A father and son serving life in prison for the 99 Restaurant massacre in 1995 are demanding a new trial, alleging that police undercut their self-defense claims by withholding information showing that some of the victims were alleged Mafia members, not simply ordinary North End residents lunching in Charlestown.
In the 96-page document filed in Suffolk Superior Court Monday, Rosemary Scapicchio, the attorney for Anthony and Damian Clemente, singled out Boston police Sergeant Detective Daniel Keeler, the lead homicide detective, alleging that Keeler perjured himself during the 1997 trial.
Killed were Robert C. Luisi Sr., 55; his son, Roman, 26; their relative, Antonio Sarro, 32; and a family friend, Anthony Pelosi, 53. The fifth victim, Richard Sarro, was shot in the stomach and survived, but refused to testify.
Scapicchio said in court documents that she used the Freedom of Information Act to unearth reports from federal law enforcement and police prepared during the 1990s that also show authorities failed to disclose a witness who could have helped the defense.
She wrote that the witness could corroborate Anthony Clemente’s testimony that Roman Luisi told him “no one would leave the restaurant alive.’’ Withholding the witness’s information and identity undermined the self-defense claim because it prevented an independent witness from confirming that Anthony Clemente was justified in shooting first.
Anthony Clemente and his son Damian were convicted in the 1995 slaying of four men inside a 99 Restaurant.
“The Commonwealth presented a distorted version of the facts at trial,’’ Scapicchio wrote. “This deprived the jury of the truth, and deprived the Clementes of justice.’’
Boston police rejected Scapicchio’s allegations, calling them bizarre. The allegations “are just more of the same from Rosemary Scapicchio,’’ said spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll. “They are without merit and inflammatory.
“Ms. Scapicchio’s allegation directed at Sergeant Detective Keeler is equally outrageous and demonstrative of her ongoing personal vendetta directed toward him.’’
Scapicchio and the department have tangled in court for the past several years over police work, especially homicide investigations.
Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley’s office said prosecutors will review the voluminous filing.
“Previous attempts over the years to overturn those convictions, most recently before the Supreme Judicial Court in 2008, have been roundly rejected by the court,’’ said spokeswoman Erika Gully-Santiago.
“We intend to carefully review this latest filing and respond to it in court in keeping with District Attorney Conley’s commitment to transparency and the highest legal and ethical standards,’’ Gully-Santiago said.
Monday’s motion for a new trial is the latest effort by the Clementes and Scapicchio to overturn their convictions in the Nov. 6, 1995, killings. Anthony Clemente was convicted of four counts of first-degree murder; his son was convicted of one count of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder, and was acquitted on a fourth count.
During the trial, Anthony Clemente testified that he shot all five men with a 9mm handgun to defend his son, and a family friend, Vincent Perez. Damien Clemente did not testify, but forensic evidence showed two men were shot with the .45-caliber handgun found on him when he was arrested in the parking lot by Everett police.
Anthony Clemente testified that his son had drawn the ire of the Luisis and that he tried three times to quell the disagreement. The elder Luisi twice told Anthony Clemente his son was safe, but on the third occasion he did not.
The elder Clemente testified that he returned to his Medford home, nailed plywood over the windows, and loaded a shotgun to keep by his bed.
Damian Clemente and Perez coincidentally ended up at the 99 Restaurant on Nov. 6 and summoned Anthony Clemente to the Austin Street restaurant after they spotted the Luisis eating lunch.
The elder Clemente testified that he opened fire when one of the Luisis reached for his fanny pack.
Sergeant Detective Keeler was a key witness in the 1997 trial, and was questioned about the Luisis’ alleged ties to organize crime.
In its 2008 ruling, the SJC affirmed the convictions. However, the SJC decision was made before Scapicchio found what she says is proof of an investigation between Boston police and the FBI into the Luisis and their alleged membership in the Mafia which, if shared with jurors, may have strengthened self-defense claims.
“These men were so dangerous that they were under surveillance by the FBI, who worked in conjunction with the Boston Police Department to infiltrate this crime family, to understand their inner workings and ultimately stop the perpetual threat that these men posed to the Clementes and to the people in Boston’s North End,’’ Scapicchio wrote.
No date for a hearing has been set.
John R. Ellement can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.