Tough Sentence To Be Sought For Berkery

Posted: August 04, 1987

Federal authorities will seek a "very substantial" jail term for John C. Berkery, who was convicted by a jury yesterday of 14 counts of dealing in methamphetamine, or "speed," and the illegal chemical P2P, a key ingredient in manufacturing the drug.

The panel of seven women and five men deliberated for about eight hours before finding Berkery, 53, guilty of all charges. Berkery, wearing a tan sport coat and green tie, received the verdict impassively and told U.S. District Judge Norma L. Shapiro that he would "cooperate fully" with the pre-sentence investigation she ordered.

Before returning the verdict, jurors listened for a second time to secret recordings of conversations involving Berkery, mob figure Raymond "Long John" Martorano and government informant Ronald Raiton.

Those recordings were used to buttress testimony by Raiton, who said he sold Berkery 212 gallons of P2P during 1980 and 1981. Raiton also testified that Berkery gave him 24 pounds of methamphetamine in partial payment for the P2P.

Berkery, who testified that he never received P2P from Raiton and became involved with speed only because he had been entrapped by Raiton, was a fugitive from Jan. 13, 1982, when he was indicted, until his arrest June 8 by FBI agent Gary Langan.

"Because of the seriousness of his drug dealings, the fact that he was a fugitive for more than five years, the fact that he blatantly lied from the witness stand and because he has shown a complete disrespect for the judicial process, the government will seek a very substantial period of incarceration for Mr. Berkery," said prosecutor Louis R. Pichini.

Berkery could be sentenced to up to 70 years in prison and fined as much as $210,000. Martorano, convicted May 17, 1982, for his role in the scheme, was sentenced to 10 years by Judge Shapiro, who also presided over his trial.

Shapiro set Sept. 15 for sentencing.

Defense attorney Ronald F. Kidd said he would appeal the verdict.

"Certainly, I'm disappointed," said Kidd. "Whenever you have tape recordings, particularly in a drug case, it's very, very difficult."

Berkery, one of the more colorful figures in the city's criminal history, is the last major defendant to be prosecuted as a result of Raiton's cooperation. In all, 38 people have been convicted because of Raiton's testimony and the recordings he made secretly.

Berkery first gained prominence in 1959, when he was accused of participating in the notorious Pottsville heist, a burglary of coal baron John Rich's mansion that authorities said netted $478,000 in cash.

After that burglary, Berkery developed a friendship with Bruno and other members of the Philadelphia mob. He also was close to the late John McCullough, leader of Roofers Union Local 30-30B, who was slain in December 1980.

As a fugitive from the drug charges, Berkery lived for a time in Ireland, law enforcement sources said. He left Ireland after a 1984 extradition treaty between that nation and the United States went into effect.

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