The state’s highest court today sent reputed mobster Martin Taccetta back to prison, saying a “miscarriage of justice” would have occurred if he Lucchese caporegime pleaded guilty to whacking a rival with a golf club when he’d already testified that he hadn’t.
The former head of the “Jersey Crew” was freed five years ago after blaming his lawyer for not explaining the “favorable” results of pleading guilty to aggravated manslaughter in the 1984 golf-club rubout of contractor James “Jimmy Sinatra” Craporatta, a Mafia-connected contractor.
But the Supreme Court rejected that argument, noting that Taccetta had already testified that he wasn’t involved in the killing, and upheld Taccetta’s 1993 convictions for racketeering and extortion. To do otherwise, the Supremes said, would be unethical.
Taccetta must now serve a life sentence for those convictions. His parole eligibility comes up sometime around 2034, when he would be in his 80s.
Prosecutors offered Taccetta the chance to plead guilty to aggravated manslaughter and first-degree racketeering, rather than murder and a host of other charges, in exchange for a prison stretch that could end after only eight years.
However, Taccetta said his attorney told him if he were acquitted of murder and convicted of the other charges, “his maximum sentence exposure would be a twenty-year term subject to a ten-year parole [eligibility].”
But here’s the catch: Taccetta testified under oath that he wasn’t involved in the Craporatta killing.
After being sentenced, Taccetta argued to a lower court judge that he would have copped to the killing rather than face trial if his lawyer had only told him he had a more “advantageous” plea offer.
The judge tossed the verdict, freeing Taccetta, and a state appeals court upheld that decision.
Both were wrong, the Supremes said.
“In our criminal justice system, we strive to minimize the ultimate miscarriage of justice — the conviction of an innocent person. For that reason, if a defendant’s attorney informs the trial court that the defendant claims to be innocent, a guilty plea should be refused.
“Moreover, it is unethical for an attorney to knowingly assist a client to perpetrate a fraud on the court by encouraging a client to lie under oath.
“[A] court cannot condone that practice.”
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