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Federal Judge Richard Arcara has exhibited little patience with the excuses given by the convicted racketeers who formerly made up the "goon squad" at Laborers Local 91. He should be commended.

From Mark Congi's "I'm just a poor immigrant" to Andrew Shomers' tearful plaint that he committed his crimes out of love for his family, Arcara has been dismissive, contemptuous and acerbic.

Shomers was sentenced last week to four years and three months in federal prison after admitting to firebombing a house, being part of a gang that beat four tile-setters working on the Military Road Wegmans so badly that they all had to be hospitalized and one still remains unable to return to work, beating a carpenter during the construction of the Niagara Falls High School and causing $100,000 damage at a Town of Niagara landfill.

And, as anyone who has lived in Niagara County for any length of time knows, the crimes for which these thugs were charged represent only a tiny portion of the crimes committed in the union's name here over the years.

Shomers' attorney, Thomas Eoannou, cited the defendant's deprived childhood and the fact he had a wife and family to support as extenuating circumstances at the sentencing.

Lots of people have deprived childhoods and families to support. They somehow get through life without firebombing houses or beating people nearly to death. They don't embark on a course of antisocial action that harms the entire community in which they live. They live their lives as best they can and assiduously avoid behavior that might one day find them standing before a judge, wearing an orange jumpsuit, their loved ones sobbing in the front row of the spectator gallery.

"The conduct committed here was incomprehensible," Arcara told Shomers. "It's unfortunate that you and other members of the union didn't take a stand and say, 'This is wrong, this is evil. This is not the way we live in the United States.'"

Arcara said he also doubts whether any of the defendants are truly sorry for the things they've done.

"These were not mistakes. These were deliberate, planned acts," he said.

The judge couldn't have been more right. The only thing these guys are sorry about is that they got caught.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com August 29 2006