License to Kill:Greg Scarpa and the FBI
By J. R. de Szigethy
In yet another legal maneuver in the saga of embattled FBI agent Lindley DeVecchio, the retired G-man facing 4 counts of murder with the Mob has waived his right to a trial by "a jury of his peers" and instead demanded he face a "Bench Trial," in which the Judge acts as both Judge and Jury in the case. DeVecchio’s request, which came on the first day of jury selection of his long-delayed trial, was just the latest in a series of legal ploys to escape conviction on charges he assisted Colombo Mafia Family hitman/FBI Informant Greg Scarpa in the commission of 4 murders.
Attorneys for DeVecchio first attempted to have the charges against the career law enforcement agent thrown out on the grounds that they arose from his work as an FBI agent assigned to investigations of the American Mafia. While that strategy was unsuccessful, that same argument allowed the Justice Department to rule that the American taxpayer would have to share the burden of DeVecchio’s legal expenses, which, according to a Daily News report of last March had already risen to over $400,000. Criminal lawyers then attempted to have the case transferred to the Federal Courts in the Eastern District in Brooklyn. That maneuver did not work out, with Judge Frederic Block’s ruling that the case would remain in Brooklyn State Court. Next came a "Kastigar Hearing," a rare legal ploy in which lawyers argued that investigators used DeVecchio’s immunized testimony from Court proceedings to obtain the indictments against him. While this tactic may eventually play out in this case, for the moment Judge Gustin Reichbach has ruled against it, given that DeVecchio’s immunized testimony consisted primarily of dozens of "I don’t recall" responses to questions by Federal Prosecutors as well as lawyers seeking a new trial for former Colombo Acting Boss Vic Orena.
DeVecchio’s seeking a Bench trial is likely the result of two determining factors; the hostile reaction DeVecchio was met with by jurors in three separate Mafia trials in Brooklyn, and the fact that jury pools in New York City frequently are comprised of citizens who have negative attitudes towards officers of law enforcement.
During the mid-1990s, Federal Prosecutors in Brooklyn sought to put away the members of both factions of the Colombo Family War, an internal insurgency from 1989 to 1992 during which at least 12 people were murdered, one an innocent bystander. Just who started the war has yet to be determined; some investigators believe that Greg Scarpa Sr., at that point in 1989 dying of AIDS, started the war as an evil attempt to take control of the Colombo Family by literally murdering everyone who stood in his way. A similar plot was concocted during that time by Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, the deranged killer for the Luchese Family who murdered over 30 people during his rise to Underboss of the Family. However, in the case of the Colombo Family, Gambino Family turncoat "Mikey Scars" DiLeonardo alleged during the 2006 murder trial of Alphonse Persico that Gambino Godfather John Gotti started the war in an attempt to expand his power base into the Colombo Family, as it is now known Gotti had done in regards to New Jersey’s DeCavalcante Family.
Regardless who started the war, the insurgency came in the aftermath of the "Commission trial," the landmark case by U. S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani that prosecuted the Godfathers of all 5 New York City Mafia families. Only Gambino Godfather Paul Castellano escaped the wrath of Giuliani, given that Castellano was murdered by Gotti and crew while Castellano was under indictment. Among those convicted and sent away for Life was Colombo Godfather Carmine "The Snake" Persico. With the Senior Persico in prison, and his son Alphonse put away on other charges, a power vacuum developed at the top of the Colombo Family. When the war erupted in 1989, mobsters were quick to choose sides; aligned with the Persicos were Greg Scarpa, his young friend Larry Mazza, Carmine Sessa, and Johnny Pate, among others; aligned with the alleged usurper, Acting Boss Vic Orena were "Wild Bill" Cutolo and "Big Sal" Miciotta.
By 1994 the war was over and the Prosecutions regarding that war began in Brooklyn Federal Court. The first involved Alphonse Persico, charged with leading the war despite his incarceration in prison. To prove their case prosecutors called Big Sal Miciotta and Larry Mazza, who helped Greg Scarpa commit murders during the war. Mazza had become drawn into the Colombo Family - and the war- as a result of his affair with Scarpa’s common-law wife, Linda Schiro, an affair the treacherous hitman approved of. Persico’s lawyer blamed the war on Greg Scarpa. Two days before Scarpa died of AIDS he provided to Persico’s attorney two sworn affidavits that stated that Persico did not instigate the Colombo Family war. Jurors just didn’t buy the Feds’ argument against Persico and Alphonse walked out of Court a free man.
