Saturday, January 31, 2009

Reputed Gambino Hit Man, Charles Carneglia, Heads to Trial

It was the mob equivalent of a performance evaluation, and Charles Carneglia wasn't doing well. Gambino crime family captain Gene Gotti, prosecutors say, thought Carneglia's work was sloppy for an assassin.

"You stabbed somebody, Charles," the brother of the notorious Mafia boss said in a secretly recorded conversation in a prison visiting room.

"I know that, I know that. I know," Carneglia said.

Authorities say the conversation was about the fatal stabbing of a rival mobster during a beef outside a bar in Queens in 1977—one of five murders prosecutors will try to pin on Carneglia at a trial set to open Thursday in federal court in Brooklyn.

It's a case rife with gory details of Carneglia's alleged exploits, including claims the body of one victim of his hit team—a neighbor who accidentally ran over John Gotti's 12-year-old son—was dissolved in a vat of acid. The defendant wasn't charged in the neighbor's murder, though a judge has ruled that prosecutors can still tell jurors about the death—without mentioning the acid. There was no immediate response to a message seeking comment from Carneglia's attorney.

Carneglia was one of 62 people arrested last year in what authorities described as one of the largest roundups ever of suspected members and associates of a New York crime family. Since then 60 have pleaded guilty to lesser charges, and one case was dropped.

The jury will hear testimony from several mob turncoats who recently agreed to help investigators tackle unsolved slayings, some decades old.

Prosecutors allege the trail of bodies left behind by Carneglia includes those of a court officer gunned down in 1976 before he was to testify against Carneglia in a gun possession case; a Gambino associate stabbed to death in 1983 during an argument with Carneglia over money; a Gambino soldier killed on orders by John Gotti in 1990 in the parking lot of the World Trade Center; and an armored car security guard shot in the back during a heist in 1990.

Since his arrest, Carneglia has displayed a defiant streak: Prosecutors say when told he was facing charges under RICO—the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act—he quipped, "Who's RICO, Edward G. Robinson?" And the Daily News reported that at one court hearing he stared down the daughter of one of the victims, telling her, "Wrong guy."

The 62-year-old defendant once sported a long gray beard and pony tail—a look one prospective juror told the judge made him appear "a bit on the shady side." He since has shaved off the beard and gotten a hair cut.

If convicted, Carneglia faces a possible life prison term.

Thanks to Tom Hays

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