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If the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, N.Y., is a mill, the recent arrests of 62 suspects in a wide-ranging organized crime probe set every wheel of justice to grinding. Global headlines trumpeted the arrests of dozens of suspects on Feb. 7, including the purported hierarchy of the Gambino crime family, reputed figures from the Genovese and Bonanno families, and a coordinated set of arrests in Italy. The 80-count indictment alleges connections among all 62 defendants to gambling, fraud, extortion and corruption alleged to be occurring now in New York labor unions and construction companies � but only 25 face racketeering charges. Two defendants are charged with a total of seven homicides between March 1976 and January 1996. USA v. Agate, No . 1:08-cr-00076-NGG (E.D.N.Y.). The defendants have pleaded not guilty. To say the least, the market for defense attorneys just got hot. “A case this size basically uses up all of the top talent in the New York criminal justice system. There just aren’t that many lawyers who can try cases at this level,” said Maureen Hoerger of Perini & Hoerger of Hauppauge, N.Y. She represents Vincent Donnis, who is charged with one count of illegal gambling. One defense counsel, who asked not to identified, quipped, “[i]nstead of every defendant gets a lawyer, this was every attorney gets a client.” When he was called to the Eastern District of New York courthouse in Brooklyn to represent a suspect at arraignment, just about every attorney he knew � and a few he didn’t � were already there. The tussling begins The sheer number of arrests has set in motion a legal process as complex and intertwined as the logistics of the Normandy invasion. Defense counsel and prosecutors will soon tussle over how many of the defendants should be tried separately. Prosecutors will want fewer trials with multiple defendants, while defenders will vie for as many separate trials as they can get � a good way to wear down government witnesses. Also, defense attorneys predict the body of defendants will break down along two basic groups � those facing racketeering charges, who will want lengthy trials, and the rest, who will go for the best plea deal they can get. Defense counsel are already showing signs of banding together. A group of 15 attorneys is challenging conditions at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center, disputing rules that they contend unfairly limit contact with their clients. Simply sorting which defendants will get bail, go to trial or make a deal, and who might work a deal with the prosecution, plus researching crimes that occurred decades ago and listening to endless wiretapped conversations, is certain to take months, attorneys said. “Just getting three years’ worth of wiretaps into an accurate, or even semiaccurate, transcript is huge,” said Mary Jo White, former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York who is now a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton. “This is a massive undertaking. I’d be surprised to see this go to trial in less than a year. You could even be looking at two years.” Defense counsel see a task equally daunting, but from their point of view it is even more so because they must quickly digest the case the government has been compiling. The 171-page indictment is not quick reading. As an example, count 36 includes the 21 names, and collectively 59 nicknames, of defendants charged with racketeering. “I’m only on page 30,” admitted one harried attorney after he’d been on the case a week. Looking at baggage Top former federal prosecutors and veteran defense counsel expect that within several months the 62 defendants will be grouped in subsets. In general, they said, the prosecution prefers a smaller number of trials with more defendants. Defendants facing multiple counts often prefer separate trials, in no small part to grind down the unidentified “cooperating witness” the government said recorded hundreds of hours of conversations during a period of three years. “When there is overlap in the proof, the prosecution will often want to call the witnesses just once, but that guy is going to be on the witness stand for a long, long time just to hear his history and the baggage he brings,” said Alan Vinegrad, a former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York and now a partner at Washington-based Covington & Burling. “The prosecution wants the least wear and tear on that witness,” agreed Mark Feldman, who until a year ago was chief of the Organized Crime and Racketeering Section of the Eastern District U.S. attorney’s office. Feldman is now a director at BDO Consulting, which provides investigative and monitoring services to companies and unions required to certify they have no connections to organized crime. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York declined all comment on the case. Defense attorney Seth Ginsberg, who represents William Scotto on seven counts of racketeering and extortion, said that defendants want a “coordinated attack” on the government’s wiretap witness. The opening salvo is likely to be a tug-of-war between the government’s desire for fewer trials and the defense desire for cross-examinations in separate trials. “This is really a series of separate cases lumped together by the government,” Ginsberg said. “The government is required to break the cases up to avoid violating the right to a speedy trial.” Both defense counsel and former prosecutors cited the 1989 Casamento decision as requiring trials in the 2d Circuit to have a manageable, though unspecified maximum, number of defendants. U.S. v. Casamento, 887 F.2d 1141 (2d Cir. 1989), cert. denied, 110 S. Ct. 1138 (1990). “The [prosecuting] attorneys will have to decide how to proceed, and the court through its rulings on defense motions to separate defendants will have a lot to say about the shape of the case, but we have sound case law guidelines from Casamento,” said Feldman. Defense attorneys need to work together to match the government’s organizational advantage, said Bruce Cutler, who won three acquittals for reputed Gambino boss John Gotti, earning Gotti the moniker “Teflon don.” “You need organization, strength through unity and lawyer leadership to fight a case like this,” Cutler said. “All of that flows from the clients. The clients are the source of the strength, unity and coordination.” The defendants already fall into two broad categories, attorneys say. The 25 defendants charged with racketeering, many of them detained without bail, face the prospect of a lengthy trial, or trials. The defendants whose charges don’t include racketeering will make their best plea deal. “I don’t think my client would have been prosecuted except for the wide net cast by the government,” said Bennett M. Epstein of New York, who was appointed to represent Sarah Dauria, the only female suspect. She is free on bond pending charges of embezzlement and conspiracy to commit fraud. “My client probably has the least criminal liability of the people indicted, but she is ruined, whether or not they succeed in convicting her,” Epstein said. Eric P. Franz of New York, who represents Augustus Sclafani on a charge of interference with commerce by threat or violence, said that, despite the headlines, most defendants are not charged in connection with the alleged racketeering and homicides. “The media is tracking the case but we deal with these types of charges all the time,” Franz said. “The way this will likely shake out is: Most defendants will take pleas. The government is hoping some will take pleas to make their case more manageable.” For the defendants charged with racketeering, who are unlikely to receive plea offers, the strategic question will be how many separate trials to seek, said Curtis Farber. His client, Charles Carneglia, is charged with five homicides between 1976 and 1990 plus relatively lesser charges that include robbery and conspiracy to distribute marijuana. “Each could be considered a separate trial,” Farber said. The big strategic moves won’t be decided before Farber has worked his way through all the wiretaps and every trial over the many years that might have relevant testimony. “It’s going to be months of research,” Farber said. “I don’t assume the discovery the government will give me is exhaustive. They only have to give so much and they never give more than they have to.” Father and son Joseph R. Corozzo Jr., who is representing his father, Joseph Corozzo, identified by the government as the Gambino family consigliere, is leading attorneys of 15 defendants challenging conditions at the federal Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. Corozzo, in a writ demanding that his father be released or granted a hearing on the separation, contends that the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, at the behest of the U.S. attorney’s office, is interfering with the right to counsel by allowing only one defendant at a time to consult with his attorney in the visiting area. The government, in its response, said the restrictions are “reasonable under the circumstances,” but denied the U.S. attorney’s office asked for them. The government offered to “facilitate” scheduling co-defendant meetings. “The process is an intrusion on the Sixth Amendment right to counsel and the very nature of our adversarial system,” said Robert Blossner, counsel to John “Jackie the Nose” D’Amico, 73, whom prosecutors have labeled the acting boss of the Gambino organization. He faces five counts of racketeering and interference with commerce by threat or violence. No hearing date has been scheduled on Corozzo’s writ.

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