Mafia soldier's prison term restored despite Oklahoma City bombing tip

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 22, 2017 4:37 PM

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal appeals court restored the 40-year prison sentence of a former Mafia soldier whose term had been cut by 10 years after he revealed a cache of explosives hidden in the former home of a 1995 Oklahoma City bombing co-conspirator.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan said Gregory Scarpa Jr, 65, did not deserve to be rewarded for leading investigators to Terry Nichols' home, reflecting his prior track record as an informant and what prosecutors called his "history" of obstructing justice.

Thursday's 3-0 decision against Scarpa, a self-professed member of the Colombo crime family serving time in a racketeering case, reversed a January 2016 ruling by U.S. District Judge Edward Korman in Brooklyn, New York.

Georgia Hinde, a lawyer for Scarpa, declined to comment.

Scarpa learned in 2005 of the explosives from Nichols, serving 161 consecutive life terms for the Oklahoma City bombing, after befriending him when both were housed at the maximum security prison in Florence, Colorado.

The FBI at first ignored the tip and said Scarpa failed a lie detector test. It was only after private investigators also contacted by Scarpa reached out to members of Congress that FBI agents searched Nichols' home.

Korman rejected prosecutors' claims that Scarpa did not deserve credit because he perjured himself at his own trial, embellished Nichols' tip, and provided "sham" cooperation in a case involving Ramzi Yousef, who helped mastermind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

The judge said the government had a compelling interest in finding "bombs hidden by domestic terrorists on American soil," and no interest in arbitrarily failing to credit Scarpa's tip.

In Thursday's decision, Circuit Judge Amalya Kearse agreed that Scarpa provided "substantial assistance" in locating the explosives.

But she said Korman went too far by cutting Scarpa's term after prosecutors refused to recommend a reduction, which it often does after receiving help from defendants.

Kearse said Scarpa's prior perjury, conduct in the Yousef case, and submission in other cases of affidavits that judges refused to credit justified restoring the 40-year sentence.

"Fraudulent cries of 'Wolf' not only cause the misallocation of government resources, but they also make less likely an appropriate government response if the man who cried 'Wolf' subsequently sounds an alarm that is genuine," she wrote.

Scarpa is now housed at a facility in Kansas City, Kansas, federal prison records show. Nichols, 62, remains in the Florence prison.

The case is U.S. v Scarpa, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 16-303.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York)