PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Reputed Philadelphia mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi hopes to leave prison Wednesday after two years awaiting trial on racketeering charges that ended with the jury at odds over his role.
The jury deadlocked on the central racketeering conspiracy charge against the 73-year-old Ligambi, while convicting his wisecracking underboss, Joseph "Mousie" Massimino, on that count.
Massimino, 62, had joked to federal prosecutors throughout the four-month trial that they would be driving him home after the verdict. With a long criminal record, he now faces years in prison.
Ligambi had spent more than a decade in prison for a murder conviction that was overturned, leading to his release in 1997. Authorities believe he quietly took over the Philadelphia operation of La Cosa Nostra two years later, when the young, flamboyant mob boss Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino went to prison.
Defense lawyers will no doubt focus on Ligambi's relatively light criminal record when they seek bail from U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno. Lawyer Edward Jacobs Jr., of Atlantic City, has also pointed out the lack of violence in the latest mob case, which consisted of years of wiretaps and FBI efforts to penetrate La Cosa Nostra and take part in the alleged sports betting and street loans. The defendants can be heard talking tough on the tapes, mostly over late payments, but the jury failed to convict anyone of making threats.
Jacobs, in remarks after the verdict Tuesday, called the 13-year government effort to tamp down the dwindling South Philadelphia mob "an enormous waste of precious taxpayer funds."
Yet an apparent mob hit the day the government rested its case in December raised eyebrows at the trial. A low-level gambling figure was charged with killing a suspected drug informant. The suspect's name had come up at the Ligambi trial, but there's been no alleged link to any of the trial defendants.
Ligambi's nephew, George Borgesi, also will seek bail Wednesday, as the jury deadlocked on the racketeering charge and acquitted him of 13 underlying counts.
"The jury is the last bulwark against government overreaching," said his lawyer, Paul Hetznecker.
Co-defendants Anthony "Ant" Staino Jr. and Gary Battaglini, who were not in custody during the trial, were both convicted and could have their bail revoked Wednesday.
Staino was convicted of two loansharking counts involving his taped 2004 meetings with an undercover agent. The defense called the exchange a legal business investment. The jury acquitted Staino of 24 other counts and deadlocked on three charges, including the main racketeering conspiracy charge.
Federal prosecutors have not yet decided if they'll retry the case.
Merlino left prison last year and is living in South Florida.