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Prison term for ex-Marine who plotted 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. Credit: U.S. Department of Justice

One of the men accused of plotting to kill and decapitate a Long Island federal judge and prosecutor was sentenced to 24 years in prison in Brooklyn federal court Thursday.

After sobbing ex-Marine Dejvid Mirkovic, 38, of Lake Worth, Fla., apologized repeatedly and begged for a "second chance of life," U.S. District Judge John Keenan imposed a sentence a few months below the low end of federal guidelines but said the crime merited severe punishment.

"This is the most serious crime that can be contemplated, because it strikes right at the heart of our judicial system," Keenan said. "The criminal act here is horrific."

Mirkovic and business associate Joseph Romano of Levittown were charged last year with conspiring to murder Central Islip U.S. District Judge Joseph Bianco and prosecutor Lara Treinis Gatz in revenge for Romano's conviction and 15-year sentence in a coin fraud case.

Romano allegedly agreed in jail to pay two undercover FBI agents who he believed were hit men $40,000 and said he wanted to preserve the heads of the victims in formaldehyde as "souvenirs," while Mirkovic gave the agents $22,000 as a down payment on the plot. Mirkovic pleaded guilty in March. Romano is awaiting trial.

Federal sentencing guidelines called for a term of between 292 and 365 months. Mirkovic's lawyer, Susan Kellman, asked for leniency, telling Keenan that Romano was the driving force in the plot and Mirkovic was a hardworking Serbian immigrant who got involved in Romano's coin business and then the plot because he couldn't pay his mortgage and feared for his young family.

She told the judge Mirkovic had lost his bearings and was now so appalled by what he had done that "it's almost impossible for him to speak without crying."

In a letter to Keenan, Mirkovic wrote that he "cringed" every time he thought about the plot.

"I truly had lost touch with the man I had been all of my life," he added. "My choices show a tremendous disrespect for our legal system and the rule of law. As a U.S. Marine, I swore to protect this great country. Now, I am mortified at how low I have sunk."

In separate letters filed with the court, he also apologized to Bianco and Gatz for the beheading scheme, describing himself as an "idiot" and a "moron."

"You didn't deserve any of this," he wrote to the judge. "I am so sorry for the pain I have caused you and your family."

Keenan, who usually sits in the Manhattan federal judicial district, was assigned to preside because the plot involved a judge in the district covering Brooklyn and Long Island. The prosecution was overseen by Buffalo U.S. Attorney William Hochul because Gatz works for the prosecutor overseeing Brooklyn and Long Island.

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