OPINION | Chris McCarthy: Is Mafia Boss Salemme Innocent?
The former head of the New England Mafia is on trial for murder, and he may just beat the federal government and be found innocent by the jury in Boston.
Francis "Cadillac Frank" Salemme and Paul Weadick are on trial for the murder of Steven DiSarro. The government accuses the two of murdering DiSarro because Salemme believed he was going to be a witness against him, and that he was stealing money from a nightclub he owned secretly with him in South Boston. The government claims Salemme's now deceased son actually strangled DiSarro with an assist from Weadick, who held the businessman's legs as the Godfather of the New England La Cosa Nostra family watched the brutal scene.
The murder occurred in 1993 at Salemme's home in Sharon, and the body was buried in Providence, Rhode Island until 2016, when a mobster traded the location to save himself from going to jail after a marijuana bust.
The trial is over after numerous witnesses testified over a period of weeks in the federal court. The case is in the hands of the jury, and those citizens are heading into their fourth day of deliberations on the facts. The longer the jury is out, the better it is for the defendants.
Judge Allison D. Burroughs explained to the jury they must be in unanimous agreement to convict either Salemme or Weadick, or both, in the murder of DiSarro.
Both men are convicted murders and have served time in prison. The jury was not told of Weadick's previous gangland murder conviction, but they do know he was involved in criminal activity and was close to Francis Salemme, Jr., who the government claims he assisted in the physical act of murdering DiSarro.
But to convict Weadick and Salemme, the jury has to unanimously agree to a bizarre fact pattern and believe a couple of mobsters, who admit they lie to law enforcement and have benefited from testifying on behalf of the government in exchange for leniency and financial benefits.
The jury has to believe that Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi just happened to open the storm door of Salemme's home in Sharon and walk in on the strangulation of DiSarro. Why would the flimsy sheet metal storm door be the only barrier to a Mafia murder conspiracy? By 1993, Frank Salemme was an experienced murderer, so it seems strange that he would leave the door open at a murder that was prearranged in his own home. Flemmi is an admitted liar and a murderer. He has admitted to having sex with his stepdaughter, and then participating in her murder.
Then the government alleges that the head of the New England Mafia, with rackets in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maine, California and Las Vegas, personally took possession of the murder victim's body and drove it across state lines for burial. While under intense surveillance by law enforcement, Salemme personally handed off the body to Joe DeLuca, who at the time was not even a member of the Mafia, and only knew the boss because his brother Robert was a member of the Mafia and close to the boss who had the dead body in his car. Joe Deluca is more than a criminal--he is also a musician:
Joe and Robert Deluca have been given immunity to testify against Salemme and Weadick. Both of their stories are shot full of holes. They also have a strange relationship with a long time government informant nicknamed "Pumpkin" and "Fatso." The jury is asking for a transcript of the Deluca brothers' testimony and recordings of jailhouse conversations to assist in their deliberations.
The government claims Salemme ordered DiSarro murdered to silence him as a witness. The FBI has testified that DiSarro rebuffed their offer to become a witness, and he was never a source of information. DiSarro was the front man in a nightclub operation. What information did he have to offer the government about Salemme that would require him to be killed?
Salemme may beat the government in this case, because one or more citizens on the jury aren't convinced beyond a reasonable doubt. However, he is never going to be free again, because the government is going to charge him in the murder of mobster Kevin Hanrahan.
Frank Salemme's associates are also being asked about the 1992 murder of Vincent A. Arcieri, and that could tie back to the former boss. One of the photos offered as evidence in the current trial featured Salemme with a mobster who now actively being investigated for the murder of Arcieri.
Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.