A Brooklyn federal jury began deliberations but reached no verdict Friday after closing arguments in the conspiracy trial of Hauppauge defense lawyer John Scarpa, accused of bribing a witness to lie in the 2015 double-homicide trial in Riverhead of Crips member Reginald Ross.
Scarpa, a Queens-based veteran attorney, is accused of conspiring with an assistant to get Ross acquitted of the murders of John Williams, of Holbrook and Raymond Hirt, of Mastic Beach, by getting accomplice Luis Cherry to falsely claim that he acted alone in the ambush of Williams.
Cherry had fingered Ross for police when he was arrested and again in his guilty plea, and was serving a 63-year sentence. Prosecutors claim Scarpa’s assistant, ex-felon Charles Gallman, promised that if Cherry changed his testimony he would get help on appeal and protection from retaliation in prison.
The case arose out of a Queens district attorney’s office wiretap of Gallman. After Gallman met with Cherry in prison, he was overheard telling Scarpa, “Anything we need, he's willing. Whichever way you wanna play it he's willing."
In closing arguments, defense lawyers said Cherry shifted his story because he felt Suffolk prosecutors broke their word on a plea deal, and the government never proved Scarpa knew of or offered incentives as bribes – only that Gallman made that claim to others on wiretaps.
Even if Scarpa behaved unethically by putting on false testimony, lawyer Thomas Kenniff told jurors, that wasn’t enough for a conviction. “It’s not about suborning perjury,” he said. “…It’s about whether they offered him something, whether he was bribed.”
Ross was convicted in 2015 despite Cherry’s testimony, and Gallman has pleaded guilty. The three-day trial featured excerpts of intercepted calls and texts between Gallman and Scarpa, along with testimony from ex-Suffolk prosecutor Robert Biancavilla and Det. Richard Santangelo of the Queens DA’s office.
The evidence included calls and texts in which prosecutors said Gallman and Scarpa were discussing how to fabricate testimony to discredit a government witness against Ross, and plotted to transport a contingent of gang members from Queens to the Riverhead court to intimidate the man.
Prosecutors said Scarpa was caught redhanded on the wiretap. “He crossed the line from being a criminal defense attorney to just a criminal,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Keith Edelman.
The jury is scheduled to resume its deliberations on Thursday.