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Prosecutor: Hitman killed on Gotti's orders

January 29, 2009 3:30:48 PM PST
A cold-blooded assassin, following orders from infamous mob boss John Gotti, sneaked up and pumped four bullets into the head of a man in the World Trade Center garage as payback for ignoring Gotti's invitation to his social club, a federal prosecutor said Thursday. "That mistake - disrespecting John Gotti - got (the victim) a death sentence," Assistant U.S. Attorney Marisa Seifan said in opening statements.

Prosecutors say the 1990 hit was one of five murders committed by reputed Gambino crime family soldier Charles Carneglia, some decades old. In another, Seifan said, Carneglia shot a court officer to keep the officer from testifying against him in a 1976 weapon possession case, then bragged about the slaying to fellow mobsters.

"To the defendant, killing a court officer was a badge of honor," she said in courtroom packed with court officers showing support for the victim.

Defense attorney Kelley Sharkey told the jury that prosecutors had built their case on flimsy, outdated evidence. She called the government's witnesses, many of them admitted mobsters who recently agreed to reveal family secrets, a collection of "thieves, murderers and liars."

Carneglia was one of 62 people arrested last year in what authorities described as one of the largest roundups ever of suspected members and associates of a New York crime family. Since then 60 have pleaded guilty to lesser charges, and one case was dropped.

Prosecutors say the trail of bodies also included a rival mobster stabbed to death in 1977 during a fight outside a diner; a Gambino associate killed in 1983 during an argument with Carneglia over money; and an armored car security guard shot in the back during a heist in 1990.

The Carneglia case has produced one of the gorier allegations to emerge in gangland in recent memory: that the body of John Favara - a neighbor killed for accidentally running over Gotti's 12-year-old son - was dissolved in a vat of acid.

In recently filed court papers, prosecutors said they have a witness who would testify that Carnelia - trying to deflect criticism within the Gambinos about his heavy drinking and drug abuse - was eager to prove he was adept at disposing of corpses in a basement he called the "body shop."

Carneglia described to the witness how he had announced to a mob superior that he had taken care of Favara's body: by marching into a diner and "tossing one of Favara's finger bones into a bowl of chicken soup (the mobster) was eating," the court papers said.

The defendant wasn't charged in the neighbor's killing, though a judge has ruled that prosecutors can still tell jurors about it.

Prosecutors have asked that he reconsider a ruling that they can't mention the acid.

At the time of his arrest, Carneglia sported a long gray beard and pony tail - a look one prospective juror told the judge made him appear "a bit on the shady side." He appeared in court Thursday with shorter hair and his beard neatly trimmed.

If convicted, he faces a possible life prison term.


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