In a stunning setback for the government, a Brooklyn federal jury Wednesday convicted alleged Long Island mobster Thomas "Tommy Shots" Gioeli, of Farmingdale, of racketeering conspiracy but cleared him on three murders including the execution of a cop.
Despite graphic testimony from three informants who said they participated in killings as part of Gioeli's Colombo family crew, the anonymous jury acquitted him and co-defendant Dino Saracino of the 1995 shooting of associate Richard Greaves, the 1997 murder of NYPD cop Ralph Dols, and the 1999 assassination of underboss William Cutolo.
Gioeli, 59, the alleged one-time acting boss of the Colombo family who portrayed himself as a persecuted suburban grandfather on a prison blog, bear-hugged his lawyer after the verdict. His beaming wife, Maureen, predicted that he won't spend the rest of his life in prison as she left court with Gioeli's daughters and other relatives.
"He's coming home!" she said. "He's very happy."
Defense lawyers said the verdict should send a sobering message to prosecutors and the FBI about over-reliance on informers who agree to testify against their former partners in crime in return for breaks on their own cases. "I think the message is you can't trust somebody who is ultimately untrustworthy," said Samuel Braverman, Saracino's lawyer.
Prosecutors in the seven-week trial claimed that Gioeli headed up a crew that carried out hits for Colombo bosses, buried bodies in a mob graveyard near Gioeli's home, and made money through a string of robberies and other crimes on Long Island and in Brooklyn over two decades.
Soldiers Dino Calabro, Gioeli's one-time best friend, and Joseph Competiello, both of Farmingdale, testified that their ex-boss organized multiple murders -- including the killing of Dols, a rare organized crime hit on a cop allegedly carried out on orders of Colombo consigliere Joel Cacace, whose ex-wife Dols married. Another informant, Sebastian Saracino, testified against his brother.
After the verdict, U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch, whose office is relying on some of the same informants in a death penalty prosecution of Cacace for the Dols killing, had no comment.
Defense lawyers attacked the informants' credibility, pointed to the lack of forensic evidence against Gioeli, and argued that lead FBI agent Scott Curtis -- who was cross-examined for two full days -- manufactured the case because Gioeli associated with suspected mobsters.
Gioeli lawyer Adam Perlmutter argued that jurors need assurance informants aren't being told what to say by agents. "They need to record and videotape all the meetings so the jury can see the encounters," he said.
Gioeli, jailed without bail since 2008, still faces up to 20 years in prison for conspiracy to engage in racketeering. While acquitting him on the three separately charged murders, the jury found that as part of the racketeering conspiracy he was involved in three other murder plots, including the 1992 Massapequa killing of John Minerva during an internal Colombo family war.
Jurors found that Saracino participated in two other murder plots as part of his racketeering conspiracy conviction, and also found him guilty of extortion and three counts related to witness tampering. He faces up to 100 years in prison.
Both men are scheduled for sentencing in September.