm in his pocket.

LoCurto managed to beat the charges in Manhattan Supreme Court in 1987, but was convicted by a federal jury in 2006.

In both trials, he took the stand in his own defense — a rarity in Mafia cases, since mob members who are still loyal are typically not supposed to take the stand and risk giving the government information on the inner workings of their crime families.

He’s been fighting the conviction ever since, including an appeal that failed in 2009.

LoCurto raised the question of ineffective counsel in 2010, arguing that lawyer Laura Oppenheim, who was assisting his trial attorney with research, gave him bad advice about whether a 1988 amendment to the racketeering law would apply to his case. The amendment raises the maximum sentence from 20 years to life.

She wrote in a 2010 affidavit that she told him, incorrectly, that applying the amendment to his case would violate the Constitution, because Platia’s murder happened in 1986.

But LoCurto’s trial lawyer, Harry Batchelder, had a different recollection of what happened — one more favorable to the prosecution.

“In fact, I told Mr. LoCurto that this was not a viable argument and advised him that if convicted at trial, he would receive a life sentence,” Batchelder wrote in a 2021 affidavit. “I never advised Mr. LoCurto that he should go to trial because he had nothing to lose.”

LoCurto insisted on going to trial because he had beaten the state charges, and never would have accepted a plea deal, Batchelder wrote. “Mr. LoCurto expressed that he was expecting a parade on Arthur Avenue after his anticipated acquittal,” he wrote.

Federal prosecutors also contend that the 20-year offer was never made as a formal plea deal.



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