Judge Sandra Townes

A superseding indictment alleged Vernace and his co-defendants to be members or associates of the Gambino organized crime family, and charged them with crimes of violence underlying a racketeering conspiracy. In addition to drug, illegal gambling and extortion offenses, Vernace—purportedly a “captain” heading a Gambino “crew”—is charged with participating in two murders, and faces life in prison. After analyzing the five considerations in United States v. Cacace when deciding if a jury needs the protection of anonymity, the court granted the government’s motion to empanel an anonymous, fully escorted and partially sequestered jury for trial trial, which is expected to garner considerable public and media attention. The court had previously determined that Vernace, as a leader, “has at his beck and call dangerous criminals to do his bidding.” As well as the Gambino family’s history of obstruction of justice, the court noted that crucial eyewitnesses recanted testimony before a state trial in which Vernace was a defendant on murder charges. Further, there was significant concern that others in the Gambino family would intervene on behalf of Vernace, who allegedly was appointed to a ruling panel to run the family’s affairs.