The ruling disappointed but did not shock friends and relatives of Ligambi who filled the courtroom.
"Big surprise, Dad," Ligambi's son barked as he muttered an obscenity about a prosecutor and stormed from the room.
The 73-year-old defendant appeared resigned. Clad in an olive-green jumpsuit and white prison slippers, he turned and smiled at friends in the gallery as deputy marshals fastened his handcuffs for the trek back to the Federal Detention Center.
"It was close, though," Ligambi said.
The hearing marked the first courtroom clash between prosecutors and the alleged mob boss's lawyer since Feb. 5, when the jury returned guilty verdicts on five counts, acquittals on 46 more, and deadlocked on 11 others facing Ligambi and six codefendants.
The jurors cleared Ligambi of two counts of loan-sharking, one count of sports bookmaking, and two counts of theft related to an alleged no-show job at a waste disposal company. Besides the racketeering conspiracy charge, which portrayed him as the leader of a criminal enterprise, they couldn't agree on charges that he ran an illegal gambling business and that he obstructed justice by pressuring a wedding photographer to ignore a subpoena to turn over a shot of Ligambi and his codefendants.
Ligambi's lawyer, Edwin Jacobs Jr., had called the verdicts, after a three-month trial, a "stunning defeat" for the government. He told the judge that they repudiated the accusations that prosecutors had used to jail Ligambi without bail in May 2011, after indictment.
"Most of the legs of that conspiracy are gone," Jacobs said.
Ligambi's family was prepared to post six properties worth more than $500,000 as bail collateral, and the head of a "respected Philadelphia corporation" was willing to give Ligambi a job during his release, Jacobs said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Labor challenged the defense interpretation of the verdicts. Labor said a deadlock doesn't equal an acquittal, and he noted that prosecutors had convictions against 10 of 11 defendants in the case.
"This is not a stunning defeat," Labor said. "We'll take that rate any day."
Labor said prosecutors were prepared to retry the racketeering case as soon as mid-April, although Ligambi's lawyer signaled that the defense team may seek a delay because of scheduling conflicts.
The prosecutor also told the judge he was skeptical a job was waiting for Ligambi, especially after Jacobs didn't offer details, as he promised he would.
"It's all smoke and mirrors," Labor said. "There's nothing there."
The jury convicted three of Ligambi's six codefendants, including his alleged underboss, Joseph "Mousie" Massimino, of the racketeering conspiracy. Two others face a retrial on that count with Ligambi. All remain behind bars.
Jacobs used that math to argue that even if he was free, Ligambi had no one to conspire with. The only defendant cleared in the case was 71-year-old Joseph "Scoops" Licata, a reputed mob captain from North Jersey, who was caught napping more than once during the trial.
"You were here," Jacobs reminded the judge. "That's the man who can't even stay awake during the trial."
The prosecutor assured the judge that the Philadelphia Cosa Nostra was still alive, even with some leaders headed for prison. Labor said the local crime family was "kind of at an evolutionary place" but that there were enough candidates to fill the roles.
"Many of them are out on the streets," he said.
Contact John P. Martin at 215-925-2649, at email@example.com or @JPMartinInky on Twitter.