February 21, 2018
Score this one for Philadelphia mob boss "Skinny Joey" Merlino.
Even as dozens of defendants in a federal racketeering and conspiracy case pleaded guilty, Merlino rejected his own plea deals that could have resulted in a prison sentence of two to three years.
All along, according to people familiar with Merlino's thinking, the flamboyant South Philly mobster, who now makes his home in Boca Raton, Florida, looked at the trial as a chance to hold federal law enforcement accountable for actions that bordered on criminal.
On Tuesday afternoon, that trial ended in a hung jury, with Judge Richard Sullivan declaring a mistrial, the New York Daily News reported.
“God bless the jury,” said a joyous Merlino, the newspaper reported.
Prosecutors had argued that Merlino, despite his claims that he had moved on from a life of organized crime, had profited from health insurance and gambling schemes.
Merlino's attorney, Edwin Jacobs, told the jury during the trial that they were being misled by "compromised" turncoat mobsters who gave testimony against his client, according to the Associated Press.
The 55-year-old mobster is one of several co-defendants in the case, which stemmed from a crackdown on an East Coast crime syndicate in 2016, but the only one with ties to Philadelphia and the only one that went to trial on conspiracy charges. Merlino had maintained he did nothing wrong.
The jury, which was in its third day of deliberations on Tuesday, sent out its second note of the day around 4:20 p.m., according to the New York Daily News, which reported:
“We the juror(s) have continued deliberating and are at a continued impasse,” read the note. “Unfortunately, we will be unable to come to a consensus on any of the four counts.”
The trial was ended about an hour later.
PhillyVoice contributor George Anastasia contributed to this story.