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Split verdict for Philly mob

| Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013, 9:26 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA — Reputed Philadelphia mob boss Joseph “Uncle Joe” Ligambi will seek bail after a jury deadlocked Tuesday on a racketeering charge against him, and deadlocked or acquitted him of all eight lesser counts in a gambling and loansharking case.

The federal jury convicted underboss Joseph “Mousie” Massimino and two others of racketeering, and convicted a mob associate of two loansharking counts. But the jury deadlocked or acquitted the seven defendants on most of the approximately 60 counts.

Defense lawyers saw the verdict as a slam of the government's 13-year investigation into illegal gambling, video poker machines and loansharking in South Philadelphia. The jury had heard one defendant complain on a secret FBI recording that “it's a broke, broke mob.”

Lead defense lawyer Edwin Jacobs Jr. called the prosecution “an enormous waste” of taxpayer money. “We're not talking about terrorists. We're not talking about schoolchildren being shot up. We're talking about video machines that aren't hurting anybody,” Jacobs said after the verdict. “The only problem is they weren't controlled by the state.”

The reputed mobsters also complain on the tapes that legalized state gambling had cut into their video poker and sports betting business.

Federal prosecutors call the case important and say they will consider retrying the unresolved counts.

“We respect the jury's verdict,” Assistant U.S. Attorney John Han said. “We will decide whether to go forward with the charges on which the jury was undecided.”

The parties are due back in court Wednesday, when Ligambi and others not convicted are expected to seek bail after about two years in custody awaiting trial.

The jury also convicted reputed mob soldier Damion Canalichio and reputed mob associate Gary Battaglini of racketeering conspiracy.

It deadlocked on that for Ligambi nephew George Borgesi and Anthony Staino Jr. Staino, who remains free on bail at least until Wednesday, was convicted of two loansharking counts.

The jury acquitted Joseph “Scoops” Licata of the racketeering charge.

The verdict follows a three-month trial and testimony from a series of mob turncoats, including an aging mobster who admitted killing several people before going into the federal witness protection program.

When the trial started in October, there hadn't been a mob killing in Philadelphia in nearly a decade.

That seemingly changed the day the government rested its case in December. Hours later, a convicted drug dealer suspected of cooperating with federal prosecutors was gunned down outside his house in South Philadelphia in broad daylight. Gambling figure Anthony Nicodemo was soon charged with the execution-style slaying. Nicodemo's name has come up at trial on FBI wiretaps.

The racketeering trial evidence included testimony from former La Cosa Nostra members, FBI agents who infiltrated a New York crime family and thousands of FBI wiretaps.

Five people pleaded guilty before trial; three more await trial.

Prosecutors believe the quiet, business-like Ligambi assumed control of the Philadelphia crime family after flashy, young boss Joseph “Joey” Merlino went to prison in 1999. Merlino was released last year and has settled in Boca Raton, Fla.

Merlino's father died in prison in October. His mother has occasionally attended the Ligambi trial, joining the outspoken, tight-knit group of friends and family members from South Philadelphia who came to court each day.

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