Lawyers for a former Mafia boss accused of killing a South Boston nightclub owner in 1993 are fighting prosecutors’ attempts to use the victim’s statements against their client at trial.
In a legal filing last week, attorneys for Francis P. “Cadillac Frank” Salemme, 84, and co-defendant Paul Weadick, 62, wrote that statements from the slain club owner, Steven A. DiSarro, “are inadmissible hearsay” and “do not bear any indicia of reliability.”
In addition, the attorneys wrote, admitting the statements at trial would violate the defendants’ “confrontation clause rights guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
Salemme and Weadick are charged in U.S. District Court in Boston with murdering DiSarro to keep him from cooperating with federal investigators in a probe that was targeting Salemme and his now-deceased son, Frank.
The indictment alleges that Salemme and his son, who died in 1995, had a hidden interest in The Channel, a now-defunct Southie club that DiSarro co-owned and managed with his half brother in the early 1990s.
Salemme and Weadick have pleaded not guilty. Jury selection in the highly anticipated trial is slated to begin next week.
In a motion filed in March, prosecutors asked Judge Allison D. Burroughs to admit a number of statements at trial that DiSarro allegedly made before his death.
They included DiSarro’s statements during a conversation with FBI Special Agent Robert Walther, when Walther told DiSarro he was facing indictment and asked him to cooperate in the ongoing investigation.
In their response filing last week, defense attorneys wrote that “the government appears to be seeking to introduce this statement to bolster the impression that this was a motive for DiSarro’s death. However, the government has never provided any documentation, reports or investigative information to explain how DiSarro and Agent Walther’s statements and interaction would have been communicated to either [gangster Stephen] Flemmi or Salemme.”
The lawyers continued, “If internal FBI communications were resulting in murders, specifically DiSarro’s murder, then whatever internal investigation was conducted should have been provided.”
Flemmi told investigators in 2003 that Salemme watched as his son strangled DiSarro and Weadick held his legs off the ground, court records show.
DiSarro’s remains were found in Providence in 2016.
Prosecutors also want jurors to see a note DiSarro left for his son the day that he disappeared, as well as statements DiSarro made during a conversation with his half-brother “where DiSarro was distraught that he had been summoned to meet with Salemme.”
The government is also seeking to present statements by DiSarro to his relative in which DiSarro said he was “in a vehicle with Salemme, Jr. and Weadick when they ripped off a drug dealer and Salemme, Jr. pushed the drug dealer out of the moving vehicle,” according to the motion from prosecutors.
Defense lawyers said in their response filing that the government hasn’t established that the defendants feared prosecution for this alleged incident.
“[DiSarro’s] statement and its implied surprise indicates his non-participation,” the defense wrote. “There has been no allegation that DiSarro being a witness to this alleged robbery had anything to do with his death. In fact, it appears this unidentified ‘drug dealer’ never said anything, so there would have been no prosecution to thwart.”
Burroughs hadn’t ruled on the government’s motion as of Monday morning.