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Ex-New England mob boss loses appeal of conviction for 1993 murder

·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: U.S. government surveillance photograph of Francis "Cadillac Frank" Salemme

By Nate Raymond

BOSTON (Reuters) - A federal appeals court on Friday upheld the conviction of an octogenarian former New England mob boss sentenced to life in prison for the 1993 murder of a nightclub owner whose remains were discovered in Rhode Island five years ago.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston affirmed a jury's 2018 verdict finding Francis "Cadillac Frank" Salemme and Paul Weadick guilty of killing club owner Steven DiSarro because they believed he would cooperate with federal investigators.

Defense lawyers argued that jurors were wrongly told they only had to find the men's motive was to prevent a "possible" rather than reasonably likely communication with a federal officer.

But U.S. Circuit Judge William Kayata, writing for the three-judge panel, said the evidence met even that standard. The court rejected Weadick's claims he was deprived of a fair trial by being tried alongside Salemme.

Lawrence Gerzog, Salemme's lawyer, said he was "disappointed in the outcome." Mark Shea, Weadick's lawyer, promised a further appeal, calling him "wrongfully convicted."

The case stemmed from an era when organized crime in Boston was run by Salemme, who headed the New England family of La Cosa Nostra in the 1990s, and the gangster James "Whitey" Bulger, who was serving a life sentence when he was killed in prison in 2018.

Prosecutors said Salemme, now 88, had a secret interest in a South Boston music venue called The Channel, which DiSarro had purchased.

Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi, a longtime partner of Bulger's who had long known Salemme, testified that Salemme was concerned DiSarro was speaking to authorities and might implicate him in crimes.

Flemmi said he saw Salemme's now-deceased son strangling DiSarro as Weadick held his legs and Salemme watched.

Flemmi, 84, said he quickly left. But he said Salemme later told him DiSarro was killed and that his body was buried at a Rhode Island construction site.

Salemme was only charged in 2016 after authorities discovered DiSarro's remains in Providence, Rhode Island.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Daniel Wallis)

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