By Scott Malone
BOSTON (Reuters) - An alleged former Boston mobster said on Friday he was not guilty of murdering an associate more than two decades ago, hours after being arrested on charges of slaying a witness in a federal investigation.
Paul Weadick, 61, and his 83-year-old former associate Francis "Cadillac" Salemme are now both in federal custody on charges of the 1993 murder of Steven DiSarro, a former manager of a Boston nightclub whose body was found behind an old mill building in Providence, Rhode Island, in March.
Appearing in court dressed in a gray T-shirt and jeans, Weadick told U.S. Magistrate Judge Donald Cabell that he understood his rights and that he was not guilty of the crime, which dates back to the era when James "Whitey" Bulger's Irish-American Winter Hill crime gang and the Italian Mafia fought for control of Boston's underworld.
"My client has absolutely nothing to do with the murder of Mr. DiSarro," defense attorney Carmine Lepore told reporters after the brief hearing. "He's ready to fight. He expected that this was coming and he's ready to fight."
Lepore said he believed prosecutors were basing their case on the testimony of Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi, a former associate of Bulger's who testified against his ex-boss at his 2013 trial. Both Bulger and Flemmi are now serving life in prison.
"The government is relying on the testimony of Stephen Flemmi, an admitted murderer, liar and con man," Lepore said.
Flemmi pleaded guilty to 10 murders, Bulger was found guilty of 11.
A spokeswoman for federal prosecutors declined to comment on that claim.
Salemme, who was arrested last month and did not appear in court on Friday, has also proclaimed his innocence.
Prosecutors could seek the death penalty for the crime that Salemme and Weadick are charged with, but Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Wyshak said in court that they are unlikely to seek that option. Lesser available penalties include life in prison.
Prosecutors contend that Salemme had been the head of the New England Mafia family of La Cosa Nostra at the time of the killing. They alleged that he killed DiSarro because the Federal Bureau of Investigation was probing ties between him, his son and DiSarro. All three had been involved in the ownership of a now-defunct nightclub.
Cabell set a Sept. 8 bail hearing for Weadick; Salemme has already agreed to remain in federal custody.
(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Andrew Hay and Tom Brown)