Government Orchestrated Testimony, Defense Attorney Says
LAS VEGAS, Nev. (AP) _ The government orchestrated testimony of two career criminals against reputed mobster Anthony Spilotro and eight other people, a defense attorney charged Wednesday during closing arguments in a federal racketeering trial.
The case was expected to go to the jury Thursday after prosecutors’ rebuttal arguments.
The government says Spilotro is the Las Vegas overseer for Chicago crime interests. He and the other eight are charged with conspiracy to transport stolen property across state lines and racketeering.
U.S. Attorney Stan Parry spent more than three hours during closing arguments Tuesday trying to tie the defendants to 15 crimes committed from January 1980 to August 1981.
Richard Wright, a former government prosecutor defending former Las Vegas Metro Police Detective Joe Blasko, attacked the credibility of prosecution witnesses Frank Cullotta and Salvatore Romano.
Cullotta and Romano have long criminal records, with Cullotta admitting to direct or indirect participation in four slayings. Both are in the federal witness protection program.
″When you have government witnesses like Mr. Romano and Mr. Cullotta, the government believes them because they want to believe them,″ Wright said, pointing out discrepancies in testimony the two gave during the 10-week trial.
″You put on blinders when you become prosecutors, just as you do as defense attorneys, and you make the evidence fit,″ Wright said.
″Mr. Cullotta’s testimony was as orchestrated as testimony can be,″ the defense attorney said, calling the prosecutors ″cheerleaders″ for the credibility of Romano and Cullotta.
Cullotta was a lieutenant in the gang that carried out the crimes, and he later turned government informant to escape life in prison. He served 22 months in prison for the crimes.
Wright said a state judge testified he was deceived by the FBI and gave Cullotta a lighter sentence for the burglaries because he was not made aware of his criminal background.
Romano was sent to Las Vegas by the FBI to infiltrate the gang and try to tie Spilotro to the crimes.
Although the government has been trying to convict Spilotro on a variety of charges for 15 years, his only felony conviction was for lying on a loan application, a crime for which he was fined $1.