BOSTON – Nearly two decades ago, former New England Mafia boss Francis "Cadillac Frank" Salemme said he learned his lesson and was finished with a life of crime. It turns out the government, however, wasn't finished with him.
Jurors are expected to begin deliberating Tuesday to decide whether Salemme is guilty of ordering the killing of nightclub owner Steven DiSarro in 1993.
In his closing arguments Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney William Ferland urged jurors to believe Salemme's former friend and criminal partner — Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi — who says he witnessed the killing. Ferlund said Salemme wanted DiSarro dead because he believed the man was ratting him out to authorities.
"He had aspired to be a gangster his entire adult life," Ferland said of Salemme, now 84. "All of the effort and time he put into making his name, so to speak, in the world of organized crime was being put at risk by Steven DiSarro."
Salemme and his co-defendant, Paul Weadick, insist they're innocent.
Salemme's attorney tried to poke holes in Flemmi's story, calling the former right-hand man of notorious gangster James "Whitey" Bulger a "sociopath" and "career opportunist."
Flemmi told jurors this month that he was looking for Salemme when he walked into a home on May 1993 and happened upon the killing. Flemmi says he saw Salemme's son strangling DiSarro while Weadick held DiSarro's feet and Salemme stood by. Salemme's son, known as "Frankie boy," died in 1995.
Boozang accused Flemmi, also 84, of lying about Salemme because he believes helping the government will give him a chance to get out of prison before he dies. Flemmi is currently serving a life sentence for killing of 10 people.
"He's lying to you and he's lying to the government," Boozang told jurors, as Salemme watched intently with his hands folded in front of him. "Anyway they can survive, they will. And the way to survive is to take down Frank Salemme."
Boozang also questioned why Salemme would admit to several gangland slayings after he agreed to cooperate with the government in 1999, but never fess up to killing DiSarro.
"He's done some bad things in his life, some things I'm sure at his age he regrets," Boozang said. "But that's the life he led."
Ferland sought to bolster Flemmi's credibility, telling jurors the former gangster hasn't wavered in his story in more than a decade. Flemmi also knew details —like the fact that DiSarro was strangled— before they were confirmed by authorities when his remains were found, Ferland said.
Flemmi first told investigators about Salemme's involvement in DiSarro's killing in 2003, but Salemme wasn't charged until 2016 when DiSarro's remains were dug up behind a mill building in Providence, Rhode Island. The mill owner told authorities about the remains after he was charged in a federal drug case.
Salemme, who was wearing a light gray suit and blue tie, shuffled into the courtroom and waved to the press before the trial began for the day, and occasionally passed notes to his lawyer as Ferland spoke. He and Weadick face up to life in prison if convicted.
Ferland put images of a younger, "buff" Salemme on the screen and urged jurors not to be swayed by the now-elderly man now sitting in front of them in the courtroom.
"He looks like a seasoned, old, polite, elderly gentleman," Ferland said. "That's not who we are talking about here. We're talking about Frank Salemme from 25 years ago," he said.
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