A Gangland Tale: Jury Acquits, Judge Couldn't Care Less

BF Guerra: once he was a murderer, but
now he is a drug dealer, the feds say.

Late last month, Francis “BF” Guerra, a long-time associate of the Colombo crime family, was sentenced to 14 years in prison for selling his own prescription drugs.

We need a little space to set the stage. First, according to an FBI press release issued on Sept. 23: "The sentence was imposed by the Honorable Sandra L. Townes, United States District Judge for the Eastern District of New York, at the United States Courthouse in Brooklyn, New York."

"The sentence was announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and George C. Venizelos, Assistant Director in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), New York Field Office.

"Today’s proceeding marks the culmination of a lengthy investigation and prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI. Following a jury trial conducted in June and July 2011, Guerra was convicted of one count of conspiracy to distribute hydrocodone and Oxycontin and one count of actually distributing those drugs in 2010 and 2011. In addition, he was convicted of four counts of wire fraud based on his fraudulently obtaining reimbursement for those drugs from his insurance provider."

"True to form, the Judge arrogantly took it upon herself to tell twelve hard-working New York jurors that their verdict, after a five-week trial didn't count. Only her opinion counted, and she sentenced Guerra to the top of the ginned-up Guidelines, just as the government drew it up. A shameful travesty."

Notice all those charges are related to his selling his own prescription drugs. It's interesting to note there is not a single mention of the real reason BF Guerra was put on trial -- as well as the verdict delivered by the jury in that trial.

Around the middle of last year, in a proceeding that lasted about five weeks (not months), mostly due to the time the jury needed to deliberate, BF Guerra was on trial for two murders -- homicide was the flagship charge, and the one the feds most certainly wanted to convict Guerra of. Apparently, they weren't taking any chances when they added the drug-selling allegations to the charges. And, they knew what they were doing.

What happened to Guerra was a sort of repeat of what happened to "Tommy Shots" Gioeli -- both were acquitted of the top charges but found guilty of lesser ones, though in Gioeli's case the lesser ones were themselves pretty sizable -- as a commentator notes below. (Guess, now we know we know why there were tax-related charges included in the allegations the former Teflon Don stared down at his final trial, the one he lost.)

The jury acquitted Guerra of both murders, but did find him guilty of selling his prescriptions.

Thinking this meant freedom, Guerra covered his eyes and hugged his weeping wife as the verdict was read out. The headline, after all, was that BF Guerra was found not guilty of two murders and some other racketeering charges.

Now, read what the Daily News reported of the incident on July 11, 2012: "Federal Judge Sandra Townes seemed puzzled by the result, sending the panel back into the jury room so she could re-read the verdict sheet before it was announced publicly."

Townes is the judge, if you recall, who booted a 2-year-old boy from the courtroom -- the defendant's 2-year-old son Maximus -- "because he was talking loudly."

So here we are, Sept. 2013, and the past has been altered. It turns out that Guerra was actually a dangerous drug dealer all along -- perhaps only pretending to be a murderer? But the feds got him, fair and square, and the jury saw through the ploy, convicting him of drug dealing and finding him not guilty of being a murderer. The government stopped his lethal little oxycodone pill-selling operation.

He was sentenced to 14 years for selling prescription pills -- but was he, really?

Let's return to the press release: "During the sentencing proceeding, United States District Judge Sandra L. Townes found that, in addition to the crimes of conviction, the government proved by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant had committed numerous additional crimes, including the 1992 murder of Michael Devine and the 1993 murder of Joseph Scopo...

“Years ago, the defendant Guerra chose a life of crime, with murder as his criminal stock in trade. Organized crime has always been about money rather than honor, and recent years saw Guerra move into the equally deadly business of illegal trafficking in prescription drugs,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. “This sentence is a harsh warning to anyone considering introducing these addictive, deadly drugs into our community. This sentence also sends an important message to members and associates of organized crime. We will never stop investigating and prosecuting the murders and other violent crimes they commit..."

People, this is kind of frightening if you understand the ramifications of a judge ignoring a jury's verdict when sentencing someone; the jury trial is the most fundamental right, the key law that makes the U.S. what it is today -- they don't have jury trials in Iran or Syria or North Korea, I assure you.

