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Judge: Cigarette magnate ordered robbery of rival

A federal judge ruled yesterday that he believes Poospatuck Indian Reservation cigarette magnate Rodney Morrison ordered the robbery of a rival smoke shop and he will take that into account in sentencing. A jury earlier acquitted Morrison of the charge.

U.S. District Judge Denis Hurley, while commending the panel's service, said that the jury and he operate by different standards.

Juries are required to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Judges, in considering sentencing for an overall pattern of conduct, as in Morrison's case, can use a preponderance of the evidence as their standard.

Morrison, who federal prosecutors maintained controlled the bootleg cigarette trade on the Mastic reservation through "a reign of terror," was convicted in 2008 after a two-month trial of operating the cigarette bootlegging scheme as a racketeering enterprise and of illegal possession of a gun.

He was acquitted of the robbery, the slaying of another rival, and the torching of a car owned by yet a third rival smoke-shop operator.

Federal prosecutors and probation officials had asked that Morrison be given a 30-year prison sentence and that the judge take into account the crimes of violence of which he was acquitted.

Defense attorneys have asked that he be sentenced to the 6 years he has been imprisoned without bail.

Hurley has declined to release Morrison on bail, saying he considers him a danger to the community.

The robbery involved the 1999 theft of 70,000 cigarettes and $25,000 in cash from Monique's, a rival of Morrison's Peace Pipe Smoke Shop.

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