Closing arguments begin in Philadelphia mob trial

An attorney representing one of seven reputed mobsters charged in a wide-ranging racketeering case began his closing argument to the jury Thursday by paraphrasing what he said was a quote from one of "The Godfather" movies.

"You owe my client an apology!" Joseph Santaguida told federal prosecutors. He contended that government investigators spent 12 years and millions of dollars without uncovering a shred of credible evidence against his client, alleged Philadelphia mob underboss Joseph "Mousie" Massimino, or the six other men who have been on trial for more than two months.

"You make him sit here for three months, on edge, his family on pins and needles," Santaguida said, then turned to the jury. "Not only do they owe him an apology, they owe you an apology."

His fiery hour-long summation to jurors was in stark contrast to that of U.S. Attorney John Han, who spent 3 1/2 hours painstakingly outlining the government's case against the defendants who also include reputed acting mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi.

The men ran their criminal enterprise like a corporation and used threats and violence to build the business, Han said.

"The mob is to the criminal underworld what IBM and GE are to corporate America," he said.

The investigation stretches back to about 1999, when former boss Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino went to prison. Prosecutors say Ligambi, 73, has led Philadelphia's La Cosa Nostra since then.

Han said testimony from mob turncoats and secretly recorded conversations prove the men on trial are either mob members or associates and are responsible for a "smorgasbord of crimes" that preyed upon the weak and vulnerable.

The trial started in mid-October and largely revolves around allegations of illegal gambling, extortion and loansharking. The case lacks the violence that marked Philadelphia mob trials in previous decades and Ligambi has a reputation as someone interested in making money, not headlines.

The last big mob indictment more than a decade ago alleged three slayings, part of a period during which more than 30 people were killed in gangland carnage starting with the 1980 execution of longtime boss Angelo Bruno.

Han told the jury that the newest incarnation of the Philly Mafia capitalizes on the reputation of its bloody past to control through fear because organized crime "could not exist without violence (or) threats of violence."

"Violence is the lifeblood of the mob. Violence is the source of the mob's power," he said. "It is the engine that makes the wheels move."

U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno said attorneys for five other defendants -- Ligambi's nephew and alleged consigliere George Borgesi, reputed capos Anthony "Ant" Staino Jr. and Joseph "Scoops" Licata, reputed mob soldier Damion Canalichio, and alleged mob associate Gary Battaglini -- will present their final arguments to the jury Friday.

Ligambi's lawyer will get his turn Monday. The jury is expected to begin deliberations Tuesday.

Ligambi, the alleged acting crime boss, spent 10 years behind bars for the 1985 hit on Frank "Frankie Flowers" D'Alfonso but was acquitted on retrial in 1997.

Merlino was released from prison in 2011 and lives in South Florida.