Joseph Merlino’s bet paid off big time! The alleged boss of the Philadelphia crime family pleaded guilty to a single gambling charge today after battling prosecutors to a mistrial in a high-profile racketeering case targeting the East Coast Mafia.
Back then people called Merlino crazy for taking his case to trial. He faced life behind bars on various racketeering charges, including health care fraud, loansharking, and gambling. He was even caught on a wire by a mob turncoat casually discussing the act of murder.
If found guilty, Merlino probably would’ve spent the remainder of his life in prison. But his lawyers managed to sow doubt in the minds of jurors and a hung jury was declared. With Merlino back on the streets, he had a huge bargaining chip for the disgraced prosecutors who felt certain of a guilty verdict.
He now faces a maximum sentence of two years when he is sentenced on September 13.
Afterwards, outside the court building, Merlino talked to reporter Dave Schratwieser offering up quotes about Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill, who was recently released from prison: "I'm glad he's home with his family where he belongs." and the Philadelphia 76ers: "The Sixers will win the championship. All the way."
With Merlino happy to avoid a retrial and dodge a lengthy sentence of heavy charges, prosecutors relieved to be done with it, it seemed everybody was as content as could be. Judge Richard Sullivan, however, was anything but.
After presiding over Merlino’s three-week racketeering trial, he was angered by the meek prosecutors. “In my experience prosecutors will try the case again,” Sullivan was quoted as saying by the New York Daily News. “What makes this case exceptional?” he asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Max Nicholas.
“You assured me and the jury of ‘overwhelming evidence,’” Sullivan lamented. “Did something happen?”
Those who read the indictment are thinking the exact same thing.
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