BOSTON (Reuters) - A federal prosecutor on Monday urged jurors to find a former New England mob boss guilty of murdering a nightclub manager in 1993, citing the eyewitness testimony of the ex-partner of convicted Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger.
Assistant U.S. Attorney William Ferland asked the federal jury in Boston to credit the testimony of Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, who said he saw the son of Francis “Cadillac Frank” Salemme strangle Steven DiSarro as the elder Salemme watched.
Ferland said Flemmi told authorities about DiSarro’s slaying when he cut a deal to plead guilty to 10 murders and become a cooperating witness in 2003, long before DiSarro’s remains were found in Rhode Island in 2016.
Flemmi testified that on May 10, 1993, he went to Salemme’s home, where he saw Salemme’s now-deceased son, Frank Jr., strangle DiSarro as Paul Weadick, an associate also on trial, held his legs and Salemme Sr. watched.
Ferland said Salemme decided to have DiSarro killed after coming to believe he was cooperating with authorities investigating him.
“He looks like a seasoned, old, polite gentleman,” Ferland told jurors, pointing to the 84-year-old defendant. “That’s not who we’re talking about here. We’re talking about Frank Salemme from 25 years ago.”
Steven Boozang, Salemme’s lawyer, countered by urging jurors to reject the testimony of the government’s star witnesses including Flemmi, who he called a “sociopath.”
He argued Flemmi, who is serving a life prison term, made up the story of witnessing DiSarro’s murder in order to implicate a top organized crime figure and win a potential sentence reduction.
“He’s a career opportunist,” Boozang said in his closing argument. “He’s deceived people his whole life. He’s lying to you. He’s lying to the government.
The trial has provided a flashback to an era when organized crime in Boston was run by Salemme, who headed the New England family of La Costa Nostra, and Bulger, who is now serving life in prison.
According to prosecutors, Salemme had a secret interest in a music venue called The Channel, which DiSarro had purchased.
In 1993, a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent told DiSarro he would be indicted and should cooperate with authorities who were investigating Salemme and his son, who died in 1995, prosecutors have said.
Authorities found DiSarro’s body in 2016 buried behind a mill in Providence, Rhode Island.
Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Richard Chang and Bill Trott