An ailing mobster in a wheelchair and using an oxygen tank was sentenced Wednesday to seven years in prison for what a judge called a "clownish" murder-for-hire plot that was never carried out.
Anthony "The Saint" St. Laurent Sr., who has been behind bars for various crimes for about 12 years, asked for leniency in U.S. District Court in Providence, saying it had been "awhile" since he'd spent time at home with his wife and daughter.
Prosecutors say St. Laurent solicited an informant to kill his foe, Robert "Bobby" DeLuca, who is believed to be a member of the Patriarca organized crime family. St. Laurent, who has acknowledged being a "made" member of the New England branch of La Cosa Nostra, said he only intended to "scare" DeLuca.
"I want to apologize to the court and my family," the 70-year-old St. Laurent said in a garbled voice as he read from a crumpled piece of yellow paper. His daughter, who attended the hearing with St. Laurent's wife, wiped tears from her eyes as her father addressed Judge William E. Smith. St. Laurent also broke down at the defendant's table.
Smith, who described the plan on DeLuca's life as "clownish," said St. Laurent posed a difficult case for sentencing. He has a long criminal record for gambling and racketeering and was convicted of a serious violent crime, but also faces grave health problems. The judge closed the hearing for several minutes to hear details about St. Laurent's medical condition.
The seven-year sentence is less than the maximum 10-year term that federal prosecutors sought but more than the five years suggested by St. Laurent's public defender, Olin W. Thompson. St. Laurent has already served about a year waiting for this case to wrap up.
"You need to receive a serious sentence because it is a serious crime," Smith said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney William J. Ferland called the punishment "fair."
Thompson said the plot was the product of a "senseless feud" between two older men that never came close to being carried out. St. Laurent was penniless and had no way of orchestrating a hit on DeLuca's life, he said.
St. Laurent pleaded guilty in March to using interstate commerce facilities in the commission of a murder for hire. Prosecutors say he sought out violent criminals and phoned an individual in Massachusetts to set up a meeting in Rhode Island on April 12, 2006, to make the solicitation. The plot was retaliation for DeLuca publicly accusing St. Laurent of being a government informant, prosecutors said.
St. Laurent was accused of telling an informant that the hit man should shoot DeLuca in the head and say, "This is from the Saint."
The plot was later disclosed to authorities by individuals snared in an extortion probe involving St. Laurent, his wife, Dorothy, and his son, Anthony Jr.
Prosecutors estimate the St. Laurents extorted $800,000 and $1.5 million in "protection" money from bookmakers in Taunton, Mass., over about 20 years.
Dorothy St. Laurent was sentenced in December to three years of probation and 500 hours of community service. Anthony St. Laurent Jr. was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison for his role in the conspiracy.
St. Laurent Sr. has also acknowledged his role in the extortion scheme. That case and another charge in the murder-for-hire plot have been dropped.
After learning his punishment, St. Laurent smiled broadly at his daughter, who asked him if he was OK. Smith requested that St. Laurent serve his sentence at a prison medical facility outside of Fort Devens in Massachusetts because of the history between him and caregivers there.
His family didn't comment as they left the courthouse.