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Informant testifies in Romano murder-plot case

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. Credit: U.S. Department of Justice

A jailhouse informer who exposed the alleged plot by Joseph Romano to kill a federal judge testified on Thursday that he wasn't trying to get leniency by framing a fellow inmate, and was genuinely "petrified" by Romano's wild talk.

"From what I could gather he was a scary guy, he was a tough guy," said Gerald Machacek, 44, called by the defense at Romano's trial in an effort to show that he entrapped and goaded Romano into the plot. "I was actually really scared."

Romano, 50, of Levittown, is charged in Brooklyn federal court with hatching a 2012 plan to kill and behead Central Islip U.S. District Judge Joseph Bianco and prosecutor Lara Gatz in revenge for a 15-year sentence he got in a coin fraud case.

Machacek was a fellow inmate at the Nassau County jail in 2012, facing robbery and gun changes in two stickups. He disclosed Romano's threats, and later recorded a meeting where he arranged to put Romano in touch with an undercover police officer posing as a hit man.

Machacek said he bumped into Romano, a rugged-looking 300-pounder, at the jail law library. The two started talking when Romano noticed on legal papers that Machacek's case was before Bianco, and began complaining about "how he was screwed, how he was railroaded."

In a discussion that went on for nearly three hours, Machacek said, Romano needed no encouragement to talk about the judge.

"He said he should die, he should be murdered, let him be murdered in front of his kids, let them be fatherless like his [Romano's] kids," said Machacek, who said Romano discussed his military training and weapons in a way that suggested he wasn't all talk.

"I'm scared I was going to open the paper the next day and see the judge was killed, because he said he had people on the street," he testified.

Earlier Thursday, an FBI agent who arrested Romano testified that Romano confessed to plotting to kill Bianco and Gatz, describing it as a "harebrained scheme" but venting a "lot of anger" as he quoted Bible verses saying that vengeance belongs to God.

"But I think God has taken a long vacation," Romano said, according to the agent.

After Machacek's testimony, Romano said he wasn't going to take the stand and both sides rested. The jury is expected to get the case on Tuesday, when the trial resumes.

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