A federal jury in Brooklyn Thursday convicted Joseph Romano of plotting to murder and behead a Long Island federal judge and prosecutor in 2012.
It took jurors less than four hours to convict Romano, 51, of Levittown, of trying to hire a hit man for $40,000 to kill Central Islip U.S. District Judge Joseph Bianco and prosecutor Lara Gatz in revenge for a 15-year prison sentence he received in a coin-fraud case.
Romano, a tough-talking 300-pound Navy veteran, was impassive as the verdict came in on the first day of deliberations. He faces up to life in prison on two counts of conspiracy to kill a federal employee.
"A threat against a member of the criminal justice system, such as a judge or an attorney, is nothing less than an attempt to subvert the system, and as such will not be tolerated," said William Hochul, the Buffalo federal prosecutor named to oversee the case because it involved a local prosecutor.
Romano hatched his plot while he was being held in the Nassau County jail, testimony showed. His threats were reported by a jailhouse snitch, who secretly recorded a meeting at which Romano accepted his offer to contact a hit man.
The "hit man" was, in fact, an undercover Suffolk County detective. He was wired by federal agents for a jailhouse meeting with Romano.
The jury also heard recorded calls in which Romano told accomplice Dejvid Mirkovic to pay the "hit man," and saw video recordings of meetings in which Mirkovic passed money and orders for the killings to the undercover detective.
The defense contended that Romano was just an angry, big talker who was entrapped by the snitch into a plot he never intended. "They set him up," defense lawyer George Goltzer told the jury. "They scripted this, like a production in a movie theater."
Romano's lawyers had no comment after the verdict.
Mirkovic, a Florida man who worked in the fraudulent coin-sales business with Romano, pleaded guilty last year. He was sentenced to 24 years in prison.