They may both be standup guys, but if it’s up to Genovese family capo Eugene “Rooster” Onofrio, he won’t stand trial alongside codefendant and Philadelphia mob boss Joseph Merlino. Apparently, Onofrio's legal team is making moves this week, claiming the 75-year-old capo wants to be tried separately from Merlino in the “East Coast La Cosa Nostra Enterprise” case.
This request has everything to do with Merlino’s reputation as a stone-cold mob killer – despite never having been convicted of murder. Onofrio is worried jurors might see him sitting next to 55-year-old Merlino (above, left corner) in the courtroom and lean toward judging the entire group of defendants based on one man’s violent street rep.
Onofrio (above, right corner) is no stranger to the practice of violence, of course, as a Genovese family captain he runs crews that operate in Manhattan’s Little Italy and Springfield, Massachusetts. Crews filled with men willing and able to hand out brutal mayhem whenever the order comes down from up the chain of command.
Prosecutors, however, are having none of it. They read out recorded conversations between Merlino, Onofrio, and a government witness in which the capo and mob boss casually discussed murder. “It’s easy to kill somebody,” Merlino is alleged to have said at one point, prosecutors said. Onofrio allegedly agreed, replying, “It’s simple.”
Not yet satisfied that they agree on the practice of murder, Merlino figured he’d paint the scene. “You’re my friend, you trust me, I tell you, ‘Listen drive me home right now,’ get you in the car, I shoot you in the fuckin’ head, and it’s over with,” prosecutors said Merlino said.
A true case of he said he said. But prosecutors will not make these statements if they can’t back them up. And with tapes like these, Merlino and Onofrio face an uphill battle.
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