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Sunday, 12 October 2008

Gaetano Milano who killed underboss William "The Wild Guy" Grasso had seven years shaved off his sentence

18:53 |

mob soldier who killed underboss William "The Wild Guy" Grasso in a failed attempt to hijack the Patriarca crime family two decades ago had seven years shaved off his sentence Wednesday.U.S. District Judge Alan H. Nevas reduced Gaetano Milano's sentence from 33 to 26 years, approving a deal negotiated by defense attorney Craig Raabe and Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Jongbloed. The deal bases the sentence reduction on the assertion that Milano was not provided effective assistance by his trial lawyer F. Mac Buckley — an assertion Buckley denies.The reduction in his sentence means that Milano could be released within eight years.
Milano had been fighting since the middle 1990s to have the sentence reduced on a variety of grounds. The claim resulting in the most prolonged litigation was Milano's argument that FBI agents in Boston wrongly withheld informant reports from Buckley in 1990 and '91 that could have permitted him to mount a more effective trial defense.Milano's informant claim has grown increasingly persuasive over the past decade with disclosures in federal court in Boston that FBI agents engaged in criminal behavior with what the bureau classifies as its "top echelon" informants.
The informant who Milano said could have helped his defense was Angelo "Sonny" Mercurio, a sworn member of the Patriarca crime family who died two years ago in the federal witness protection program. Former FBI agent John Connolly recruited Mercurio as an informant. Connolly is now on trial for murder in Florida, accused of leaking information that led two of his other "top echelon" informants to kill potential witnesses against them.Milano said — and some federal law enforcement officials in Boston agree — that Mercurio was involved in a conspiracy that incited a factional war within the Patriarca crime family and resulted in Grasso's murder. Milano said — after his conviction — that he was forced by his position in the factional dispute to kill Grasso. Had he not, Milano says, Grasso or some other gangster would have killed him.Milano's lawyers and federal prosecutors battled over the Mercurio claim for years. With no resolution in sight, the parties entered a settlement conference in September.The settlement says that Buckley should have asked the judge to instruct trial jurors that Milano could have been convicted of manslaughter rather than murder — even without the Mercurio information. Jurors presumably could have reached that conclusion if they had believed Milano was suffering from extreme emotional duress due to a belief that he had to kill Grasso in order to save himself. At his sentencing in November 1991, Milano broke down in tears. He renounced the Mafia and, reversing his claim of innocence during the trial, tearfully confessed that he had to kill Grasso to avoid being killed himself. The settlement agreement asserts that Buckley again was ineffective by failing to postpone the sentencing and win time to prepare an argument that reflected Milano's "extraordinary change of position."Buckley said this week that he supports the reduction in Milano's sentence, but disagrees that his trial defense was ineffective. He said a jury instruction on an emotional duress defense would have contradicted Milano's categorical claim of innocence at trial. And he said Milano's post-conviction "change of position" was known to the FBI and federal prosecutors weeks before he was sentenced.In return for the reduced sentence, Milano agreed to drop further legal claims concerning Mercurio.Raabe suggested in court that the sentence reduction may have been based on ineffective assistance of counsel for expediency."There were a wide range of issues that were in play. Ineffective assistance was a negotiated settlement," Raabe said. "It would be a shame if the upshot of today was that Mac Buckley performed ineffectively."He called Buckley "a great trial lawyer" who "performed well."Buckley, a former federal prosecutor, was sentenced to 15 months in prison in 2000 for stealing from clients and was placed on probation in 2002 for failing to file income tax returns. At the time of his convictions, he was diagnosed with severe bipolar disorder. He agreed to give up his law practice and now operates a boxing program for Hartford youths.
Milano was one of seven Patriarca crime family members and associates convicted in 1991 of racketeering, murder and other offenses following the longest and most sensational Mafia trial ever in Connecticut. Among other things, prosecutors introduced as evidence the first ever recording of a Mafia initiation ceremony.After the seven convictions in Hartford and another dozen or so in Boston, federal officials said that they had decimated the Patriarca family, which since World War II had been the dominant criminal organization in New England.

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