By Nate Raymond
BOSTON (Reuters) – A federal appeals court upheld the conviction on Friday of a former 80-year-old New England mafia boss sentenced to life in prison for the 1993 murder of a nightclub owner whose the remains were discovered in Rhode Island five years ago.
The United States’ First Court of Appeals in Boston upheld the verdict of a 2018 jury finding Francis “Cadillac Frank” Salemme and Paul Weadick guilty of the murder of club owner Steven DiSarro because they believed he would cooperate with federal investigators.
Defense attorneys argued that jurors had been wrongly told all they had to do was find the men’s motive to be to prevent “possible” rather than reasonably likely communication with a federal officer.
But U.S. circuit judge William Kayata, writing for the three-judge panel, said the evidence even met that standard. The court rejected Weadick’s claims that he was deprived of a fair trial by being tried alongside Salemme.
Mark Shea, Weadick’s lawyer, has promised a new appeal, calling him “wrongly convicted”. Salemme’s lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.
The case dates back to a time when organized crime in Boston was run by Salemme, who ran the La Cosa Nostra family in New England in the 1990s, and gangster James “Whitey” Bulger, who was serving a sentence of life imprisonment when he was killed in prison in 2018.
Prosecutors said Salemme, now 88, had a secret interest in a South Boston concert hall called The Channel, which DiSarro had purchased.
Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, a longtime Bulger partner who had known Salemme for a long time, said Salemme feared DiSarro was speaking to authorities and could implicate him in crimes.
Flemmi said he saw Salemme’s now deceased son strangle DiSarro while Weadick held his legs and Salemme watched.
Flemmi, 84, said he was quickly gone. But he said Salemme later told him DiSarro was killed and his body was buried at a Rhode Island construction site.
Salemme was not charged until 2016 after authorities discovered DiSarro’s remains in Providence, Rhode Island.
(Report by Nate Raymond in Boston, edited by Bill Berkrot)