Thirteen in “Pizza Connection” Lose High Court Appeal
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Supreme Court today rejected appeals by 13 men convicted in the so- called pizza connection drug-trafficking conspiracy.
The court, without comment, let stand a ruling that the men’s rights were not violated in one of the longest and costliest trials in U.S. history.
The 13 were convicted in New York City three years ago after a 17-month trial. They received sentences ranging from four to 45 years in prison.
The government said the drug ring brought $1.6 billion worth of heroin and cocaine into the country from Turkey, Sicily and Brazil through a network of pizza parlors.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the convictions last October, although it expressed misgivings about the length and complexity of the trial.
All told, there were 21 defendants in the case and numerous charges of conspiracy, racketeering, money laundering and other offenses on three continents dating back to the 1970s.
Not all those convicted appealed to the 2nd Circuit court. The Supreme Court last February rejected a separate appeal by a 14th defendant, Filippo Casamento, who had been sentenced to 30 years.
The main defendants included Gaetano Badalamenti, reputed former head of the Mafia in Sicily, and Salvatore Catalano, the mob’s reputed New York boss. Each received a 45-year sentence.
Also convicted were Giuseppe Lamberti, 30 years; Salvatore Greco, Salvatore Lamberti, Frank Castronovo and Salvatore Mazzurco, 20 years each; Giovanni Ligammari, 15 years; Giovanni Cangialosi and Emanuele Palazzolo, 12 years each; Salvatore Salamone and Giuseppe Vitale, five years each, and Lorenzo Devardo, four years.
A 15th defendant, Francesco Polizzi, was sentenced to 20 years in prison but was not involved in the appeal acted on today.
In their appeal, the 13 said their jury did not represent a fair cross- section of the community because it was drawn from people who were unemployed, retired or who held low-level jobs they could afford to leave for a long time.
Moreover, the defendants’ lawyers said, ″No jury, given this trial’s length, complexity and subject matter, could have rendered a reliable verdict.″
The appeal also argued that the jurors were prejudiced by violent events outside the courtroom during the trial.
One defendant was murdered during the proceedings; another was shot. One juror was excused after her daughter received a threatening telephone call.
The case is Palazzolo vs. U.S., 89-1565.