Judge Displays Clear Anger at Prosecutors for Dropping Major Mafia Case Against Skinny Joey Merlino, Alleged Cosa Nostra Boss

Manhattan prosecutors reportedly angered a judge yesterday by allowing Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino to plead to a gambling charge.
Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino, left, and his wife, Deborah
Skinny Joey Merlino and wife, Deborah at Manhattan Federal Court for racketeering trial on Jan. 31, 2018.

They essentially abandoned a years-long effort to convict him of racketeering, health care fraud, loan-sharking, and other counts. And the judge isn't happy about it, as he made clear yesterday, April 27, 2018.

In February, Merlino beat the raps when a jury deadlocked, leading to a mistrial.

Since then, Manhattan federal prosecutors decided against trying the alleged Philadelphia Cosa Nostra boss again.

Judge Richard Sullivan showed his animosity by asking prosecutors why they allowed him to plea to a charge that carries a two-year maximum sentence.

"In my experience prosecutors will try the case again. What makes this case exceptional?" Sullivan asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Max Nicholas.

"Sheldon Silver is going on trial next week," Sullivan added sarcastically, referencing the pending retrial of a once-powerful New York Assembly Speaker.

"They should have called that one off too?"

Nicholas said decisions were made on a case-by-case basis.

"It's not personally satisfying as a lawyer to get a hung jury and plead the case out," Nicholas said.

"I don't really care," Sullivan replied. "You assured me and the jury of 'overwhelming evidence.'

"Did something happen?"

Prosecutors had said Merlino was part of an East Coast LCN Enterprise of mobsters from several New York crime families.

After Merlino's 2011 release from prison, they alleged he'd returned to mob life after he relocated to Boca Raton, Florida. Prosecutors accused him of running credit card fraud schemes, selling illegal cigarettes, running a gambling operation and a racket involving pain creams.

Merlino admitted only to "aiding and abetting a gambling business" that had bettors in Florida and New York.

He declined to comment, but voiced a wisecrack for prosecutor Nicholas — the direct  target of Sullivan's biting comments  — while exiting the courtroom.

"Your name came up more than anybody else's!" Merlino shouted  at Assistant U.S. Attorney Max Nicholas.

Sullivan, one of the toughest sentencing judges in Manhattan Federal Court, will sentence Merlino on September 13.