Thursday, July 11, 2013


Although it's rare for a Federal Judge to commute any Federal sentence, yesterday a New York Federal Judge commuted two consecutive life sentences for Joseph Massino the first boss of any notorious crime family to benefit from substantial assistance.  Based on Federal Rule 5k at the initial sentencing and Rule 35 within a year of sentencing, prosecutors may recommend vast downward departures from the harsh federal sentencing guidelines when it suits their purpose.

FBI photo of Gambino funeral.
What doesn't surprise a Tampa Bay Federal defense lawyer is that the Judge commuted the sentence only at the urging of Federal prosecutors who detailed the extensive cooperation which included information on hundreds of Bonanno family members and associates. 

It's likely he neither implicated me nor members of my family, nor you and yours; however, it's always a possibility.

Press reports note that the Judge was swayed by the extent of his cooperation as well as the clear future threat of harm to be endured by Mr. Massino, but is Mister how I should refer to him - as he'll be out of jail in just sixty days - due deference tempered by abject fear tilts to the honorific Sir, rather than mere Mister, as quickly turning my head searching right then left for any suspicious, furtive movements, ducking only occasionally - I try to type as rain falls before silent darkness approaches. 

Making fun isn't the best idea in these situations. God, I pray, don't let that stoic guy read this. Has he, one wonders, actually reformed or will there be more bloodletting?

Perhaps the Judge and Federal prosecutors would rather not think about that. Would any of them want to live in the same neighborhood of this, um, errrrr... Gentleman, when he takes on his new identity in Tampa Bay, Florida, with a less exciting but equally lucrative new career provided by our Government?

The truth about Federal cooperation is ugly. The more you know and the better you're able to testify against those below you within the criminal chain of command the more time off you get. So those who are involved in the most illegal activity later gain the most benefit. In it's own warped way our Federal criminal justice system  grants incentives for those who would enjoy a life of crime with limited risk by granting the most benefits for those who rise high in their criminal conspiracy.

Many Federal defendants plea guilty because they believe the Federal criminal justice system is rigged and a recent study supports that notion in that 96% of Americans who are indicted by Federal Grand Juries plead guilty rather than risk going to trial. Now we know that even Federal plea agreements are rigged.

The Judges have only the limited amount of discretion which prosecutors provide them by filing substantial assistance motions. The prosecutors don't want to waste filing the motions on the bit players. So Clearwater criminal defense attorneys find that it's the lower rung folks, those who did the least, who must face the harsh Federal Sentencing Guidelines, spending lifetimes in prison for nonviolent crimes such as drug offenses with minimum mandatory sentences from which Federal Judges have limited discretion.

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