Jury can hear recordings in case of plot to kill judge

Joseph Romano, left, and David Mirkovic in a Joseph Romano, left, and David Mirkovic in a government surveillance photo outside Romano's purported coin boiler room in Delray Beach, Fla. Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Justice

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The judge overseeing the trial of Joseph Romano for plotting to murder Central Islip U.S. District Judge Joseph Bianco ruled Friday that jurors will be allowed to hear recorded conversations about mutilating the bodies of Bianco and a prosecutor.

Defense lawyers for Romano, 50, who is scheduled to go on trial Jan. 6, had argued that the discussions with an undercover agent he thought was a hit man would be unfairly prejudicial because he was just joking about cutting off sexual organs.

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"The defense is free to argue that interpretation to the jury," ruled U.S. District Judge John Keenan, a Manhattan judge who will oversee the trial in Brooklyn.

Romano is accused of plotting to kill Bianco and prosecutor Lara Gatz last year in revenge for his 15-year sentence in a coin fraud case. He allegedly promised undercover agents $40,000 and wanted to preserve the victims' heads in formaldehyde as "souvenirs."

With such grisly allegations, the jury would be unnecessarily inflamed by additional conversations about mutilating bodies, the defense argued. "They are intended as a joke, albeit a distasteful one," Romano's lawyer wrote. "At most, Romano is venting."

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