A federal judge said Tuesday he would decide in the coming days whether to allow the release of a reputed former boss of the New England mob as he awaits trial on charges of shaking down strip clubs.
U.S. District Judge William Smith said he was most concerned about whether Luigi "Baby Shacks" Manocchio, 83, is a flight risk. Manocchio fled state murder charges in the 1960s and remained on the lam for a decade before turning himself over to authorities. He is being held on $500,000 bond.
Manocchio has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and extortion charges. A magistrate judge earlier this month ruled that Manocchio could be released on bond and confined in his brother's home under electronic surveillance, but prosecutors appealed.
Manocchio was arrested in January as part of a mob sweep that netted more than 120 suspected mobsters and associates.
Prosecutor William Ferland told Smith on Tuesday that Manocchio had a network of connections that could help him flee the country, then "live happily ever after in Italy under an assumed name." Ferland said Manocchio had collected $600,000 in protection payments but claimed to have virtually no assets.
Smith told Manocchio's lawyer, Mary June Ciresi, that he was concerned about a history of other accused mobsters fleeing and about Manocchio's own past.
"What we have here is a defendant who has in the past fled. ... That's a very powerful fact," the judge said, adding, "Don't forget Bulger. Whitey Bulger. How long has he been gone?"
"Long time," Ciresi replied.
Fugitive Boston mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger has been on the lam since just before his 1995 federal racketeering indictment.
Manocchio fled 40 years ago and eventually came back on his own 10 years later to face charges, Ciresi said. She called the investigation the worst-kept secret in Rhode Island and said Manocchio knew for years he was under surveillance _ yet never went into hiding.
She said he is now at a point in his life when he wants to be near his family and defend the charges against him.
Smith said he would issue a decision this week or early next week at the latest.