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Criminal Justice

Did inmate really plot to kill a federal judge and prosecutor, or was it just ‘tough talk’?

Posted Jan 9, 2014 3:50 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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An imprisoned con man didn't really mean it when he allegedly talked with fellow inmates in 2012 about killing a federal judge and prosecutor in a gruesome manner, his lawyer told jurors on Thursday as he outlined an entrapment defense.

Joseph Romano, 50, resorted to "tough talk" to protect himself in a Nassau County, N.Y., prison, contended attorney Michael Bachrach in opening statements in the Brooklyn murder conspiracy trial. "He had to say things like cutting off people's heads, even though he didn't intend to do it, in order to survive."

Prosecutor Una Dean said Romano was looking for revenge for his conviction and 15-year sentence in a $40 million coin fraud case when he recruited a friend and agreed to pay $40,000 to an undercover agent posing as a hit man to kill U.S. District Judge Joseph Bianco and prosecutor Lara Treinis-Gatz, Newsday (sub. req.) reports.

"He decided to turn to violence, to murder these public servants for simply doing their jobs," said Dean, contending that Romano believed he was "above the law. So he sat stewing in his jail cell, trying to decide how he was going to get revenge."

The government has video and audio recordings of meetings that took place concerning the claimed plot. A charging document said Romano intended to preserve the intended victims' heads in formaldehyde as "souvenirs," Reuters reported at the time.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: "Claimed $40K Contract Hit Attempt on Fed’l Judge, Prosecutor Creates New Trouble for Jailed Con Man"

Associated Press: "Prosecutors: NY inmate plotted to kill judge"

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