Jurors were even more troubled by the Feds’ prosecution in the next Colombo trial, that of NYPD Detective Joe Simone, accused by "Big Sal" Miciotta of leaking confidential information from the Organized Crime Task Force to the Colombo Family. Simone’s attorney John Patten suggested to the jury that it was FBI agent DeVecchio, not Detective Simone, who was responsible for the leaks of information to the Mob. After just two hours of deliberations, Joe Simone was acquitted of all charges. Ten of the twelve jurors stood outside the Courthouse in the cold October rain to meet with and console Joe Simone and his family.
The next case was the racketeering murder trial of William "Wild Bill" Cutolo and 6 members of his crew. Big Sal Miciotta testified under cross examination that FBI agents, including DeVecchio gave him permission to continue his loan sharking and extortion rackets while he worked secretly for the FBI. Miciotta also admitted he viciously assaulted a young man in training to become a Priest and loaned his brother $10,000 which he used to buy 150 pounds of marijuana while working for the FBI. The defendants in the case claimed they were only acting in self-defense against a renegade FBI informant/Mafia hitman, Greg Scarpa, and his FBI handler, agent DeVecchio. As in the Simone trial the jurors did not believe Miciotta and acquitted all defendants on murder and weapons charges.
The New York Times then joined the chorus of those questioning the relationship between Scarpa and the FBI. The Times noted that despite Scarpa’s rap sheet of 10 arrests over 4 decades on charges including unlicensed weapons possession, assault, gambling and attempts to bribe police officers, as well as theft of stocks and bonds, the result of his lifetime of crime was that Scarpa had only spent 30 days in jail. The New Yorker Magazine would reveal that Scarpa had, in fact, been an FBI Informant since the early 1960s, when he helped Director J. Edgar Hoover solve the case of three missing civil rights activists murdered in Mississippi. Evidently, in exchange for Scarpa’s helping FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover back in the 1960s, Greg Scarpa Sr. was literally given a ‘license to kill.’
In May, 1995 Vic and John Orena, steel company executive Thomas Petrizzo, and four associates went on trial on murder conspiracy charges relating to the Colombo Family war. In her opening arguments Assistant U. S. Attorney Ellen Corcella admitted to the jury that FBI agent DeVecchio had an unusual relationship with crime boss Greg Scarpa and had leaked confidential information to him. Defense attorneys argued that their clients were only acting in self-defense against a renegade FBI agent and his Mafia hitman Informant. FBI agent Howard Leadbetter testified that he and agents Chris Favo and Jeffrey Tomlinson reported to their superiors that DeVecchio had tried to obstruct a probe of Scarpa. Favo told the Court that he was convinced DeVecchio had committed crimes by leaking information to Scarpa. Colombo capo Carmine Sessa told the Court he too knew that DeVecchio was giving information to Scarpa.
When the jurors in the Orena trial entered into deliberations they set a legal precedent by asking the Judge for evidence not entered at trial. The document in question was DeVecchio’s written report of conversations he had with Greg Scarpa at his home during the Colombo Family war. Judge Edward Korman and the Defense attorneys did not even know such a document existed. Nor did the jurors; they just ASSUMED such a document existed and asked the Judge to provide it. Under questioning from Judge Korman, prosecutors conceded the document in question did in fact exist. Faced with the prospect of a mis-trial for the withholding of exculpatory evidence, Judge Korman had no choice but to turn over to the jury a document that had not been introduced at trial. The jurors then acquitted all defendants on all charges and demanded of the Prosecutors why it was DeVecchio had not been indicted for murder. Three of the jurors spoke to three different newspapers, expressing their concern over the actions of agent DeVecchio regarding Scarpa.
Given such a history, it came as no surprise to some veteran journalists following this case when DeVecchio chose not to have his Fate decided by a jury of fellow citizens. Nor was the G-man’s decision made in a vacuum; New York City has for decades been the harbinger of citizens and communities that hold deep-seated hostility towards law enforcement personnel, particularly police officers. Thus, there is the perception by many criminal attorneys that a law enforcement officer cannot receive a ‘fair trial’ in New York City by a jury formed from the local jury pool. There are two ways to get around such a dilemma; one is the seeking of a Change of Venue - by which the trial is moved outside the New York City area where potential jurors are considered to be less hostile towards cops. When, for example, 4 New York City police officers faced trial for the 1999 shooting of African immigrant Amadou Diallo, their attorneys succeeded in obtaining a Change of Venue to Albany, 130 miles north of the city. There, the local jury acquitted the officers of all charges in a case that many in New York City believed to be a cut-and-dried case of police brutality.
