Frank LoCascio says 26-year-old recordings could free him from his prison sentence, but the government has declined to release them
A civil suit filed this week by former mobster Frank LoCasciounderscores the broad leeway the government has to keep criminal cases open for years.
Mr. LoCascio is trying to get the government to turn over 26-year-old audiotapes he says could free him from a life sentence in prison. The U.S. has refused to provide him full recordings of a discussion he had with associate John Gotti on Dec. 12, 1989 at a New York City social club on the grounds that they are part of a current or prospective law-enforcement proceeding—even though everyone in the tapes is in prison or dead, he says.
In a suit filed Tuesday in a Washington, D.C., federal court against the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Justice Department, Mr. LoCascio argues that new technology would clarify his comments in the 1989 conversation that were deemed “inaudible” in government transcripts, and show that he opposed Mr. Gotti’s intention to murder mob associate Louis DiBono.
Messrs. Gotti and LoCascio were convicted in 1992 of conspiring to kill Mr. DiBono. Mr. DiBono was killed in the parking garage beneath the former World Trade Center in October 1990—10 months after the meeting at the Ravenite Social Club in which Mr. Gotti discussed killing him.
Mr. Gotti died in prison in 2002 at age 61. Mr. LoCascio, 82, currently is incarcerated at the Federal Medical Center in Devens, Mass.
The government, in a response last November to a Freedom of Information request by Mr. LoCascio’s representatives, said it views the audio reels as law-enforcement records, the production of which could interfere with enforcement proceedings. Mr. LoCascio contends that the tapes were played in open court during his trial, and if they were produced to him, could be analyzed to clarify what he said.
Representatives of the Justice Department, FBI and the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York—which brought the criminal case against Messrs. Gotti and LoCascio—declined to comment.
The Justice Department historically has taken a broad view of which cases are ongoing in an effort to protect information, former prosecutors say. There are no rules outlining when a case should be considered officially closed.
That is particularly true in mob-related cases, some lawyers say. “Mob investigations don’t stop even when mobsters are in jail,” saidAndrew J. Lorin, a former New York state prosecutor and now a partner at Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP.
Unlike in criminal cases against financial firms, where the U.S. could close a white-collar investigation after the statute of limitations lapses or after a bank fulfills its obligations under a prosecution agreement, Mr. Lorin said, “none of that applies to the mob.”
In the 1989 tapes, Mr. Gotti tells Mr. LoCascio he is angry at Mr. DiBono and that he’s “gonna get killed,” according to court papers. Mr. LoCascio asserts that he told Mr. Gotti to take money from Mr. DiBono and forget about his anger.
That portion of the conversation was considered “inaudible” by FBI analysts, Mr. LoCascio says. He has asserted in court papers that an examination of the recording using modern analytical techniques would prove his contention.
“There is no risk that any targets of the investigation that produced these recordings will be alerted to the fact that they are targets of this investigation,” according to the complaint, filed by attorneyRuth M. Liebesman. “All of the targets were fully alerted of their status as targets when they were indicted and prosecuted.”
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