At Philly mob trial, a Mouse that roars

Joseph "Mousie" Massimino.
Joseph "Mousie" Massimino.
Posted: January 29, 2013

On Day 13 of jury deliberations at the Philadelphia mob trial, two bets were stone-cold locks:

The jurors would ask to listen to more FBI tapes. And Mousie would have something to say.

Around 11 a.m., the jurors delivered, asking to hear another batch of recordings played at the 10-week racketeering trial.

Then Joseph "Mousie" Massimino did his part, escorted into the room with his codefendants, hands cuffed but mouth, as always, unrestrained.

"Keep the glasses chilled," he quipped to friends in gallery, part of his running prediction for a get-out-of-jail-party.

And how will he get there? No worry, Massimino announced, turning toward Assistant U.S. Attorney John S. Han.

"I'll get John to drive me home. John, can you gimme me a ride?"

As deliberations have dragged - and dragged - the few minutes before U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno enters his 15th floor courtroom and the jurors emerge from their deliberation room often fall to Massimino, the 62-year-old reputed underboss to Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi.

He chirps, he prattles, he needles. He'll mix it up with court personnel or longtime mob reporter, but his favorite targets seem to be the FBI agents and prosecutors.

"Frankie, you lookin' a little pale today," Massimino said last week to Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Labor, a singsong line he's trotted out a few times. "You OK, Frank?"

Labor tends to ignore him. Han and the agents don't seem to mind playing along.

Like Massimino, four of the seven defendants have been held without bail since May 2011. The others aren't invisible. They nod and exchange small talk with the friends and family who faithfully come to the room each day, hoping to see them or hear a not-guilty verdict. (Jurors left Monday without one.)

"Good morning, good morning," a smiling Joseph "Scoops" Licata, 71, repeats as he leads the daily parade into court. Ligambi, 73, tosses out individual nods and asks "What's goin on?"

But Massimino works the room like an overcaffeinated standup.

"Hey, where you been?" Massimino asked as he looked about and saw FBI Special Agent Jack Martinelli, one of the case agents. "Where's Augie?" he asked about Special Agent John Augustine.

When the defendants were led into court one day in street clothes and paper prison slippers - their shoes hadn't yet made the trip to the courtroom - Massimino bellowed: "Martinelli, gimme your shoes!"

For days Massimino milked Labor's speculation to the judge that the jurors might have been "wandering in the desert" after a series of confusing requests for evidence.

"Look at me," Massimino spouted, his hands outstretched and grasping. "I'm wandering in the desert!"

Not every day is a joke. Massimino was unusually quiet last Friday when deputy marshals led him into court. That happened to be the first time jurors had asked to hear evidence related to him - secret recordings in which he appears to berate and threaten a bettor.

His only courtroom remark that day was a one-word expletive - along with a glare - fired at George Anastasia, the former mob writer for The Inquirer reporter who is covering the trial for an online blog.

But by Monday, Mousie was as chatty as ever. As the courtroom filled and people began to buzz about the latest jury request, he quipped: "I dunno, I heard they asked for a compass - they're still in the desert."

From a seat near the back of the courtroom one of the deputy marshals cracked a smile. "It never gets old," he said, "until it gets old."

Contact John P. Martin at 215-925-2649, at or @JPMartinInky on Twitter.


comments powered by Disqus