In regards to a Bench trial, Police Officer Francis Livoti exercised his right to such in 1996 for the incident in which Bronx native Anthony Baez died while being arrested by Livoti. On the last night of his life, Anthony Baez was playing football with family and friends outside his Bronx home. Livoti became enraged when the young men’s football struck his patrol car and placed Baez under arrest. Prosecutors claimed Baez died from an illegal choke hold, while Livoti’s attorney claimed Baez died from an asthma attack. As in the case of the Diallo case, a considerable number of New Yorkers were outraged over what they believed to a be a shocking case of police brutality. Citizen anger over the case was furthered when the Judge in the Bench trial acquitted Livoti of all charges. The Feds in the Southern District would later obtain a conviction against Livoti for violating Baez’ civil rights, for which Livoti served a Federal prison term of 7 years.
Judge Gustin Reichbach, however, is not without his own negative feelings towards some in law enforcement, as he correctly pointed out to DeVecchio while deciding whether to grant the Defendant’s request. Reichbach quoted from his own FBI file from his days as an activist with the Students for a Democratic Society, a radical, anti-VietNam war group best known for taking over the office of the President of Columbia University. FBI agents had branded Reichbach as "dangerous," a classic example of exaggerations, distortions, and outrage lies that are notoriously prominent in FBI files. Reichbach’s self-disclosure of a potential bias will undoubtedly be revisited by an Appeals Court should DeVecchio be convicted of a least one of the Counts in this case.
Those Counts are as follows; that Agent DeVecchio leaked information to his FBI Informant Greg Scarpa that instigated Scarpa to murder 31-year-old Mary Bari, Colombo Family member "Joe Brewster" DeDomenico, 18-year-old Patrick Porco, the best friend of Joey Schiro, and Scarpa rival Lorenzo Lampasi.
Prosecutors also want to introduce evidence of "prior bad acts" on the part of DeVecchio, most notably the allegation by Greg Scarpa Jr. that DeVecchio fed information to Scarpa that prompted the murder of a former abortion doctor. Prosecutors also claim there is evidence DeVecchio accepted bribes of cash, jewelry, and romps with prostitutes. DeVecchio has previously claimed that the only things he ever received from Scarpa was a bottle of wine, a tray of lasagna, and a Cabbage Patch doll.
DeVecchio has the support of dozens of former FBI agents, as well as at least 2 former Customs agents. A website on DeVecchio’s behalf lays out what is expected to be DeVecchio’s defense strategy at trial; specifically, that he is the victim of a conspiracy by Prosecutors, members of law enforcement, journalists, investigators, and Mafia associates, all of whom have falsely accused DeVecchio in order to pursue book deals on this story and/or overturn convictions of various Colombo criminals. Media reports have linked lead Prosecutor Michael Vecchione and retired NYPD Detective Thomas Dades as seeking book/and/or movie deals on the two sensational cases they have investigated, the first being the "Mafia Cops" case of Lou Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa and the latter being the DeVecchio/Scarpa case. Despite his reputed book deal, which some find troubling, Prosecutor Vecchione has a sterling reputation, having successfully prosecuted corrupt Judges and public officials.
The ‘book deal’ defense was first introduced at the 1993 Federal trial in New York of professional wrestling figure Vince McMahon, in which an attempt was made to discredit a Prosecution witness by accusing that person of pursuing a book deal about their interactions with the Defendant. McMahon was acquitted on charges of steroids trafficking. In 1995 the Village Voice published an exposé suggesting the ‘book deal’ defense in the McMahon case had been manipulated by an FBI Informant.
Long before the discussion of any ‘book deals’ regarding Scarpa and his associates, the events that led to the indictment of agent DeVecchio actually had their genesis in an FBI corruption scandal in Boston, which was subsequently investigated by members of Congress. That Congressional inquiry later expanded to include the Scarpa matter, which was then forwarded to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office for review, which then led to the Grand Jury that indicted agent DeVecchio.
The Boston case involved the "Winter Hill Gang," an organized crime syndicate made up primarily of Irish and Italian thugs, who ruled over the city in the 1980s and 1990s. Led by "Whitey" Bulger, many of the members, like Bulger, were pedophiles, preying mostly on teenage girls, although in some cases, such as Bulger, young boys as well. Bulger’s top aides were Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi and "Cadillac Frank" Salemme. The Boston Herald would report that teenage girls were recruited to provide sexual favors for the gang, with some of these sex acts being secretly videotaped. Flemmi’s sexual conquests included two teenagers he would eventually murder once they grew too "old" for him after leaving their teens; Deborah Davis and Deborah Hussey. Hussey was Flemmi’s step-daughter whom Flemmi first raped when she was just 14 years old.
The Winter Hill gang was protected for many years by FBI agents, including Paul Rico, who had recruited Flemmi as an FBI Informant, and agent John Connolly, who handled Whitey Bulger. Rationale for this arrangement was Bulger’s and Flemmi’s role in assisting the FBI in targeting members of the Patriarca Family, Boston’s Italian Mafia syndicate. Thus, FBI agents facilitated Bulger and his associates in pedophilia, the production and distribution of child pornography, drug trafficking, gambling, and murder. Once retired, former FBI agent Paul Rico participated in the murder by Bulger and Flemmi of Tulsa businessman Roger Wheeler.
