Verdicts Diverge In Pair's Second Trials In NYC

Saturday, December 15th 2007, 7:49 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ A day after a jury acquitted a man of charges that he helped orchestrate the murder-for-hire of an alleged mob associate, a judge found his co-defendant guilty of the same charges.

Judge Joel Goldberg on Friday found reputed Genovese crime family member Mario Fortunato guilty of murder in the 1994 killing of Sabatino Lombardi. The ruling came a day after a jury acquitted Carmine Polito of the same charges. Polito had a jury trial, while Fortunato opted to be tried by a judge.

Lombardi's mother screamed ``Revenge, revenge, revenge!'' as Fortunato's relatives and friends proclaimed their outrage, one cursing the judge.

Polito and Fortunato were arrested in 2002 and convicted by a federal jury in the Brooklyn social club shootings of Lombardi and Michael D'Urso, who prosecutors said was also a target but was only wounded. They were sentenced to life in prison without parole.

But a federal appeals court dismissed the charge of ``murder in aid of racketeering.'' The appeals court said prosecutors hadn't proven that the killing was intended to enhance Polito's and Fortunato's positions in the Genovese crime family. Instead, the federal court said evidence suggested the shooting was arranged out of hatred and unpaid gambling debts.

Soon after, a state grand jury in Brooklyn indicted Polito and Fortunato on murder charges. The defendants sued to dismiss the case, saying it was prohibited by double jeopardy, which prohibits trying a person twice for the same crime.

The state's highest court disagreed, recognizing the different jurisdictions of the state and federal courts, and saying the different proofs required in the two courts' charges creates an exception for double jeopardy.

Goldberg said he arrived at his verdict in Fortunato's case before the jury acquitted Polito Thursday, but Goldberg held off announcing his decision until after the jury reached a decision.

Fortunato's lawyer, Paul Schechtman, declined to comment after the verdict.

``I just have to think about'' it, he said.