Two aging New Jersey mobsters, who federal judges have denied to release from prison during the coronavirus pandemic, are now alleging their decades-old convictions for plotting to murder John Gotti and ordering the hit on a New York businessman should be overturned.
Attorneys for Louis “Bobby” Manna and Richard DeSciscio, who have both been incarcerated since 1989, said they filed motions in federal court this week outlining how cases that put the two members of the Genovese Crime Family behind bars was full of prosecutorial misconduct.
“This was not a valid prosecution; this was a win-at-all-costs persecution by prosecutors who acted partially out of revenge and partially out of career ego,” said Jeremy M. Iandolo, a Brooklyn attorney who represents Manna. “They invented evidence, and withheld facts that would have resulted in a far different outcome at trial.”
At the center of the case against Manna, who was the consigliere, or third-in-command of the crime family, and DeSciscio, who authorities say was an “enforcer,” was their plot to murder New York mob boss John Gotti and the actual murder of Irwin “The Fat Man” Schiff.
During the 1989 trial, which used an anonymous jury out of fear of retaliation for the jurors, prosecutors played recorded conversations from Casella’s, an Italian restaurant in Hoboken the crime family used to conduct business, in which they said showed Manna ordering the murder of Schiff in 1987, as well as discussing the plot to take out Gotti and his brother, Gene.
Prosecutors claimed DeSciscio was present at the scene of the murder to assist in the “hit” on Schiff, which was carried out by an unidentified masked gunman at an Upper East Side restaurant.
While reportedly discussing the Schiff murder, authorities say Manna, DeSciscio and others discussed the “big hit” on Gotti, according to court documents.
“Well we are stuck behind Gotti,” Manna said, according to authorities. “Let’s hit the (expletive).”
A subordinate of Manna’s made it clear: “The f—–’’ godfather ain’t getting’ home,” he said, according to court documents.
But federal authorities quickly foiled the plot when they alerted Gotti to the hit, and soon charged Manna and his crew.
After a three-and-a-half month trial in federal court in Newark, Manna and DeSciscio were convicted of a number of crimes, including RICO conspiracy to murder Gotti and his brother, participating in the murder of Schiff, racketeering and conducting an illegal gambling business.
After securing their convictions, prosecutors described a it as “tremendous blow to organized crime in New Jersey.”
Both men appealed their convictions and have challenged them in court, but the convictions have been affirmed each time.
Manna, who is 91, is currently incarcerated at a federal prison in Minnesota and is not eligible to be released until 2054. DeSciscio, 78, is incarcerated in Pennsylvania, and has a release date in 2052.
In their latest attempt, the defense attorneys for the men claim prosecutors falsely interpreted intercepted voice recordings and called a questionable witness to the stand during the trial in order “to buff up their resumes by convicting two alleged members of organized crime.”
“We are asking the court to rectify the injustice done to the defendants and allow them to go home to their families who they have not been with in over 30 years,” said Marco Laracca, an Orange attorney representing DeSciscio.
The attorneys say while prosecutors claim Manna and DeSciscio could be heard discussing the murder of Schiff, the men were actually talking about weekend union shifts of two other men, who could have confirmed that but were never called to testify during the trial.
The attorneys also claim the audio tapes were not of “high quality and identifying the speakers is difficult.”
“The government manufactured transcripts of the tape recording, with fabricated context of the conversation and published those lies to the jury,” Iandolo said.
In addition, the attorneys argue that the woman who testified as to seeing DeSciscio in a hallway adjacent to the restaurant on the night Schiff was killed was an unreliable witness.
They said she gave varying descriptions of DeSciscio that called into question her truthfulness as a witness.
“Knowing what we know now, I would like to have the entire prosecution and investigative teams appear at an evidentiary hearing and explain, under oath, their deceitful behavior and what motivated it,” Iandolo said.
The attorneys allege both men were denied due process and that prosecutors “actively concealed exculpatory evidence available to them at the time of trial in a successful effort to unjustly incarcerate” Manna and DeSciscio.
The U.S. Attorney’s office declined to comment on the matter. Michael Chertoff, the lead prosecutor in the case against Manna and DeSciscio, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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