By Selim Algar
Note to shakedown artists: Extortion only counts if you get what you wanted.
A Staten Island restaurateur, who was convicted and sentenced to six years in federal prison for forcing a rival to drop his bid for a catering contract at gunpoint, is now free to resume his reality-show dreams thanks to a federal appeals court ruling that found he didn’t commit extortion because he wound up losing the bid.
Alleged Genovese crime family associate and aspiring TV star Frank DiMattina was convicted in 2012 of threatening a rival caterer at gunpoint not to bid on a lucrative high-school-lunch contract. He was sentenced to six years in prison for the crime, but remained out on $1 million bail pending his appeal.
But attorney Marc Fernich argued in his appeal that the charged crime didn’t qualify as extortion because DiMattina never gained anything from the crime. DiMattina should have been charged with simple coercion, which is neither a state nor federal offense, the attorney argued that.
He bolstered his argument by referring to a 2013 Supreme Court decision that reiterated the differences between the two crimes in a separate case.
“The government indicted and prosecuted DiMattina on a flimsy extortion theory that the US Supreme Court subsequently rejected,” Fernich told The Post. “We’re glad that the government and the appeals court, after reading our brief, agreed that the conviction was legally infirm and had to be thrown out.”
Fernich added that a state case against his client was unlikely because the victim in the case sputtered on the stand during post-trial appearances and was no longer credible.
DiMattina told The Post Tuesday that he was pleased to have skirted a lengthy prison term but said the trial and accusations of mob ties damaged his reputation. The feds claimed he had links to Genovese soldier John “Johnny Sausage” Barbato and former Genovese underboss Venero “Benny Eggs” Mangano.
A Brooklyn federal court spokesman declined to comment on the case.