A reputed Mafia boss and a co-defendant were convicted Wednesday on racketeering charges. But in a blow to the government, they were acquitted of the most shocking crime in their federal case: the unsolved gangland slaying of an off-duty New York Police Department officer in 1997.
A jury delivered the mixed verdict for the defendants _ Thomas "Tommy Guns" Gioeli, the reputed former boss of the Colombo crime family, and reputed mob soldier Dino "Little Dino" Saracino _ on its fifth day of deliberations in federal court in Brooklyn.
Gioeli, 59, had been charged in a total of six murders, including that of Officer Ralph Dols, dating to the 1990s. Jurors found that he and Saracino were involved in murder plots but also concluded that prosecutors failed to prove they actually killed Dols or the others.
The two defendants smiled broadly and slapped their lawyers' backs after the jury left the courtroom. They face up to 20 years in prison at sentencing on Sept. 14. The murder counts had carried a possible life term.
Outside court, defense attorney Adam Perlmutter said the verdict was a repudiation of the government's star witness, admitted assassin Dino "Big Dino" Calabro.
"It's clear (jurors) rejected the vast majority of what Dino Calabro had to say," the lawyer said.
Prosecutors had no immediate comment.
Investigators believe Dols ran afoul of the mob by marrying the ex-wife of Joel Cacace, another Colombo boss. On the witness stand, Calabro, at the time a Colombo associate, described being recruited by Gioeli for a "piece of work" wanted by Cacace.
Gioeli misled Calabro by telling him the target was a worker at a Queens social club who was in trouble with the family, Calabro said. The witness described how he and Saracino donned baseball caps and gloves before confronting Dols as he got out of his car.
"What's up?" the officer asked before both men opened fire and left him fatally wounded on the street, Calabro said. The killers tossed their guns in the sewer as they fled, he said.
Calabro said he only learned the victim was a police officer by reading newspaper headlines the next day.
"I was amazed," he said. "We don't typically kill police officers. That's just the rule _ you don't hurt kids and you don't kill cops."
Another witness, Saracino's brother Sebastian, testified that he was ordered to get rid of a Cadillac used in the Dols rubout. The testimony drew a courtroom outburst by Saracino.
"Don't call me your brother no more! ... Stop lying, Sebby!" the defendant shouted as he was led to a holding cell while jurors took a break.