Deliberations Begin in New England Mob Trial
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ A jury began deliberations Friday in the trial of eight reputed members of New England’s most powerful crime family, following nine weeks of testimony about loan-sharking, gambling and murder.
The eight defendants were among 21 alleged members and associates of the Patriarca crime family arrested in March 1990 in an organized crime crackdown that authorities said would break the back of the New England mob.
All were charged under federal racketeering statutes with supporting the family’s gambling and loan-sharking operations through crimes ranging from extortion to murder. Maximum penalties range from 40 years to life in prison.
Seven other alleged family members will be tried in Boston this fall, including the reputed boss, Raymond J. ″Junior″ Patriarca.
The heart of the case presented in the U.S. District Court here was the 1989 slaying of William ″The Wild Guy″ Grasso, an underboss from New Haven.
Prosecutors depicted the Patriarca family as ruthless criminals who lived by a code of violence.
Prosecutors played more than 100 FBI recordings of conversations involving the alleged mobsters. On many of the tapes, the defendants discuss gambling operations throughout Connecticut.
Another recording was of a secret initiation ceremony. In it, four men, including two of the defendants, are heard promising to kill anyone who threatened the family - even their own brothers and sons - and swearing not to reveal the family’s secrets.
Defense attorneys attempted to punch holes in the government’s case by questioning the credibility of its two main witnesses: Informants John F. ″Sonny″ Castagna and his son, Jack Johns, both reputed Patriarca associates from Hartford.
The two, who were indicted as part of the 1990 mob sweep, agreed to testify against the other defendants in return for reduced sentences.
Their testimony enabled prosecutors to file murder charges against four reputed mobsters from western Massachusetts: Gaetano Milano, Frank Colantoni Jr., Frank ″Frankie Pugs″ Pugliano and Louis ″Louie Pugs″ Pugliano.
Castagna and Johns told the jury they participated in three failed attempts to kill Grasso, and finally succeeded in June 1989. Johns testified that Milano was the triggerman, shooting Grasso once in the back of the head as a group of mobsters drove to a family meeting.
Several witnesses for the defense testified they saw Grasso in a New Haven restaurant after Castagna and Johns said he was killed. Milano’s wife, Judith, said she was with her husband when he was supposed to have killed Grasso.
Castagna and Johns are still awaiting sentencing. They are expected to testify at the Boston trial.