The recent saga between the feds and reputed Philadelphia mafia boss Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino seems to be headed for a courtroom showdown.
According to the feds, Merlino was a leader in an East Coast LCN Enterprise along with members of the New York Mafia that operated up and down the East Coast. The case against Merlino and his co-defendants took a drastic turn after news surfaced of an internal investigation into the possible mishandling of evidence and an FBI informant named John Rubeo. This prompted prosecutors to offer sweet plea deals which allowed the mafia linked defendants to plead to lesser crimes avoiding the original racketeering charges. But the flamboyant Merlino has refused to agree to any kind of plea offer and continues to challenge the feds case against him.
Merlino’s defense team which includes high profile attorney’s Edwin Jacobs and John Meringolo have recently filed multiple motions including one to have all charges against him dismissed. Manhattan Federal Judge Richard Sullivan has yet to rule on these motions although recent developments make it seems likely that Joey Merlino and the feds are headed to trial. Sullivan ordered the FBI and the government to explain the legal reasonings behind their joint decision to have the feds inform the court and not the defense or U.S. Attorney’s office about the internal investigation. Skinny Joey’s lawyers want access to two ex-parte reports of the feds internal investigation that was supplied to the judge without being sent to government prosecutors or defense lawyers.
According to reports, the FBI told the judge they don’t want details of the probe related to the Merlino case made public. But the defense lawyers argue that these reports may have extraordinary consequences for their client and could help them to decide whether or not they would call the FBI agents in question to testify. As for now, the trial is set to begin in September although the judge could delay it until February of next year allowing for time to sort through these pre-trial motions and information according to reports. In another twist co-defendant and alleged Genovese family capo Eugene Onofrio who has also refused to agree to his plea offer had his attorney file a motion to have his trial separated from Merlino’s.
According to the motion filed by Onofrio’s lawyer Thomas Nooter, they believe there is potential for federal prosecutors to introduce aspects of alleged murders and violence Merlino has previously been charged with at trial even though they have not yet done so. According to Nooter’s motion, his client would suffer prejudice if he sat along side of Merlino and the government attempted to introduce highly prejudicial evidence. Nooter based this motion on information from an unusual source in Wikipedia which details alleged homicides that Merlino may have been involved in during his time in the Philly mafia. It seems like this case continues to have more twist and turns than a mafia novel. If this case does make it to court it could be one of the more interesting Cosa Nostra trials in some time!