Friday, January 24, 2014
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A reputed Philadelphia mob boss beat back a conviction for a second time Friday at his retrial in a gambling and racketeering case.
A jury acquitted 74-year -old Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi of witness tampering, but deadlocked on three other charges. It's not clear if prosecutors will try him a third time on the 2009 indictment.
Mob turncoats and other government witnesses painted Ligambi as the head of a fading La Cosa Nostra crime family in Philadelphia. The FBI has been investigating him for more than a decade, since he allegedly took over when Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino went to prison.
The Ligambi case largely involves the collection of small gambling debts and loans, and the operation of video poker machines at neighborhood bars.
The retrial was a pared-down version of last year's trial, when Ligambi's reputed underboss, enforcer and several associates were convicted. Underboss Joseph "Mousie" Massimino ended up with a 15-year-sentence, while the enforcer got 11 years.
That jury acquitted Ligambi of five counts, while deadlocking on four.
"Now we've won a sixth of nine counts," defense lawyer Ed Jacobs told reporters after Friday's verdict. "Both times the jury was unable or unwilling to accept the government's theories on racketeering conspiracy and gambling."
He's called the case a witch hunt, and pointed out the lack of bloodshed. However, prosecutors pointed to the alleged threats and tough talk heard on FBI tapes to argue that the group remains dangerous.
The jury on Friday also acquitted Ligambi's nephew, 50-year-old George Borgesi, of racketeering conspiracy. He was being released after 13 years in prison from an earlier mob case.
Both juries deliberated for several weeks.