Would ties to mob affect job?
Prosecutors want a lawyer who has represented many in organized crime barred from a Tampa case.
By CARRIE WEIMAR
Published May 24, 2006
TAMPA — Joseph Corozzo Jr.’s client list reads like a who’s who of organized crime.
From Salvatore “Fat Sally” Scala to Anthony “The Genius” Megale to John Gotti, the former boss of the Gambino crime family, Corozzo has represented more than 30 people linked to the mob.
Now federal prosecutors question whether Corozzo should be barred from representing another man with alleged mob ties in a Tampa case.
Corozzo, a New York City lawyer, is under investigation for potential involvement in witness tampering and obstruction of justice. Federal officials say that is a conflict of interest that could cause him to put his own welfare above his client’s.
While Corozzo hasn’t been charged with any wrongdoing, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said it doesn’t want to take any chances with the prosecution of Ronald Trucchio, known as Ronnie One-Arm, a “capo” or boss for the Gambinos, authorities said.
Trucchio will be advised of his lawyer’s potential conflict during a hearing in U.S. District Court today. It will be up to him whether to keep Corozzo as his representative.
Corozzo did not return messages seeking comment Wednesday.
A graduate of Brooklyn Law School and a former high school football coach, it’s not surprising Corozzo chose organized crime cases as his specialty. He is the son of Joseph “Jo Jo” Corozzo, believed to be the consigliere, or counselor, to the Gambinos. Corozzo also is the nephew of
Nicholas Corozzo, a powerful Gambino family captain.
In fall 2004, federal authorities in New York notified Corozzo he was under investigation for allegations that the Gambinos were using lawyers to pass instructions from jailed leaders to continue illegal family business, including implementing personnel decisions and urging others not to cooperate with the government, according to court documents.
The following year, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York notified Corozzo he also was being investigated for potential involvement in witness tampering and obstruction of justice during the trial of Theodore Persico Jr., who was accused of racketeering and extortion.
In the Trucchio case, prosecutors argued in court papers that a lawyer who is under investigation may not provide the best representation because he might unnecessarily prolong a trial to forestall his own indictment.
Also, the lawyer might not fully advise the client of possible plea agreements, hoping to reserve a bargaining chip for himself, the court papers said.
Prosecutors did not suggest that was the case in the Trucchio trial, but wanted to avoid any issues that could be brought up on appeal.
Trucchio was among six men indicted in Tampa in 2004 who were accused of being members of the Gambino crime family. The men were accused of participating in a wide-ranging conspiracy that began in 1986 and spanned from New York to New Jersey to South and Central Florida.
Criminal charges include armed robbery, burglary, drug trafficking and the collection of unlawful gambling debts.
Last July, the U.S. Attorney’s Office expanded charges against Trucchio to include possession of more than five kilograms of cocaine with intent to distribute, which means he could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted.
Authorities say Trucchio was the captain of the Tampa crew, supervising their activities from New York and offering protection in exchange for money. The crew carved out a piece of Tampa’s valet parking business and owned a company that parked cars at restaurants, hospitals and nude dance clubs, including Thee Doll House, court records show.
Trucchio was sentenced to 20 years in a federal prison in February 2005 for running a similar crew in South Florida.
This is not the first time authorities have accused Corozzo of a conflict of interest in a high-profile mob case.
In 2004, prosecutors in New York tried to bar Corozzo from representing Michael Yannotti, who was accused of two murders and the attempted murder of a radio talk show host.
The prosecutors argued Corozzo’s loyalty to his father and his uncle, who was believed to be Yannotti’s boss, made it impossible for him to give Yannotti proper representation.
“Corozzo’s loyalties are divided because his close ties to the Gambino family make him, in effect, 'house counsel’ to that organization,’’ prosecutors argued in court documents.
U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin agreed and had Corozzo removed.
Corozzo faced another challenge in 2005 during the case of Dominick Pizzonia, who was accused in a conspiracy that led to two killings on Christmas Eve 1992.
Prosecutors again tried to remove him, citing his family ties. But U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein refused.
“It would be inappropriate to burden an attorney’s career with the background of his relatives,’’ Weinstein wrote. “We do not punish a man on account of his relatives.”
Carrie Weimar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3416.
[Last modified May 24, 2006, 22:32:49]
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