Sunday, November 04, 2007

The mob moll, the FBI agent and the journalist

A journalist came forward in New York recently to get an FBI agent off the hook for murder. It turned out that he had tapes of a mobster's girlfriend telling a different story than the one she told the court.

I love this story. The cop turns out not to be a murderer, the journalist saves the cop, and the big liar turns out to be the mob moll. There's even a prosecutor who admits he wrongly charged a man. God's in his heaven and all's right with the world.

Murder charges dropped against ex-FBI agent
By Michael Brick and Anahad O'connor
International Herald Tribune
November 1, 2007

Roy Lindley DeVecchio, the retired Federal Bureau of Investigation supervisor charged with murder, walked out of court a free man this morning after prosecutors dropped all charges against him in the wake of new evidence that the government's main witness changed her account and may face perjury charges.

The lead prosecutor, Michael Vecchione, announced the decision to dismiss all charges this morning in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, where DeVecchio, 67, was charged with helping a Mafia informer commit four murders in the 1980s and early 1990s. The trial, which began last month, was upended this week after a reporter revealed that he had taped interviews showing that the prosecution's main witness, Linda Schiro, a gangster's mistress, had given varying accounts and had damaged her credibility.

"Had we been provided with these tapes much earlier in the process, I dare say we would not have been here," Vecchione said as he stood before Justice Gustin Reichbach this morning. "The interest of justice at this point requires me to stand before you and ask you on behalf of the district attorney to dismiss or accept the dismissal of this indictment."

DeVecchio's lawyer, Douglas Grover, told the judge that he did not object to the prosecutor's request. Justice Reichbach then launched into a long speech in which he blasted the FBI for its handling of the informer, and concluded by dismissing all charges.

And with that, DeVecchio, wearing a slight smile on his face, turned around and strolled out of the courtroom as his supporters and fellow FBI agents gave him a round of applause. One of his supporters patted DeVecchio on the back as he made his way toward the exit and said simply, "I was right again."

The decision to drop the charges was a monumental reversal for the Brooklyn district attorney, Charles Hynes. Last year, when Hynes filed state murder charges despite a federal investigation that had cleared DeVecchio, he described the case as "the most stunning example of official corruption that I have ever seen."

Standing down now brought a sensational ending to a case rife with intrigue, plagued with obstacles and built squarely on the word of Schiro, once a Mafia assassin's mistress, whose shifting accounts have been increasingly evident since the new investigation nearly two years ago. Justice Reichbach warned Schiro in court on Tuesday that she could face perjury charges and appointed a lawyer, Gary Farrell, to represent her.

Tom Robbins, the reporter, who works for The Village Voice, said he had struggled with his decision to come forward.

"I did not know what else to do," Robbins said, adding that he had chosen to disclose the tapes after hearing the testimony this week and its role in the case. He said: "No journalist ever wants to go against a source. It's against our creed."

The trial centers on DeVecchio's relationship with his informer, Gregory Scarpa, a notorious capo in the Colombo crime family. Scarpa, known as the Grim Reaper, died in prison in 1994. In the case on trial, state prosecutors accused DeVecchio of giving Scarpa orders to kill rival informers and tips on pending arrests.

But signs of the case's weakness were evident from the start.

Within months of Scarpa's death, investigators for the Office of Professional Responsibility, the internal affairs arm of the U.S. Department of Justice, interviewed Schiro. Their inquiry failed to produce sufficient evidence to charge or discipline DeVecchio.

In 1995, federal prosecutors admitted during a trial that DeVecchio had given some confidential information to Scarpa. Their disclosure led to acquittals for several members of the crime family, but DeVecchio denied any wrongdoing.

In 1997, a federal judge, Jack Weinstein, wrote: "DeVecchio and Scarpa's relationship reflects, to a degree, the manner in which the FBI and other investigatory agencies conduct business with top echelon informants and the hazards associated with doing so."

As the accusations faded from the headlines, Schiro continued to give interviews to writers proposing books about her life with Scarpa. In 1998, she filed an affidavit in federal court in Brooklyn on behalf of Scarpa's son, Gregory Scarpa Jr., who was facing racketeering charges. But when the time came to testify in that case, on Oct. 15, 1998, a judge warned Schiro that she could face perjury charges because of her prior statements to investigators, transcripts show. Schiro left court and elected not to testify.

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