The verdict signified long-awaited justice for the family of Steven DiSarro, a 43-year-old father of five who disappeared in 1993, his whereabouts a mystery until the FBI found his remains two years ago, buried behind an old mill in Providence.
Salemme, 84, who became a government witness himself six years after killing DiSarro and was in federal witness protection until his 2016 arrest, will probably spend the rest of his life in prison.
Following a five-week trial in US District Court in Boston and four days of deliberations, a jury of eight women and four men convicted Salemme and Paul Weadick, 63, of Burlington, of murdering DiSarro to prevent him from becoming a federal witness. The men face a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Salemme and his late son were business partners with DiSarro in the Channel nightclub, which was located on Necco Street and was demolished years ago.
Judge Allison Burroughs set sentencing for Sept. 13.
DiSarro’s daughter, Colby, cried as the verdict came down around 3 p.m. Friday, and his son, Michael, wiped tears from his eyes.
Salemme, meanwhile, let out a huge sigh when the verdict came down and appeared stunned as he remained standing for a long time in a gray suit and blue tie, taking his seat only after his lawyer told him to.
The once-feared gangster, who had smiled at his attorney when he came into the courtroom to hear the verdict, left court with his head down without glancing at the spectators’ gallery. Weadick shook hands with his attorney before he was escorted out as well. Both men have been in custody since they were arrested in 2016.
Weadick’s lawyer declined to comment outside court Friday.
An attorney for Salemme, Steven Boozang, told reporters that his client, who turns 85 next month, “feels worse for Paul Weadick than he does for himself. He’s just not a self-absorbed guy.”
Boozang also took aim at the government’s star witness, another aging gangster named Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, who’s serving life in prison for 10 murders and who testified that he witnessed Salemme’s son choking DiSarro while Weadick held his legs up and Salemme looked on. Salemme’s son died in 1995.
After the verdict, Boozang called Flemmi an “absolute liar” and said the defense was confronted with “a tough set of facts” but “thought we had overcome them.”
Asked about Salemme’s relatively stoic demeanor in court, Boozang said, “He’s done a lot of time. He was in the gangland wars, so I don’t think much phases him or shocks him. He was hopeful and optimistic” for an acquittal. Boozang said he expects his client to be placed in the general prison population and added that “nobody will bother him. . . . Inside, he’s a pretty decent human being and warm, aside from what he was years ago.”
DiSarro’s family had no immediate comment after the verdict but released a statement on Tuesday as the jury began deliberating.
“The last 25 years have been heartbreaking for us due to the sudden loss of a loved one, coupled with the fact that we were left without any answers as to what happened,” the DiSarro family had said Tuesday.
“Nothing about the circumstances of our father, brother, uncle and husband’s disappearance have been typical. We have been living for years with the idea that a man who was deeply loved by his family, never returned home to those he loved and we never knew why.
“The answers were hidden deep inside a dark, and often violent underworld that we thankfully have never had access to. Of course there have been rumors, speculations, and opinions over the years, but what became forgotten amongst it all is the man that existed and the family and life that he built.”
Thanks to Shelley Murphy and Travis Anderson.