THE DRAMA disappeared from the courtroom at the federal racketeering retrial of two Philly mobsters after their family members decided not to show up in court yesterday, following a sudden break in proceedings last week.
"The family thought the government and the press were making them into a distraction," defense attorney Christopher Warren, who represents onetime Philly mob consigliere George Borgesi, 50, said outside the courtroom yesterday. "So they have voluntarily decided to absent themselves from the proceedings."
Warren said that contrary to newspaper articles over the weekend alleging that four jurors felt intimidated by Borgesi's wife, Alyson, "nobody [in the jury] said they were intimidated." Alyson Borgesi, 38, had sat in the second row of the courtroom gallery.
He said the issue raised before U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno last Friday, which caused the sudden break in proceedings, was one of "people staring at" jurors. By "people," he said he was referring to Alyson and "other people in the courtroom."
Robreno had ordered the room cleared of spectators without an explanation, and testimony did not resume for the day. The trial of Borgesi and his uncle, reputed mob boss Joseph Ligambi, 74, resumed yesterday. It was not held earlier this week because of unrelated scheduling commitments.
Testimony yesterday centered on two government witnesses who had gotten loans from mob associates, and who said they were threatened after failing to make payments.
Joseph Comerer, who had played in illegal poker games with mob associate Gary Battaglini and others at Battaglini's South Philly deli, said he had taken out a $500 loan in December 2005 from Battaglini. But, after he stopped making payments, he got threats from Battaglini and others who harassed him with calls.
Another witness, Michael Orlando, 46, grew up in South Philly, and became a mob associate. He dealt drugs, faked car accidents and got in a credit-fixing scheme. He said that in 2001, he borrowed $3,000, and later an additional $2,000 from "a high-ranking associate," Damion Canalichio.
He had to pay $150 in "juice" or interest each week until he could make the full $5,000 payment. After he failed to make payments, "my car windshield got smashed in" by Albert Lancelotti, a "made member" of the mob, he testified.
Orlando said he got the loan from Canalichio, but learned the money was actually Ligambi's.