Jurors will be chosen anonymously, according to a ruling by U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno.
Robreno has indicated he would like 12 jurors and nine alternates. As in past trials involving anonymous juries, the jurors would meet at a designated location each morning and be driven to the federal courthouse in vans under the protection of the U.S. Marshals Service. They would leave each day the same way.
Potential jurors arriving this week will be told that "the government contends that the defendants were members or associated with the Philadelphia La Cosa Nostra." But they will be provided with few other details about the case and will be cautioned not to read, listen to, or watch any reports about it.
Panel members arriving Tuesday and Wednesday will be asked to fill out a short questionnaire designed to determine whether they have "an extraordinary hardship" that would make it impossible for them to sit on the jury.
Once Robreno, the prosecutors, and the defense attorneys have reviewed the answers and agreed on who should be excused, the remaining group will return Thursday to fill out a longer questionnaire - about 120 questions - that focuses on the case and is designed to determine whether they could serve as impartial hearers of the evidence.
Ligambi, 73, is charged with heading a criminal organization and being part of a racketeering conspiracy that engaged in illegal sports betting, loan-sharking, gambling, and the distribution of illegal video poker machines. Most of the other defendants, including the alleged upper echelon of his crime family, face similar charges.
Ligambi is also accused of defrauding a Teamsters Union health fund of more than $200,000 in medical and dental expenditures tied to an alleged no-show job he held at a South Philadelphia trash company.
The trial will include testimony from alleged victims of mob shakedowns, former members and associates of the crime family, and undercover FBI agents.
Evidence includes hundreds of secretly recorded conversations made by the undercover agents and cooperating witnesses, and from wiretaps and electronic listening devices.
The trial schedule includes four days of testimony per week, according to a document filed Friday by Robreno's office. There will be no court Oct. 21 through . 23 because of a judicial conference. And there will be a three-day break for Thanksgiving.
Another issue that could have potential jurors scurrying to find reasons to be excluded was the court's notice that "appropriate arrangements for the Christmas holiday will also be made, if necessary."
Prosecutors and defense attorneys have said they are hopeful that the trial will conclude before Christmas, but point out that the ebb and flow of evidence and testimony in a multi-defendant case is almost impossible to predict.
The last major mob trial, a 2001 case in which mob boss Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino and six others were convicted, lasted more than four months.
Contact George Anastasia at 856-779-3846 or firstname.lastname@example.org.