Murder trial of reputed mob figure gets underway

Posted: May 15, 2014

THE MURDER TRIAL of reputed Philadelphia mob soldier Anthony Nicodemo began yesterday with the prosecutor branding the defendant part of a two-man death squad that assassinated its victim in broad daylight Dec. 12, 2012.

Gino DiPietro, 50, who had a history of federal drug convictions, was gunned down in front of his house on Iseminger Street near Johnston in South Philadelphia, just before 3 p.m.

"The motive here was murder," Assistant District Attorney Brian Zarallo told the Common Pleas jury during his opening argument.

"Gino DiPietro was targeted. This was not a robbery. Nobody rifled through his pockets," said Zarallo, who added that Nicodemo, 42, was the getaway driver who was supposed to have disposed of the .357 magnum murder weapon that police found in his black Honda Pilot SUV.

Zarallo never mentioned organized crime, but suggested that the defendant's friend, Domenic Grande, was the masked, gloved and hoodie-wearing shooter. (The Daily News has reported in the past that Grande is a reputed mob associate.)

The prosecutor said Grande stands 5 feet 6 inches, about the same height that surveillance video showed the shooter to be, and his fingerprint was found on the outside passenger side of Nicodemo's SUV.

Prosecution witness Louis Houck testified that he heard four or five gunshots that afternoon and saw the masked gunman run away from the fallen victim and get into the SUV. He gave police the license plate number, which he recited from memory on the witness stand.

When Zarallo asked why he had memorized the number, Houck said: "It was a bad day for me. I never witnessed anything like that. I've never seen a guy die in front of me."

U.S. Postal Service worker James Noone testified that he saw the gunman shoot the victim, stand over him and shoot four more times before running to the SUV.

Zarallo told the jury that after the slaying, Nicodemo dropped the gunman off at an unknown location then drove to his home on 17th Street near Hartranft, in the Packer Park section of South Philadelphia.

It was there that police arrested Nicodemo that day and found the gun wrapped in a fleece sweatshirt under the driver's seat, Zarallo said.

But Nicodemo's defense attorney, Brian McMonagle, scoffed at Zarallo's theory, telling the jury that Grande is a free man because he has never been charged in the slaying.

He said his client's involvement with the gunman was by chance and against his will.

McMonagle contended that as Nicodemo was driving along, the masked gunman ran from an alley and jumped into his car, placed the gun under the seat then bolted on foot.

A shaken and sweat-drenched Nicodemo then drove home only to be arrested for a crime he had nothing to do with, McMonagle said.

No DNA evidence, phone records or motive will tie the married father of two to the slaying, the attorney said.

"They know this young man had absolutely no motive in the world to kill Gino DiPietro," McMonagle said.

On Twitter: @MensahDean

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