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The former attorney for Frank LoCascio, a co-defendant of John Gotti Sr. in a 1992 murder and racketeering trial, testified Thursday that he tailored his defense strategy to suit Gotti after the now deceased mob boss threatened him. “He would take care of me — and I knew what that meant,” the attorney, Anthony Cardinale, said Thursday during an evidentiary hearing in Brooklyn federal court. The alleged threat, he said, came during a break in the trial while Cardinale was cross-examining the prosecution’s star witness, Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano. Cardinale had considered asking Gravano if he knew that LoCascio was not involved in one of the central charges of the indictment, the murder of Louis DiBono. But after Gotti spoke with him, Cardinale said, he did not ask for fear of making LoCascio look better at the expense of Gotti. “I was afraid, if that’s what you’re asking, yes,” Cardinale told LoCascio’s appellate lawyer, Herald Price Fahringer of Lipsitz, Green, Fahringer, Roll, Salisbury & Cambria. Cardinale also said he did not meet with LoCascio alone after Gotti told him not to, and changed the tenor of his overall defense and his closing arguments to emphasize Gotti’s innocence. Under questioning from Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Firestone, however, Cardinale would not say that his actions constituted an ethical breach or ineffective assistance of counsel. “I really don’t have a feeling one way or another on that issue,” Cardinale said, clearly uncomfortable on the witness stand. “That’s for others to decide. I think I did the very best I could have done for Mr. LoCascio under the circumstances.” Cardinale, a Boston attorney, was testifying at a hearing that was ordered in January by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The circuit asked Eastern District Judge I. Leo Glasser to determine if LoCascio received ineffective assistance of counsel and deserved a new trial. Cardinale did not tell LoCascio or anyone else about the threat. Only after Gotti died three years ago did he mention it to another of LoCascio’s appellate attorneys, Thomas Harvey, who revealed the incident. Cardinale refused to submit an affidavit about the alleged threat out of fear of retaliation. His testimony Thursday was compelled by subpoena. Judge Glasser, who presided over the 1992 trial, previously rejected LoCascio’s request for a new trial, ruling that Gotti’s attempt to orchestrate defense attorneys — including those of his co-defendants — was well known. He also rejected four previous attempts to appeal. But the 2nd Circuit in January ordered a hearing on the matter, describing it as a “close call.” The court noted that Cardinale, who took the case after LoCascio’s first attorney was disqualified, was not an “in-house” attorney for the Gotti organization. Firestone tried to further blunt the attack on Cardinale’s performance by pointing out that Gotti and LoCascio were tried and defended jointly before any threat was made. Referring to transcripts from the 1992 trial, he pointed to moments when Cardinale, during his closing arguments, singled out LoCascio, not Gotti, for the jury’s attention. He also noted that Cardinale continued to work for Gotti, for no pay, on his appeals in the years following the convictions. Gotti died in June 2002 while serving a life term in prison. LoCascio, 72, is also serving a life sentence. Glasser reserved decision to allow the parties to make supplemental arguments.

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