Jan 29 2009
It was scary watching Charles Carneglia pour water into his glass yesterday in Brooklyn Federal Court. After all, he was the mob’s go-to guy whenever John Gotti or his capos wanted a body dissolved in acid. One informant says he even tossed finger bones in a Gambino soldier’s soup once to prove he’d done the job.
Sounds like a monster. That’s precisely why Judge Jack Weinstein won’t allow the jury to know about Carneglia’s science projects. The 88-year-old jurist, who wrote the bible on evidence and is legendary for not wearing robes and refusing to sit up on the bench, is bending over backward to give Carneglia a fair trial on five charges of murder.
A wise man for a wiseguy. And Carneglia – whom a mob turncoat said yesterday had a reputation for being “capable,” Mafia lingo for “willing to kill” – benefits. Weinstein doesn’t want the jury to think Carneglia used acid to kill anybody. Well, maybe he did torture a couple of hoods by allegedly pouring acid on their feet with a turkey baster. But not kill with it.
Jurors heard from former Gambino capo Michael DiLeonardo, a third-generation mafioso, about the secret ritual of becoming a made member of the Mafia, “dripping your blood on a saint card” with a gun and a knife crossed before you. And Carneglia allegedly used both guns and knives on five victims.
The capo said he’s known as “Crazy Charles.” It doesn’t help that he’s got the full Manson beard and smiles frequently with his court-appointed defense lawyers, as if they’re sharing an inside joke.
“I can’t even look at him,” said Evelyn Colon, whose father, Jose Rivera Delgado, was an armored truck driver whom Carneglia is accused of killing at JFK. “My father was full of life – he was always laughing and dancing. If you admired his shirt, he would give it to you right there. It was 18 years ago, but I’m reliving it all over again.”
Memories are just as fresh for Dennis Quirk, head of the state court officers association, who brought three vans of fellow officers to remember Albert Gelb. Gelb was the city’s most-decorated court officer when prosecutors say Carneglia shot him to death as revenge for busting him for gun possession. “I remember his funeral like it was yesterday,” Quirk said.
Michael Cotillo’s family – or what’s left of it 30 years after Carneglia allegedly killed him at age 25 in a fit of temper – was in the second row. “His father, Pasquale, died of a broken heart five weeks after Michael was killed,” said his sister, Irene Cotillo.
They and the relatives of Salvatore Puma, whom Carneglia allegedly stabbed on a streetcorner in a fight over cash, and Louis DiBono, shot in the back of the head in the World Trade Center garage after he refused to meet with John Gotti, form a strange association. People Whose Lives Were Destroyed by Crazy Charles. Not exactly something to Facebook-friend about.
But the saddest thing about Charles Carneglia is that it was obvious he still believes it is DiLeonardo and other “rats,” “canaries” or turncoats who are betraying an oath. The oath of secrecy, of omerta. The disloyal ones, telling the world in a Brooklyn courtroom of their rituals and their business and their crimes and their passions. DiLeonardo couldn’t look him in the eye, but Carneglia stared at him and shook his head and gnashed his teeth, as if the former capo’s finally giving up on The Life was the crime.
“He’s pure evil,” said one courtroom observer of Carneglia.
Perhaps, but it may be more complex than that.
The psychologist Helen Palmer writes that what’s wrong with the world is not that some people are good and some are evil, but that people have different ideals that are completely at odds with one another and clash. Carneglia and the other wiseguys valued loyalty, and the ability to kill for it, above all. In this room full of ghosts, he’d better be doubting everything he believed in. Or he is a monster.
Judge’s fair-trial acid test – BY JOANNA MOLLOY – DAILY NEWS COLUMNIST – Thursday, January 29th 2009, 9:29 PM – http://www.nydailynews.com/news/ny_crime/2009/01/30/2009-01-30_judges_fairtrial_acid_test.html