Judge Nixes Bleachers And Opts For 2 Mob Trials Request For Sequestered Jury Is Denied

Posted: July 15, 1995

What, no bleachers for the mob trial?

A federal judge yesterday turned down the government's suggestion of installing bleachers for crime boss John Stanfa and 15 other defendants in their upcoming federal racketeering trial.

Instead, U.S. District Judge Ronald Buckwalter opted for two trials - each with eight defendants - with virtually the same evidence presented by the prosecution. The first trial is set for Sept. 18.

Buckwalter also turned down the government's request for a sequestered jury, but said he would reconsider this decision if requested "at any time before or during the trial."

He did grant the prosecutors' request for an anonymous jury. Names, addresses and places of employment of the prospective trial jurors will not be disclosed to either side or made public.

Joel Freidman, chief of the Organized Crime division of the U.S. attorney's office, earlier this week offered to install bleachers or remove public benches from the federal court room to accommodate 16 defendants and their 16 attorneys.

Defense attorneys had argued that the months-long 1988 trial of jailed ex- crime boss Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo was "very claustrophobic" and urged the judge to sever their clients. Some attorneys didn't want their clients to be tainted by the volume of evidence against the principal targets of the probe.

The first eight to be tried include Stanfa, consigliere Anthony "Tony Buck" Piccolo, 76, underboss Frank Martines, 52, Salvatore "Shotsy" Sporaccio, 76, Vincent "Al Pajamas" Pagano, 65, Raymond Esposito, 52, Sergio Battaglia, 20, and Herbert Keller.

Buckwalter's decision yesterday still leaves another issue to be resolved. The judge has yet to rule on Stanfa's objections to some of the physical evidence against his client.

Stanfa lost a key pre-trial motion on July 3. Stanfa's attorney, Jack Myers, wanted to make sure that the feds were not using any of Stanfa's immunized testimony before a New Jersey grand jury in connection with the federal trial.

"The government provided affidavits from all of the attorneys that they had no access to the grand jury testimony," said Bob Courtenay, deputy chief of the organized crime division.

The judge agreed and denied Stanfa's motion, saying such a hearing would amount to a mini-trial where the government would be forced to reveal its entire case before trial. However, he offered to hold a hearing after the trial.

"This really shocks me," said Myers. "I've never had anything litigated after the trial," referring to his pre-trial motion.

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