Paralyzed ‘Pizza Connection’ Defendant Gets 10 Years
NEW YORK (AP) _ A defendant in the ″Pizza Connection″ drug case, paralyzed in a bungled hit near the end of the marathon trial, was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years in prison.
Pietro Alfano was ″involved at a high level with large scale drug dealings by a well-organized family of the Mafia,″ said U.S. District Judge Pierre Leval in handing down the sentence.
Leval said the sentence was ″much shorter″ than what he would have given Alfano if he had not been shot.
Alfano was gunned down Feb. 11 and left paralyzed below the waist less than two weeks before the conclusion of the 17-month trial, one of the longest criminal cases in federal court history.
Alfano, a 52-year-old pizza parlor owner from Oregon, Ill., was among 18 men convicted in March of participating in a massive, Mafia-controlled heroin ring. One other defendant was acquitted and another was killed months before the jury’s verdict.
The case was dubbed ″Pizza Connection″ because prosecutors said the ring used pizzerias as fronts for distributing millions of dollars in drugs over nearly a decade.
Leval in July set aside Alfano’s conviction on drug conspiracy and assisting a continuing criminal enterprise because he missed the final 19 days of the trial because of his wounds.
A month later, Alfano pleaded guilty via a telephone hookup from the hospital to the conspiracy charge as well as racketeering, which carries a maximum 20-year sentence.
Leval noted that re-trying Alfano would have been time-consuming and expensive for the government, but said he ″played a significant role in directing the activities of others″ in the drug conspiracy.
Defense lawyer Patrick Burke, arguing for leniency, said the bullet still lodged in Alfano’s spine could either totally paralyze or kill him if it moved.
Burke asked that the wheelchair-bound Alfano serve his sentence at home because he was already ″a prisoner of his own body.″
But Leval said detention at home was ″indistinguishable″ from ″no sentence at all.″