Mob killer may get out early
by The Republican Newsroom
Sunday September 21, 2008, 9:38 PM
By STEPHANIE BARRY
HARTFORD - It is undisputed that Gaetano J. Milano killed a rival gangster with a single gunshot to the base of his skull nearly 20 years ago.
However, he may win an early release from prison, in part, because of an FBI cover-up of the same vintage.
Milano, 56, this month won a motion to set aside his 33-year prison term and is scheduled to be resentenced Oct. 8 by a federal judge in U.S. District Court in Bridgeport. Court records suggest prosecutors and the defense have agreed to shave at least seven years off his sentence if the judge accepts the recommendation.
The former East Longmeadow resident was sentenced in 1991 for executing William "Wild Guy" Grasso as they sped down Interstate 91 in a van two years earlier. A volatile mobster even by mob standards, Grasso was a fellow soldier in the Providence-based Patriarca crime family and Milano told the judge he believed it was Grasso or him.
"It was kill or be killed," Milano said at his sentencing before U.S. District Judge Alan H. Nevas, the same jurist who will reconsider Milano's sentence next month.
Fueling that argument, defense lawyers have argued, was the late Boston mobster Angelo "Sonny" Mercurio, revealed in the 1990s to be a "top echelon" FBI informant who the agency shielded from prosecution in the murders of Grasso and others. The FBI's mishandling of mob moles like Mercurio, James "Whitey" Bulger and others has prompted widespread litigation of old sentences and early release of several gangsters who have successfully argued they were framed by or took the fall for informants.
Mercurio died in 2006 in the federal Witness Protection Program, 17 years after recording a prized Mafia induction ceremony in Medford for the FBI. A former federal prosecutor with a Boston organized crime strike force, Diane Kottmyer, now a Superior Court judge, ultimately testified in a separate trial that Mercurio had been complicit in the Grasso murder and others, but was never charged.
Defense lawyers believe Mercurio also pitted Boston and Connecticut mob factions against each other with bogus reports that members on each side were plotting to "clip" or "take out" the other, according to court filings.
In a surprise move in 2006, Nevas released Milano's codefendant, 82-year-old Louis Pugliano, of West Springfield, after Pugliano served just 15 years of a life sentence.
Back In The Day
With Local Bank
Repo Man Meets Hit Man
By ANDY THIBAULT, Columnist
Law Tribune Newspapers
March 20, 2006
`The next day, Jack's boss told him to take the car back to Milano .'
A good friend of mine was a rugged amateur boxer in Massachusetts. He fought a three-rounder with Hartford's WBA welterweight champion to be, Marlon Starling, and finished standing up while losing by a decision.
For purposes of this column, my pal will have a pseudonym. He and his family really do not want to meet any associates of a hit man he encountered while working for a bank in the 1980's.
The hit man -- who at the time had not yet pulled off the major job of his career for the Patriarca crime family - is a fellow named Gaetano Milano. Still, Milano was a respected and dutiful solider for the mob. After he did the big job, Milano believed he was in line to a be a capo or boss of a crew of Mafia soldiers.
I saw Milano on trial with seven co-defendants in Hartford's U.S. District Court in 1991. His lawyer, F. Mac Buckley, was on top of his game. Milano had performed the deed by this time, killing Connecticut mob under boss William "The Wild Guy" Grasso with a single shot to the back of the neck in a luxury van -complete with bar and television -- in 1989. Milano had reason to believe Grasso was out to kill him as well, and that was part of the defense.
Grasso had a reputation for robbing drug dealers as an adjunct to his loan-sharking and gambling enterprises in and around Hartford. He was also suspected of several murders.
Milano and several associates picked up Grasso in Wethersfield on the pretext of attending a mob meeting in Worcestor. The ride was late and Grasso was seething with anger. But, he calmed down when Milano gave him a newspaper article about a gambling raid. It can be dangerous to read a newspaper. Grasso lowered his head forward in the front seat, and then, pop, he was dead. They dropped his body in some poison ivy by the Connecticut River in Wethersfield.
The hit was set up during a feud between the Boston and Providence factions of the New England mob. Milano never did become capo. Instead, with the help of informants and astounding wiretaps, he was indicted. The trial featured the first recording ever played in court of a mob initiation ceremony, at the home of Raymond "Junior" Patriarca in Medford, Mass.
My boxing pal - call him Jack -- and I often reminisce about this case. When Jack met Milano, my friend's banker duties including repossessing cars. He was sent to Milano's house in East Longmeadow, Mass. one night. His job was to take a Cadillac away from Milano, about whom he knew little at the time.