The Chicago Syndicate: Lawyer calls Mafia case 'anti-union'

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Lawyer calls Mafia case 'anti-union'

Friends of ours: Genovese Crime Family, Lawrence Ricci

He had been talking for three hours straight, minus one 10-minute break, and George Daggett was just wrapping up his closing argument Tuesday afternoon in defense of his cousin, Harold, who is on trial on union corruption charges.

"The actions of Harold Daggett are inconsistent with the government's case," Daggett told the 12 jurors and two alternates as he concluded.

Seconds later, after Daggett said "Thank you" and strode back toward the defense table, half the courtroom gallery — a few dozen family members and supporters — erupted into applause.

That didn't sit well with the judge, who had barely said a word all day.

"Another outburst like that, and I'll exclude you from the courtroom," U.S. District Court Judge I. Leo Glasser said, rising to his feet. "That's inappropriate behavior, and I'll have none of it."

Glasser's brief chiding was merely a punctuation mark at the close of a lengthy day in court, during which the jury heard the end of the government's closing argument and two out of three defense lawyers'.

Harold Daggett, a Sparta resident and top executive in the International Longshoreman's Association, is charged along with fellow executive Arthur Coffey with extortion conspiracy and mail fraud in connection with the union's reputed ties with the Genovese crime family.

A third defendant, reputed Genovese captain Lawrence Ricci, disappeared midway through the trial, which started Sept. 20. He is unofficially believed to have been killed, but the jurors have been told not to draw any "negative inference" from his unexplained absence.

Ricci's lawyer, Martin Schmukler, also gave his closing argument Tuesday, speaking for about an hour. Schmulker's closing drew mainly on the argument that, outside the questionable testimony of several mob informants, there is no evidence against his client "other than a person socializing with other people."

Schmukler also drew laughter from the courtroom when he held up an unflattering mug shot of Ricci — introduced into evidence after Ricci disappeared — and said, "I'd be afraid to show this picture to his mother."

George Daggett, in his closing, was likewise dismissive of the informants' testimony — especially one of the government's star witnesses, former hit-man George Barone — but also went on the attack against the government lawyers, accusing them of bending facts and changing dates in order to get a conviction. "This is an anti-union prosecution," Daggett said more than once.

Daggett also painted his client as an honest man who, in moving his ILA local from Manhattan to North Bergen, kept it out of Mafia control. For instance, when Harold Daggett was made the secretary-treasurer of the northeastern district of the ILA, he refused to hire a mob accountant known as "Tax Doctor" to handle the funds.

"He (instead) went to Father Cassidy, in Sparta Township, out by the Delaware Water Gap," George Daggett said. "Is that an associate of the Genovese family, who takes $18 million and puts it under the care of a guy that was recommended by the parish priest?"

Tuesday was the second full day of closing arguments. Gerald McMahon, Coffey's attorney, will give his summation today, followed by a "rebuttal summation" in which the government can respond to the defense lawyers' statements. Glasser will then issue his instructions to the jury before they begin deliberating.

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