By JERRY CAPECI
June 30, 2011
After months of failed starts and stops, Bonanno associate Neil Messina finally managed to get his friends and relatives to pony up the $3.6 million in cash and real property that he needed to post to secure his release on bail.
The 49-year-old gangster is confined to his home under strict house arrest, and still faces trial for the August 17, 1992 murder of a Gravesend, Brooklyn man and his dog during an aborted home invasion but he recently got some pretty good news from the feds about his pending case.
In the days immediately after the slaying of Joseph Pistone Jr., NYPD detectives interviewed two witnesses who were present when Pistone was killed, including his brother Anthony, and identified a suspect with no known connection to Messina.
And during an intensive NYPD investigation, police quickly focused on an Alcoholics Anonymous group that Pistone attended. They also zeroed in on a second key suspect, according to summaries of police reports that the feds turned over to Messina’s attorneys Gerald McMahon and VINCENT ROMANO.
Detectives learned about the local AA chapter on the day of the murder from Chris Pistone, who said his brother “was a recovering alcoholic and drug user who bragged about his family’s wealth … and that the perpetrators may have shot Joseph Pistone because he recognized them.”
The suspect, an AA member who police identified as Sammy Martinez, attended Pistone’s funeral and two weeks later allegedly admitted his involvement in the robbery- murder to a witness that police located and interviewed nearly a year after the killing.
On July 16, 1993, the witness reported that during the funeral, in response to a query from Joseph Pistone Sr., he told the elder Pistone that a friend of his son’s named Sammy was present. He agreed to tell Sammy to speak to Pistone Sr., according to court papers filed by prosecutors Allon Lifshitz and Elizabeth Geddes.
Two weeks later, when the witness asked Sammy why he hadn’t contacted the elder Pistone, Sammy said, “I think he knows I did it.” He added:, “We went to the house to get money. $5000 was mentioned and shit got out of hand, Joe tried to run away and we shot him.”
Prosecutors declined to comment about the revelations from the NYPD files. Said McMahon: “In 33 years of practice as a prosecutor and then a defense attorney, I have never seen such a Brady letter – it’s devastating to the government.” (Brady is the legal cite for the U.S. Supreme Court case that requires prosecutors to turn over all exculpatory material they have to defendants.)