By Tony Hanson
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – After a full day of opening statements Thursday, testimony is scheduled to begin this morning in the federal racketeering conspiracy trial of alleged mob boss Joseph Ligambi and six other men. The trial is expected to last a couple of months.
Prosecutor Frank Labor has told the jury a decade-long investigation has resulted in evidence, including secretly recorded conversations, testimony from undercover and cooperating witnesses and victims and the verdict should be guilty.
“They agreed to exploit the violent reputation of their predecessors to use the brand name of the Philadelphia La Cosa Nostra to make money, to make money through fear and intimidation.”
Labor says Ligambi was the boss — he took over after Joey Merlino was jailed over a decade ago and the mob defendants had a common goal: to make money through the use of violence and the threat of violence.
But defense attorney Edwin Jacobs, who represents Joseph Ligambi, has argued in court the defendants are targets of a desperate, overzealous government. “And we are targets for any lying criminal who wants to get off the hook by blaming things on us. We are not villains. We are victims in this case.”
Jacobs argued the defendants are victims of stereotypes and rumors. Another defense attorney, Joseph Santaguida, urged jurors to keep their promise.
“You all said you would keep an open mind. You know how important that is in a case like this. Because they keep saying, ‘Mafia, oh! Italians! South Philly!’ Give me a break. They are human beings and they are charged with certain crimes. Can they prove those crimes beyond a reasonable doubt?”
The prosecution will begin trying with testimony today.