He was found guilty of selling prescription pills; the judge sentenced him for committing a double homicide by hitting him with the most years she possibly could via those sentencing guidelines they probably found overseas down in the rubble of the bunker in 1945.

Tommy Shots was acquitted of murder but found guilty
lesser charges.

In their statements, defense lawyers Gerald McMahon and Mathew Mari expressed similar views about the sentencing -- I have to say that I, for one, agree with them. The judge never should've made that statement in the press release. Yes, there is free speech, but what she was saying is, well, out of order, completely.

Said Mari: "If this sentence is not overturned, it signals the end of the jury system. The Judge's message is that even if you go to trial and win, in federal court you still lose. Jurors should not even respond to their federal jury duty notices. After six weeks of trial and days of thoughtful deliberation everything the jurors did was wiped out."

Said McMahon: "True to form, the Judge arrogantly took it upon herself to tell twelve hard-working New York jurors that their verdict, after a five-week trial didn't count. Only her opinion counted, and she sentenced Guerra to the top of the ginned-up Guidelines, just as the government drew it up. A shameful travesty."

As for "Tommy Shots," the onetime acting Colombo boss has been behind bars since he was arrested in 2008 for murder and racketeering charges; he would later be acquitted of six murders, but found guilty of racketeering by a jury. He faces 20 years on sentencing day, November 4.


  1. I always wondered if judges, prosecutors, and agents have their own making ceremony. They are the real gangsters!

  2. Actually, Tommy Shots was convicted on 3 counts of conspiracy to commit murder wrapped into a RICO case.

    RICO requires two crimes per count, so Tommy Shots gets NO PRISON TIME for one count of murder conspiracy where he was found GUILTY.

    The fact that Tommy Shots is only going to get 20 years for two murder convictions demonstrates that the RICO laws are out of date with no increase in the sentencing for predicate violent crimes.

    Tommy Shots is getting off easy. Let's cut the BS.


    1. ok cop now go get a doughnut and shove it........ peace

  3. Anon Oct 6- are you in law enforcement? I am looking for sources to bounce stuff off like the above; I could use the help - I could express your opinions in the story anonymously of course.

    1. Ed: I am not a law man, just surprised that the sentence for being found guilty of violent crimes contained under a RICO case are the same as gambling and bribery.

  4. does anyone know if the list of the witnesses in this (or any) trial are public information?

  5. Sounds like the mafia cops. Their guilty verdicts were supposed to be overturned
    on appeal, but Judge Weinstein said, no way, and has kept them locked up. This was in the same Eastern District courthouse.
    Anonymous-Old School

  6. Just an FYI and to help clarify: There seems to be a misconception of which activities fall under the umbrella of the RICO Act. The reason being, it's also one of the most difficult to explain and understand of all the Federal Acts ever drafted. It also sounds like people are confusing "violent crimes" with "felonies"? Whether a crime is "violent" is irrelevant. Perhaps you're thinking of "violent crimes in aid of racketeering" - that's separate from RICO.

  7. Unless you have been through the federal system, you don't realize how much of a "team" prosecutors, judges, and FBI execs are. They all get their checks from the same place, and most judges have no compunction about slamming people with outrageous sentences if they are asked to in order to put pressure on the defendant to roll over. Rudy Giuliani told a Fordham law group that if he "believed" someone was guilty, anything he did to get them put away was alright. Hugh MacIntosh went away on a RICO where the predicate act was the conviction he'd already done time for. As long as a defendant has organized crime attached to his name, the public ignores the excesses of prosecution and sentences as they would not for Muslim terrorists.


  8. Re: the matter of MacIntosh - Yes, unfortunately that's the sticky part of RICO. Though I'm not familiar with his case, I do see the same thing in many other cases. Sometimes there's the convictions on a federal level and then we have the state. As long as the the same evidence is not used in accordance with the same statutory elements of that crime. Venue is another matter and so on, and so on. There's so many ways that "little statutes" are being used to the best advantages. I've personally seen many of these cases. It's a real cryptic law. Better yet, mystifying would be a better term to describe the RICO Act. The solution? Don't break the law.

    1. Federal and state allows the law a way around double jeopardy.


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