The government won a significant victory against the Philadelphia Mafia earlier this month when a federal jury convicted three defendants -- Joseph Massimino, Damion Canalichio, and Gary Battaglini who allegedly served as underboss, soldier and associate, respectively -- for racketeering conspiracy, and convicted reputed capo Anthony Staino for loansharking.
Although the jury deadlocked on the racketeering charges against reputed boss Joseph Ligambi and his nephew George Borgesi, U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno already has scheduled their re-trial date for April 16 and the two defendants remain in jail without bail.
The only defendant who obtained a complete acquittal in the earlier trial was reputed capo Joseph Licata.
With four defendants hit with solid convictions and two others still on the hook the defense team perhaps should proceed with more humility.
In speaking on the jury's verdicts Ligambi defense lawyer Edwin Jacobs Jr. cynically dismissed the government's case as reported by William Bender for the Daily News:
"It's an enormous waste of precious taxpayer funds," Jacobs said of the investigation and trial. "We're not talking about terrorism here. We're not talking about schoolchildren being abducted or shot up. What we're talking about is video-poker machines that aren't hurting anybody. The only difference is they're not owned by the state. It's a lot of baloney."
Mr. Jacobs's comments and those made by others seemingly suggest that as long as the supposed mob isn't engaged in any violence the feds should leave it alone. Indeed, some pejoratively dubbed the case racketeering-lite given the absence of murder allegations. However, since when was criminal law reduced to nothing more than violent crimes?
The running commentary about a racketeering case bereft of violence allegations fundamentally misunderstands the Mafia's nature. The mob is about making money, and violence usually is employed only when necessary to that end. Indeed, mobsters attempt to avoid unnecessary violence precisely because it attracts unwanted attention from law enforcement which would interfere with their earning activities. Accordingly, the lack of violent allegations surrounding the supposed gambling and loansharking rackets of the Philadelphia Mafia perhaps speaks to the success of those operations and the stability of the organization, and seemingly confirms the government's claim that the defendants effectively were able to invoke nothing more than the mob's prior reputation for violence in conducting business.
Assistant U.S. Attorney David Fritchey who heads the Philadelphia's organized crime unit stated that the original trial was "an important case [which] needed to be brought." And so is a re-trial on the deadlocked charges against Ligambi and Borgesi.