In 1994 Connolly, although retired, still had significant sources within the FBI who had access to confidential information. At that time Connolly tipped off Bulger that he was about to be indicted for the murders of 18 people. Bulger then went on the lam as a Fugitive. Eventually, Stephen Flemmi pleaded guilty to his role in the murders of twelve people, including his step-daughter Deborah Hussey, Deborah Davis, and Tulsa businessman Roger Wheeler. Connolly’s supervisor at the FBI, John Morris, was granted Immunity from Prosecution and testified in Court proceedings that he had run interference on behalf of Flemmi and Bulger in Federal probes of the two’s involvement in fixing horse races and gambling operations. Morris also admitted tipping off Connolly about an Informant who implicated Bulger and Flemmi in a murder. That Informant was then murdered. Under Morris’ Immunity agreement, he could not be charged with any crimes. Morris retired from the FBI on his taxpayer-funded FBI Pension.
John Connolly was convicted on charges of racketeering and Obstruction of Justice but was acquitted on charges relating to the murders of three enemies of Bulger. One guilty verdict related to Connolly’s scheme to falsely accuse a decorated Boston police officer of fabricating evidence against Bulger and Flemmi. Former agent Connolly is currently serving a ten-year prison sentence. Although "Whitey" Bulger is currently on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list, many observers to this saga, most notably reporters Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill, authors of the acclaimed ’BLACK MASS,’ do not believe the FBI is donating considerable resources to catch him. In April, 2007, an agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration vacationing in Sicily snapped a photograph of a man believed to be Whitey Bulger. John Connolly is awaiting trial in Florida for his alleged role in the 1982 murder of Jai Alai gambling executive John Callahan. Agent Connolly’s supporters have put up a website which proclaims his innocence.
As these revelations of FBI corruption began to be made public, the House Government Reform Committee began a series of investigations. In December, 2001 members of that Committee offered a public apology to Boston residents Joseph Salvati and Peter Limone, who spent 30 years in prison after having been framed by the FBI for a murder they had no part of. Key evidence examined were documents prepared by Agent Paul Rico that revealed the names of the real murderers in that case, documents illegally kept by the FBI from the accused as being "exculpatory." Congressman Christopher Shays publicly admonished agent Rico thus: "I think you should be sent to jail!" Agent Rico died while awaiting trial for his role in the murder of Roger Wheeler. In July, 2007, a Federal Judge awarded Salvati and Limone over $100 million as an award in their civil suit.
While Congress was investigating these crimes committed by FBI officials, an investigation was launched into the Scarpa matter by Dr. Stephen Dresch, a Yale-educated economist best known for accurately predicting in the 1970s that the economies of the Soviet Union and it’s puppet regimes would collapse within a generation. Dr. Dresch then turned his talent for the analysis of economic data to the analysis of criminal data, with equal success. In 2000, Dr. Dresch and his colleague Angela Clemente launched an intensive analysis of the evidence relating to the Colombo Family War. After 4 years of investigation, Dr. Dresch and Clemente turned over their voluminous findings to the House Government Reform Committee. Members of Congress then suggested that Dr. Dresch and Ms. Clemente turn their findings over to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office, given that the crimes alleged against DeVecchio were State as well as Federal crimes. Peter Lance, a 5-time Emmy award winning investigative reporter and author, also began his own investigation.
Prosecutor Michael Vecchione then utilized the services of a retired Brooklyn Homicide Detective, Thomas Dades, in their pursuit of both the crimes attributed to DeVecchio as well as those of the "Mafia Cops" Lou Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa. The Feds in Brooklyn eventually took over the "Mafia Cops" case, but the DeVecchio case remained in the Brooklyn D. A.’s office. In March, 2006 that office announced the indictments against retired FBI agent Lindley DeVecchio on 4 Mafia murder counts.
This reporter had no role, directly or indirectly, in the investigations by Dr. Dresch and Angela Clemente, nor the investigations by the House Government Reform Committee, the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, nor the Grand Jury proceedings that issued indictments against agent DeVecchio.
Trial proceedings are scheduled to resume on October 15, 2007.
To be continued
Related Features by this author:
License to Kill: Greg Scarpa and the FBI
License to Kill: Greg Scarpa and the FBI
License to Kill: Greg Scarpa and the FBI
Mob War! Part Three: Mob Murders Investigations Continue
J. R. de Szigethy can be reached at email@example.com.
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