But according to recent reports from veteran investigative reporter Dave Schratwieser who closely follows the Philly mafia the feds case against Merlino may be in jeopardy of falling completely apart. There is some speculation that the Feds could drop the case before it even makes it into a courtroom according to Schratwieser. Merlino reportedly turned down a plea deal which would have sent him to prison for between 1-2 years a drastically smaller sentence than he was originally facing. He has since been preparing for trial including the recent hiring of John Meringolo a high-profile defense attorney.
Skinny Joey was busted along with 40 other alleged mafia members and associates on various crimes associated with what the Feds labeled as the East Coast LCN Enterprise. The Feds claimed that Merlino along with Pasquale (Patsy) Parrello and Eugene (Rooster) O’Nofrio both capos in the New York mafia were leaders of the organized crime enterprise. A probe into potential misconduct by two FBI agents and a supervisory agent involving the handling of a cooperating witness and evidence he collected led prosecutors to change the direction of the case. The Department of Justice agreed to over plea deals to the defendants letting them plead to lesser crimes by dropping the more damaging racketeering conspiracy charge. The 40 other defendants in the case have all reportedly agreed to plea offers except for Joey.
Merlino decided to play hard to get and take the Feds to trial instead of taking their plea offer and admitting to any wrongdoing. The majority of the evidence against him seems to have been collected by the cooperating witness in question and could very well be compromised. If the case goes to trial Joey could potentially be facing 20 years behind bars but as speculation continues to mount it seems like his gamble could very well pay off and in a big way. It now seems like the chances of him walking away scot-free have increased dramatically over the last few months. What was once considered to be a major blow against Cosa Nostra from Philly to New York has turned out to be nothing of the sort.