Mob trial, Take 2: Jury about to deliberate

Posted: January 09, 2014

For the second time in less than a year, the fates of reputed Philadelphia mob boss Joseph Ligambi and alleged consigliere George Borgesi will soon rest in the hands of 12 federal jurors.

U.S. District Judge Eduardo C. Robreno sent the panel of two men and 10 women home just before 5 p.m. Tuesday, after outlining a lengthy set of instructions on how they should try to reach a verdict on the racketeering conspiracy charges both men face. Robreno is expected to resume his reading of the jury charge Wednesday before deliberations begin.

Whether these jurors believe Ligambi, 74, and Borgesi, his 50-year-old nephew, oversaw a profitable loan-sharking and illegal gambling operation, or are instead the victims of turncoats eager to pick at the mob's decaying remains and blame their old colleagues, depends on whose version of the facts proves more persuasive.

Earlier in the day, prosecutors and defense attorneys had a last opportunity to make their pitches.

Ligambi's lawyer Edwin Jacobs Jr. repeated his oft-stressed theme throughout the nine-week trial: That the government's key witnesses were all convicted criminals, each serving his own interest by offering to testify against men he claimed sat higher on the food chain. Those witnesses exaggerated the mob's power - which Jacobs argued has been all but nonexistent since a crippling 1999 indictment, to strengthen their hands while cutting deals with prosecutors, he said.

"The labels persist, but the reality was [the mob] was a shell, and anybody who was doing anything criminal was doing it on their own," he said.

Frank Labor, an assistant U.S. attorney, urged the jury not to get lost parsing the individual statements seized upon by Jacobs. The general thrust of the evidence shows that all of the government's informants considered Ligambi and Borgesi to be their bosses, the prosecutor said.

Those arguments have not changed much since the last time the reputed mob figures were at the defense table.

In February, a previous jury acquitted Ligambi of five counts and deadlocked on four others after a marathon 21 days of deliberations, prompting the current retrial. That jury cleared Borgesi of all but one count against him, while delivering mixed verdicts for five codefendants.

This time, Ligambi and Borgesi sit alone. The current jury also has had the benefit of a slimmed-down, more straightforward government case.

Ligambi faces four counts, including racketeering conspiracy, illegal gambling, and obstruction of justice. Borgesi faces a conspiracy count.

If convicted, both men could face sentences that would effectively send them to prison for the rest of their lives.


jroebuck@phillynews.com

215-925-2649

@jeremyrroebuck

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