Sparring over secrecy in mob trial

Posted: July 16, 2012

If federal agents were picking you up from a secret location and keeping you under armed guard at lunch while you sat on a jury in a mob case, wouldn't you think that the defendants are dangerous guys?

That's what Philadelphia mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi is worried about.

Ligambi's attorney, Edwin Jacobs, is asking U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno to deny the prosecutors' request for heightened jury security in the upcoming racketeering trial. He said that it's an "extreme and unnecessary measure" that would lead jurors to believe that they should fear Ligambi and his co-defendants.

In a court filing, Jacobs said that having the jurors guarded by the U.S. Marshals Service and transported to and from an undisclosed location each day would "undoubtedly bias the jurors before they have heard the first witness testify."

Prosecutors also are asking Robreno to keep jurors' names and addresses secret. Jacobs isn't opposed to an anonymous jury.

The two sides have been swiping at each other for weeks, with defense attorneys arguing that the indictment is essentially a gambling case with no explicit acts of violence, and the government emphasizing that La Cosa Nostra's power is based on its reputation for committing murders and assaults.

A hearing on several pretrial motions is set for Aug. 9. The trial, which could last three months or longer, is expected to begin in October. n

Contact William Bender at 215-854-5255 or benderw@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @wbender99.

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