By JERRY CAPECI
August 18, 2011
Last week, Brooklyn federal prosecutors reluctantly turned over the entire NYPD investigative file of a Brooklyn man slain in his home in 1992. One reason for their reluctance may have been this: Nowhere in the voluminous homicide file does the name appear of the defendant they have charged with murder, Bonanno associate Neil Messina.
In ordering the files turned over, Judge Kiyo Matsumoto wrote that she “agreed” with defense lawyers Gerald McMahon and VINCENT ROMANO that since the names of several other suspects – but not Messina’s – are cited, it bolsters the defense contention that Messina had “nothing to do with the murder” of Joseph Pistone on August 17, 1992.
Messina, 49, is currently awaiting trial on the home invasion murder charge. Three codefendants recently copped plea deals to bookmaking and loansharking charges in the case, which leaves Messina as the last man standing.
Previously disclosed snatches of the police file, as Gang Land reported in June, offer a likely motive for the killing: Pistone’s father, a contractor, was believed to have some $5,000 hidden in the home. But, as Matsumoto wrote, the full file contained no information “linking the defendant to the Pistone murder.”
In court papers, prosecutors Allon Lifshitz, Elizabeth Geddes and James Gatta state that Messina and others planned the home invasion, that Messina “participated in the botched robbery,” and that “one of Messina’s co-conspirators shot and killed Pistone as well as the family’s dog.”
Prosecutors also assert that in tape-recorded conversations with cooperating witness Peter Tagliavia last year, Messina admitted his involvement in the robbery. Sources say prosecutors have every intention of going forward with the case against Messina.
“We are getting ready for trial,” said a confident-sounding McMahon. He said the defense team now includes “a specialist in beating old federal murders” – James Harkins, a former NYPD detective.
McMahon was referring to racketeering-murder indictments of Genovese capos, Anthony (Tico) Antico and Michael (Mikey Cigars)Coppola, and Bonanno soldier Armando (Mondo) Rea, that Harkins worked on. At trial, the capos were both acquitted of murder (but found guilty of other charges.) Rea was indicted for a 1980 murder and a 1992 murder conspiracy but ended up with plea deal and probation.
Meanwhile, Messina associates Nicolo Valenti, 32, and his uncle, Benito Valenti, 55, both copped plea deals to loansharking charges stemming from their efforts to collect $33,000 from a man who owed the money to the elder Valenti in 2009. Nicolo faces up to two years; Benito, up to 27 months, according to their plea agreements.
A third Messina associate, John (Johnny Pizza) Porcello, 48, pleaded guilty to bookmaking and loansharking charges unrelated to the Valentis and faces up to two years behind bars according to the sentencing guidelines in his plea deal.