Major Organized Crime Trial Begins Monday
ST. LOUIS (AP) _ Six men go on trial in federal court Monday on charges they took part in a rash of car bombings and shootings that left three people dead in an attempt to grab control of an organized crime syndicate.
U.S. Attorney Thomas Dittmeier has called the defendants the highest- ranking mob figures in the St. Louis area.
″And if you take the nucleus out, it effectively closes the organization,″ Dittmeier said.
Indicted in April 1983 were brothers Paul J. and Anthony Leisure; their cousin, David Leisure; and Charles Loewe, Steven Wougamon and Robert Carbough.
Each was charged with violating the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute through car-bombings, shootings and other violence over three years.If convicted, each defendant could be sentenced to 20 years in prison and fined $25,000.
Two others indicted, Ronald Broderick and John Ramo, have agreed to testify for the government during the trial, which is expected to last a month, in return for pleading guilty to reduced charges, authorities said.
Victims of the violence included James A. Michaels Sr., a reputed mob leader, and his nephew, George Faheen Jr., both killed in car bombings. Michaels’ grandson, Charles J. Michaels, was shot and wounded.
The other murder victim, Michael Kornhardt, was shot to death in August after he was charged in the Faheen slaying and released on bail.
Authorities believe the underworld power struggle began in August 1980, when Anthony Giordano, the reputed organized crime boss in St. Louis, died of cancer. Paul Leisure and his associates tried to take control of a local union run by the Michaels family, authorities said.
Two months after Giordano’s death, James Michaels Sr. was killed when a bomb exploded under his car seat as he was driving along a highway. His death sparked a mob war, authorities said.
Paul Leisure, a member of a rival faction, lost parts of both legs 11 months later when he detonated a car bomb by turning his ignition. James Michaels III, a grandson of James Michaels Sr., was convicted in that bombing.
Charles Michaels and a friend were ambushed in a restaurant parking lot a month after Leisure was maimed, and Faheen was killed when a bomb ripped through his car in a downtown parking garage 13 months after that. Kornhardt’s body was found nine months later.
All six defendants also face state charges, including murder, conspiracy to commit murder, attempted murder and witness intimidation. A separate trial on those charges will be held in state court after the federal proceedings.
Prosecutors hope to introduce as evidence 15 hours of taped telephone conversations obtained from wiretaps on telephones at the towing business owned by the Leisures and at Paul Leisure’s home.
U.S. District Judge Edward Filippine agreed with a U.S. magistrate’s decision that the tapes were obtained legally, but he still had to decide whether any can be presented to the jury.
In addition, David Godfrey, the attorney for Wougamon, has asked Filippine to try his client separately because he has suffered psychological problems.
After a pre-trial hearing in December 1983, Wougamon climbed on an icy third-floor ledge of the federal court building in St. Louis and threatened to jump. Police talked him off the ledge after 75 minutes.