Saturday, March 14, 2009

Charles Carneglia Trial Goes to the Jury

The five-week-long racketeering conspiracy trial of reputed Gambino family executioner Charles Carneglia is expected to go to the jury today after closing arguments this week in which the defense argued for acquittal because their client's decision to grow a beard years ago - a Mafia no-no - proved that he left the mob then.

"He had a big bushy beard. He wanted his statement to be loud and clear," said defense lawyer Curtis Farber. "The beard was an act of defiance."

Carneglia, 62, is charged with murdering five men - including a court officer and an armored car driver - along with extortion, robbery, kidnapping, pump-and-dump stock schemes and marijuana trafficking in a criminal career dating back at least three decades. If he withdrew from the mob more than five years before his February 2008 indictment, his participation in the crimes would fall outside the statute of limitations.

The defense said Carneglia, who still sports a salt-and-pepper beard, left in 2001 because he didn't like the behavior of younger mobsters and was emotionally drained. But prosecutors said the only way out of the mob is to die, citing jailhouse recordings to show he has remained involved.

Prosecutor Roger Burlingame noted testimony that Carneglia once praised mobster Vincent "Chin" Gigante for being "smart" to act like he was crazy, and said the beard was a similar ruse.

"He is trying to trick you into being the water that washes the blood of five people off of his hands," Burlingame told the jury. "Don't buy it."

The government relied heavily on testimony from more than a half-dozen mob turncoats who have cut deals, including one, John Alite, who is expected to be a key witness at the trial of John Gotti Jr. this fall. Carneglia's lawyer attacked them as unreliable "sociopaths, men who wouldn't know the truth if it hit them in the face.

Thanks to John Riley

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