Suspect In Gambino Boss Rubout Arraigned; Reply To Junior Gotti Over Uncle Gene Tiff

The man accused of gunning down Francesco (Frankie Boy) Cali — a powerful ranking member of one of the New York Mafia’s Five Families — was indicted for the murder and ordered held without bail at his 10-minute-long arraignment yesterday.

Anthony Comello, 24, faces second-degree murder charges and two counts of second-degree criminal weapon possession in the March 13 Hilltop Terrace rub out.

Comello, who is being housed in protective custody, pleaded not guilty in state Supreme Court, St. George, on Staten Island and the case is due back in court on May 9.

As per law enforcement sources: Comello blasted the alleged Gambino acting boss on Staten Island last month with a 9mm pistol after crashing into the gangster’s Cadillac Escalade SUV (and knocking off Cali’s license plate) to lure him outside. Once Cali was outside, video surveillance reportedly showed the two men talking and then shaking hands.

Comello handed Cali his license plate. Cali, apparently sensing no danger, then turned his back to put the license plate inside the rear of the SUV. That's when the gunman took out a 9-mm handgun, held it with two hands, and fired 10 shots.

Prosecutors say Comello admitted to the slaying when detectives interrogated him in the Ocean County prosecutor’s office on March 16.

“This defendant allegedly wantonly and willfully took another life in cold blood and has now been indicted for murder and weapons charges,” District Attorney Michael E. McMahon said in a statement.

 “This type of senseless violence will not be tolerated in our Staten Island neighborhoods – my office will prosecute this case to the full extent of the law and hold this defendant accountable for the heinous crime he is accused of committing.”

As reported, investigators believe revenge was the motive. Cali, 53, had forbid his niece from dating Comello, as per sources. That said, police reportedly haven’t completely ruled out a mob angle to the shooting.

In the days after the shooting, Comello feared for his life, though it was not the mob that concerned him. Comello reportedly thought that Frank Cali himself was going to come and kill him. So he hid in his family’s second home in Ocean County, N.J., where police arrested him three days after the murder, at around 2 a.m. that Saturday. Comello was arrested by the US Marshals’ New York/New Jersey Regional Fugitive Task Force. Comello was asleep when they nailed him. He was unarmed and did not resist arrest. His gray GMC Sierra – the car he used to lure Cali out of the house – was parked in the driveway, a small dent on the left side of the rear bumper.

“The people who know him best, his family and friends, cannot believe what they are hearing,” Comello’s Manhattan-based attorney, Robert Gottlieb, told the Staten Island Advance in a statement regarding Comello’s concerns.

“There is something very wrong here and we will get to the bottom of it.”

Gottlieb wouldn’t comment on whether his client was suffering from withdrawal and/or a mental illness, and the lawyer has not requested a psychological evaluation.

We’ve reported that, as per sources, Comello appeared to suffer from mental and drug addiction issues.

In the weeks prior to the shooting, Comello sought to arrest Mayor Bill de Blasio and other elected officials. His courtroom debut, Comello held up his palms on which he’d scribbled with a pen the words “MAGA” and “Q,” referring, respectively, to President Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” and to the QAnon conspiracy theory, which posits that Trump is attempting to save the planet from a global pedophile human trafficking ring comprised of high-ranking politicians and Hollywood icons. Then there’s the bizarre interview with two Daily News reporters while Comello was in an Ocean County, N.J., jail awaiting extradition to New York: “You shouldn’t believe in stories," he told them when asked about his involvement in the shooting. "Don’t believe in fairy tales.”

In an interview with the Advance, Gottlieb, the attorney, noted that computer and cellphone data are ‘essential’ to his defense. (This may mean a change in trial strategy as Gottlieb had previously blamed right-wing hate speech and conspiracy theories (both of which are in abundance in this case) as playing roles in the motive.)

“We want the guts of the electronic devices so we can begin our own analysis,” Gottlieb said during the arraignment.

Prosecutors said they will hand over that data — as well as video surveillance and other documents.

Comello’s recent courtroom appearance was a stark contrast with previous court appearances.

At his Toms River, NJ, extradition hearing, Comello appeared in court in wearing a green and white jumpsuit waving ink-stained palms. Then, Gottlieb claimed his client was a right-wing conspiracy theorist influenced by online hate speech. Yesterday, Comello appeared smartly clad in a pressed gray suit and wearing a beard. He reportedly stood silently at the defense table, his hands cuffed behind him, and never addressed the court.

Gottlieb said of his client: “He knows what happened here, why it happened. We have discussed in the past the issues that could very well be ultimately heard in court, so right now, he is very optimistic.”

Cali and Comello lived about 20 minutes apart: Cali in Todt Hill and Comello in Eltingville, both affluent areas. Comello comes from a wealthy family.

Cali, who was part of the leadership of the Gambino family, was worth many millions. According to a 2013 DNA Info report by Murray Weiss, Cali, who practically ran New York City's food industry, was worth about $30 million (combined revenue from his food businesses, plus real estate holdings and caf├ęs).

Why did Comello hand Cali the license plate? That’s one detail we’ve been fixated on. Was it simply a notion that popped into Comello’s head? We know he had the gun on him the whole time, and that he could’ve popped Cali the moment he walked outside. That’s what a seasoned killer likely would’ve done in that alternate world where wiseguys would kill one another in front of their families. 

But Comello didn’t shoot Cali until his back was turned. Was it also a ruse, the license plate – something to cause Cali to turn? Probably not. Comello couldn’t possibly have known what Cali would do with that license plate. A license plate would make a decent weapon. Cali very well could have used it to split Comello’s head open. 

That simple gesture by Comello – handing over the license plate – for whatever the reason -- may be the one thing that puts him away forever. As the New York Post noted, Comello “may have handed the murder’s most incriminating evidence to his own alleged victim, who tossed it into his car.”

Comello may have a lifetime (in prison) to ponder his simple, fleeting gesture.

 It was the fingerprint on that license plate that instantly alerted police to the identity of the shooter.  

The print belonged to Anthony Comello.


John Junior Gotti very verbally assailed law enforcement officials for questioning his uncle Gene over suspicion that he could've been involved in the Cali shooting.

“I wonder if these tremendously insightful law-enforcement individuals are going to issue an apology,” Junior, 55, said.

 Because in this whole sordid tale, what's more important than that, right??

"...are we punks or rats or weasels? "

Police considered various theories in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. One involved Gene Gotti, the younger brother of late Gambino boss John Gotti, who was recently released from prison after a near-30-year stretch. Was the legitimate tough guy looking to claw his way back to the top of the Gambino family?

“It’s total speculation,” a source said then about a possible Gotti link. “But it’s also something to look out for. Was Gene trying to reclaim some of his business and Cali wasn’t going for it?”

Gene was allegedly part of the Castellano hit team in December 1985 outside Sparks Steakhouse.

One law enforcement source rose to the challenge and via the New York Post offered the fledgling filmmaker a response:

“Tell Junior we will apologize once his family apologizes to the (Paul) Castellano, (Eddie) Lino and (Willie Boy) Johnson families, and all the other families whose relatives they killed and got away with.”