Salvatore Brunetti, 73, denied early release

New Jersey mobster Salvatore Brunetti, 73, has been denied early release from prison by a federal judge. He was petitioning the court for early release over health concerns related to his age and the pandemic.

In the 1990s, Brunetti was involved in a mob war between factions of the South Jersey-Philadelphia Mafia. He was known to carry a rifle, but his main talent, and the reason he was recruited by the mob in the first place, was bomb-making.

Upon denying his request for early release from his 40-year sentence, the U.S. District Judge Mark Kearney said that although “we appreciate the fear of COVID-19,” this mobster “presents too great a danger of violence to the public.”

The judge did agree however with a statement by the most recent of Brunetti’s three wives, who said he was a “violent person who couldn’t change.”

According to court documents, Brunetti was planning on living with a family member in Cherry Hill, NJ, but it now looks like those plans will have to wait till his originally scheduled release date in 2028.

The court documents also clearly noted Brunetti’s part in the violent summer of 1993 clash between mafia factions led by Joey Merlino and Philadelphia mob boss John Stanfa.

Brunetti, formerly a businessman, was recruited by the mob in 1990. He was extremely proficient in the building, testing, and detonating of bombs, particularly pipe bombs.

The documents also stated that “Mr. Brunetti also provided cyanide to kill Merlino and tried to recruit a woman to place cyanide in Merlino’s drink,” and “so he would be able to identify the 12 targets to be murdered,” Brunetti watched a video of them at a funeral.

Brunetti was arrested in March 1994 on federal racketeering charges, and in 1997 was sentenced to 40 years.

Philadelphia mob boss John Stanfa, seen in a March 17, 1994 file photo

Philadelphia mob boss John Stanfa, seen in a March 17, 1994 file photo.

Although Stanfa and Merlino weren’t killed in the mob war, their nefarious activities eventually caught up with them. Stanfa, 79, was sentenced to life in prison in 1995 for, amongst other charges, murder.

In 2001, Merlino, 58, was sentenced to 14 years on federal racketeering charges, then in 2018, he was sentenced to two years in prison on gambling charges. According to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, he was released from federal custody on Monday.

The judge also made mention of another violent incident Brunetti was involved in. In 1984 he was convicted of aggravated assault for breaking down his wife’s door and repeatedly hitting and kicking her, leaving her with a fractured spine, broken teeth, and a broken nose.

Brunetti’s petition for early release stated that the 73-year-old inmate has several health issues including “hypertension, coronary artery disease, and eye conditions.” He also stated that a 2018 surgery left him with “shortness of breath.”

103 federal inmates and 1 employee have died from Covid-19. 4,049 federal inmates and employees have tested positive including 38 at the facility Brunetti is being held.

Judge Kearney also noted that “Mr. Brunetti set out to murder on multiple occasions but either did not have the shot or the shot was too risky to take,” referring to Brunetti’s attempted murder of Merlino where he backed out at the last minute because there were “too many people around,” and another attempt to kill Steve Mazzone, an associate of Merlino, which ended in a similar fashion.

Kearney was not impressed that Burnetti did not mention his history of mental illness, substance abuse, or the attack on his former wife. The ruling also noted that “he does not refer to his children.”

The ruling does state that Brunetti’s “recent conduct while incarcerated shows generally good behavior,” however, a 2000 incident where he was found in possession of a shiv, shows “violent tendencies potentially stuck with him through sentencing and into his time in prison.”

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