Prosecution urges murder conviction of former New England mob boss

BOSTON (Reuters) – A federal prosecutor on Monday urged jurors to find a former New England mob boss guilty of murdering a nightclub manager in 1993, citing the testimony of the ex-partner of convicted Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger who said he saw it happen.

L-R: Francis “Cadillac Frank” Salemme, Stephen Flemmi, Francis Salemme Jr and Luigi Manocchio appear in a U.S. government surveillance photograph taken in 1993 provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston, Massachusetts. U.S. Courtesy U.S. Attorney’s Office/Handout via REUTERS

Assistant U.S. Attorney William Ferland asked jurors in his closing argument to credit the testimony of Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, who said he saw the son of Francis “Cadillac Frank” Salemme strangle Steven DiSarro as the elder Salemme watched.

Ferland said Flemmi told authorities about the slaying when he pleaded guilty to 10 murders and became a cooperating witness in 2003, long before DiSarro’s remains were found buried behind a mill in Providence, Rhode Island, in 2016.

Ferland cited Flemmi’s testimony during the trial that he witnessed DiSarro being strangled in Salemme’s home on May 10, 1993. Flemmi said he had worked with Salemme, now 84, since the 1960s.

“Who had the advantage, the vantage point to witness what happened, to have that inside knowledge?” Ferland asked. “Only an insider, only a person who was trusted by this defendant.”

Defense lawyers for Salemme and Paul Weadick, an associate who is also on trial, are expected to deliver their closing arguments later on Monday. Both men have pleaded not guilty.

The trial has provided a flashback to an era when organized crime in Boston was run by Salemme, who headed the New England family of La Costa Nostra, and Bulger, who is now serving life in prison.

According to prosecutors, Salemme had a secret interest in a South Boston music venue called The Channel, which DiSarro had purchased.

In 1993, a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent told DiSarro he would be indicted and should cooperate with authorities who were investigating Salemme and his son, who died in 1995, prosecutors said.

At trial, Flemmi, who is serving a life prison sentence, testified that Salemme had expressed concerns that DiSarro was speaking to authorities and might implicate him in criminal activities.

Flemmi testified that he saw Salemme son, Frank Jr., who died in 1995, in the kitchen strangling DiSarro as Weadick held his legs and Salemme Sr. watched.

Flemmi said Salemme later told him DiSarro’s body was buried at a Rhode Island construction site.

Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Richard Chang and Bill Trott

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