The lawyer for the Massachusetts State Police trooper accused of extortion said in federal court Monday that his client was set up, duped by a longtime bookie who was trying to avoid paying the trooper a debt.
Trooper John M. Analetto thought he had a partnership with the bookie, Robert Russo of Arlington, only to see Russo turn on him, the lawyer told a federal jury, publicly answering the allegations in depth for the first time Monday.
“He set up John Analetto to take the fall,” the lawyer, Daniel W. O’Malley, said Monday in opening statements in Analetto’s trial at the federal courthouse in South Boston.
Analetto, 49, is charged with two counts of extortion in threatening Russo and one of his gamblers with violence, yet O’Malley said Russo baited his client into alcohol-fueled arguments, while he secretly videotaped him.
Assistant US Attorney Eugenia M. Carris told jurors in opening statements that Analetto had loaned Russo $24,000 in fall 2011 and that he threatened to beat him, even kill him, when Russo fell behind on the debt payments.
Carris, who said Analetto also took a percentage of Russo’s proceeds from the gambling ring, said that the trooper also threatened one of Russo’s gambling clients who owed $3,000, threatening to break into his house and harm his mother.
Carris told jurors that Analetto told the debtor at the end of 2011 that “2012 isn’t going to be good for you.” She said the bookie and gambler took the threats seriously and feared the wrath of Analetto, partly because of his work as a state trooper. Some of the alleged threats were captured on video surveillance and are expected to be shown at trial.
Analetto, of Belmont, a state trooper for more than 20 years, has been suspended without pay since his arrest at a Belmont gas station on New Year’s Eve in 2011, the day after he allegedly threatened to kill Russo.
He has been held without bail since his arrest, after prosecutors said he would pose a safety risk and possibly intimidate witnesses in the case.
On Monday, O’Malley argued that the trooper was not the threat he was portrayed to be, saying any of the perceived threats were merely “locker-room type” banter of someone who had been drinking too much around that time in the summer and fall of 2011.
“Mr. Analetto spiraled out of control in regards to his gambling and his drinking,” said O’Malley. “He bet and he drank, and he drank and he bet, and he bet and he doubled up.”
O’Malley said Analetto will not testify at trial, but he told jurors he is not required to.
The trooper, according to O’Malley, met Russo in August 2011 through a mutual friend and started placing bets with the longtime bookmaker.
At one point, O’Malley said, Analetto learned that Russo was in significant debt and owed bookmakers and loan-sharks tens of thousands of dollars.
Analetto, his lawyer did not dispute, agreed to loan Russo $24,000. In exchange, Russo would pay him back $500 a week in principal, and Analetto would earn interest from a cut of Russo’s profits from the gambling ring, ranging at times from 10 to 12 percent.
Analetto, O’Malley told the jurors, also referred customers to Russo, to help boost their profits, in what would become a partnership.
The lawyer asked jurors to use their “life experiences and common sense” to differentiate between threats and banter.
“You’re going to hear what I call bravado – booze and belligerence,” O’Malley said, adding that the words “don’t rise to the level of a threat, not at all.”
The trial is slated to resume with testimony Tuesday.