A second indicted member of Laborers Local 91, and the first to face a pending trial date, pleaded guilty to a federal felony charge in United States District Court on Friday.
James McKeown entered a guilty plea to the only charge he faced, attempted destruction of a motor vehicle involved in interstate commerce. By entering the plea, McKeown -- who could have faced a sentence of up to 20 years if convicted at trial -- may have avoided a prison term.
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The plea agreement reached by McKeown's attorney, Lawrence Desiderio, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys William J. Hochul Jr. and Brett A. Harvey, recommends a "term of imprisonment of zero to six months, a fine of $250 to $5,000 and a period of supervised release of two to three years."
The agreement requires McKeown to cooperate with prosecutors as they prepare to try the rest of the Local 91 defendants. Mark Lostracco, who was to be tried along with McKeown on the vehicle-destruction charge stemming from a 1998 incident at a picket line outside the Clarion Hotel on Third Street, is still set for a trial slated to begin with jury selection on Nov. 4.
On Dec. 7, jury selection is scheduled to begin for the trial of Anthony Cerrone and Steven Markel on charges stemming from an alleged attack on several union tile setters during construction of the Wegman's supermarket on Military Road.
The main event, though, starts on Feb. 15, when jury selection is set to begin in the case of 10 former officials and members charged with various racketeering, extortion and conspiracy counts. Nine of them are charged under federal RICO statutes, while Joel Cicero -- husband of deposed Local 91 secretary/treasurer Cheryl Cicero -- faces one count of extortion stemming from an alleged shakedown of Colorado businessman Joel Aragon while he was trying to build a restaurant complex near the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge.
The first Local 91 member to make a plea deal with the feds, Brian Perry, was originally charged under RICO as well, and is expected to be a star witness in that trial.
The charges against McKeown and Lostracco resulted from a picket-line clash while the Clarion Hotel was undergoing renovations performed by a non-union company in 1998, the plea agreement reads. Members of Local 91 were picketing on the morning of April 17, when a truck driver for Alliant Foods made a delivery to the hotel unrelated to the work dispute.
As he was trying to leave, driver John Spiller "heard Local 91 picketers yell a number of statements, including a statement to the effect that Spiller was not going to be permitted out of the parking lot. At approximately 7:15 a.m., Mr. Spiller attempted to drive his Alliant Food Service truck out of the Clarion Hotel parking lot, at which time Local 91 picketers began to surround Mr. Spiller's truck. A number of Local 91 members, including co-defendant Salvatore Spatorico, jumped on the running boards of Mr. Spiller's truck and began to hit the windows and bend the truck's mirrors. The defendant, along with co-defendants Andrew Tomascik, Jr., and Mark Lostracco and other Local 91 members, were present at this attack upon the Alliant Food Service Truck and also attempted to stop the truck from leaving the Clarion Hotel," the plea agreement reads.
"Before Mr. Spiller could leave the parking lot, and while co-defendant Spatorico was beating on the driver's side window, one of the Local 91 picketers threw a rock at the truck. Either the rock or the fist of co-defendant Spatorico broke the driver's side window of the Alliant Food Service truck, also breaking Mr. Spiller's nose and causing lacerations to Mr. Spiller's face."
Since McKeown was indicted on one count from one incident, it's apparent that prosecutors don't consider him a major player in the "criminal enterprise" that they allege Local 91 became during the 35-year reign of the late Michael "Butch" Quarcini.
But it's equally clear how costly being in the wrong place at the wrong time can be when the feds get involved.
Mayor Vincenzo V. Anello has tried to downplay the angry taxpayers suing the city over what they consider a sweetheart deal to cede control over Hyde Park Golf Course for more than 30 years as a small group of belligerent golfers protecting their turf.
He should have stopped by the Greens Restaurant adjacent to the course Thursday night and seen how wrong he was.
At least 100 cars were in the parking lot. People upset over the deal packed the bar area, the back room and the patio area -- at least 200 people, by conservative estimate.
While enjoying pizza, beer and wine provided at the $5-a-head fund-raiser to help finance the lawsuit, which was filed Sept. 23, the crowd cheered leaders of Save Hyde Park, the group behind the effort, as well as Niagara Falls attorney Ned Perlman, who is handling the case.
City Council members and political candidates mingled with the crowd, showing that they know something Anello and the daily newspapers that purport to cover Niagara Falls clearly don't.
Namely, that people -- a lot of people -- are mad as hell over City Hall giving away taxpayer-owned assets without bothering to follow the clearly delineated legal guidelines for doing so. And that they're not going to take it anymore.
And a number of people at the rally told Citycide they intend to question other controversial city attempts to quietly parcel out city-owned property.
To get involved with Save Hyde Park, call Frank Scaletta, one of the group's founders, at 297-7628. Donations can be made to Save Hyde Park, P.O. Box 2538, Main Street Post Office, Niagara Falls, N.Y. 14302.
The Seneca Niagara Casino has yet to follow the lead of other gambling palaces across the country by staging boxing promotions to help lure high rollers and pugilistic aficionados to town, but fight fans do have an outlet for the big bouts in downtown Niagara Falls.
Player's Tavern, located diagonally across the intersection of Niagara and Fourth streets from the casino, shows most of the big pay-per-view cards on several televisions. Citycide saw Danny Williams' shocking demolition of Mike Tyson from that venue in July. Saturday night was a veritable feast for boxing buffs, with two different pay-per-view cards televised simultaneously.
A packed house saw comebacking middleweight Felix Trinidad apply a thorough beating to Ricardo Mayorga, which some observers thought particularly just, since Mayorga is facing a rape charge in his native Nicaragua.
The other card was headlined by Wladimir Klitscho's controversial five-round technical decision win over DaVarryl Williamson, last seen in these parts getting knocked out by Joe Mesi in September 2003 at HSBC Arena. Nick Casal of Niagara Falls destroyed Davey McBride of Salem, Ohio, in less than two rounds on the Klitschko-Williamson undercard, though the preliminary match didn't make the telecast. It was Casal's fourth knockout win in as many pro fights.
Her birthday was Sunday, but it's not too late to wish Dorothy Wilson a happy 88th.
Dorothy, a member of the Class of 1934 at Niagara Falls High School, celebrated the big day during a bash at Cocktail Bob's, the Cudaback Avenue institution owned and operated by her son, appropriately named Bob, and his wife, Mary Kay.
Cocktail Dorothy's birthday was to have been included in an advertisement in last week's Reporter, but fell victim to a mix-up in our normally highly organized classified department.
Citycide would like to state for the record that the omission was wholly inadvertent, and we couldn't wish for a nicer birthday for a nicer woman.
|Niagara Falls Reporter||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||Oct. 5 2004|