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Thursday, November 01, 2007

FBI Agent Walks on Mob Murders

From the New York Times:

Prosecutors said they would drop the murder case against a retired Federal Bureau of Investigation supervisor, a law enforcement official said yesterday, after a reporter upended the trial with taped interviews showing that their main witness, a gangster’s mistress, had changed her account and damaged her credibility.

From the AP:

In a stunning finish to one of the worst law enforcement corruption cases in U.S. history, former FBI agent Lindley DeVecchio was cleared Thursday of giving up confidential information that a Colombo family hit man used to kill four fellow mobsters — either rivals or potential rats....

It wasn't until Schiro began testifying this week that the case reached its unexpected conclusion. The key prosecution witness was the lone direct link between DeVecchio and the murders.

Once she finished her first day of testimony, veteran reporter Tom Robbins came forward with tapes made in 1997, when he and fellow journalist Jerry Capeci had interviewed Schiro for a never-published book. The tapes contradicted her sworn testimony against DeVecchio.

Her account "was so disturbingly different, we couldn't sit on it," Robbins said outside court after Thursday's dismissal.

Well, not all of it was so different at least:

Most of our conversations with Schiro were tape-recorded. Some tapes have long since gone missing. Audibility is a problem in others. But the conversation about the murder of Joe Brewster has survived. So has Schiro’s story about another killing, that of Lorenzo Lampasi, a Colombo soldier gunned down by Scarpa and his gang during the crime family’s bloody civil war in the early 1990s....

But if she was scared of him — and she never said so on the stand Monday — Schiro showed no sign of it in 1997. When she talked with us about the FBI agent, she sounded unconcerned. “I was friendly with Lin,” she said at one point. She even put him in lesser crimes, claiming that Scarpa had sometimes passed cash to DeVecchio and, on one occasion, gave the agent a couple of baubles from a jewelry heist....

Last week, at the DeVecchio trial, a prosecution witness named Rey Aviles, who was present at the Halloween shooting, testified that it was Porco himself who told Joey Schiro and his old man about his encounter with the cops.

But Linda Schiro told us in 1997—and testified on the stand this week—that the information came from DeVecchio. “Lin called, he said the kid was going to tell the detectives what happened,” Schiro told us. She remembered that the agent was unusually secretive. Usually, she said, DeVecchio was willing to chat on the home phone with his informant. This time, Schiro said, he insisted that Scarpa call him back from an outside line. “I drove him to the pay phone,” Schiro said. They used what she said was a special, untraceable number to call DeVecchio. “Greg got back in the car and told me that this kid Patrick was going to rat on Joey,” said Schiro.

UPDATE: In response to a reader question, yes all charges were dismissed, and because DeVecchio asked for a bench trial instead of a jury trial he can never be retried. Personally, I suspect he knew about the tapes before the trial and specifically requested a bench trial for that reason. DeVecchio is close to one of the two reporters, Capeci, who he leaked stories to all the time. It would not have taken much for Capeci to give DeVecchio and his lawyers word of the tapes before the trial even started. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that was the case.

From the New York Times:

Because Mr. DeVecchio had waived his right to a jury trial, the legal concept of jeopardy attached, meaning he could not be retried for the four killings in which he was indicted, a court official said.