A Levittown man was sentenced Monday to life in prison for plotting in 2012 to behead the federal judge and the federal prosecutor in a case that led him to plead guilty to fraud in a telemarketing scheme involving collectible coins.
Joseph Romano, 51, gave a rambling, 45-minute speech in which he complained he was framed for the murder plot by dishonest people in law enforcement. Judge John F. Keenan of U.S. District Court in Brooklyn then imposed two life sentences.
"The FBI guys, they made up the crime," Romano said at one point. He referred to the "evil design" of the prosecutor in his current case, Marshall Miller, and suggested that Miller might be angling for a federal judgeship.
Romano began by explaining to the judge that a reader had to understand the ghosts in "A Christmas Carol" to understand the Scrooge character, and so too the judge had to understand his history to understand the case.
The judge said he would give him plenty of time to speak, as long as he stuck to the case, but the judge appeared to be losing his patience about 40 minutes later, telling Romano: "Let's wrap this up. It's nearly an hour. Come on."
But Roman insisted on another literary reference, telling the judge that he had blurted out some incriminating statements to authorities following his arrest because he was "confounded by fear," like the frightened whales in "Moby Dick" behave when they are pursued.
Defense attorney George Goltzer had asked for a sentence of 24 years, and said that the judge was not bound by federal sentencing guidelines that called for life in prison.
Kennan said life in prison was appropriate given the gravity of the crime. "This conduct cannot be tolerated in a civil society," the judge said.
It had taken a jury barely four hours in January to convict Romano on charges that he paid $40,000 to hire a hit man to kill U.S. District Judge Joseph Bianco of Central Islip and federal prosecutor Lara Gatz in retaliation for a 15-year prison sentence in the telemarketing case.
Romano tried to assert that he was wrongly convicted in that case, but Keenan interrupted to note that he had pleaded guilty.
When Romano complained the whole story had not come out in the current case, Keenan reminded him that he had told the judge that he did not want to take the stand in his own defense.
Romano hatched his plot while being held in the Nassau County jail. His threats were reported by a jailhouse informant, 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.