Former Philadelphia mob boss Joseph Merlino must serve another four months in prison.
U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick made his ruling Friday after hearing 3-1/2 hours of testimony and arguments about whether Merlino violated his supervisory release by associating with convicted felons in Florida, where he's been living.
Merlino has 30 days before he must start serving.
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Defense attorney Edwin Jacobs argued that Merlino's June 18 dinner at a Boca Raton Italian restaurant with several convicted felons - and his meeting late that night at a cigar bar with his former codefendant and ex-mob captain John Ciancaglini - were "chance encounters."
Jacobs argued that there was no proof Ciancaglini was present for the dinner at the Italian restaurant or that Merlino knew that his dining companions were convicted felons.
Arguing that Merlino's federal probation officers in Florida never cited him for violating the terms of his supervised release, Jacobs described the prosecution as a vendetta against his client out of the U.S. Attorney's office.
"I'm starting to think that the FBI and the prosecutors have very long memories and if cases don't turn out the way they wanted them to turn out they follow you to your grave," Jacobs added.
Assistant U.S. Attorney David Troyer asked Surrick for "an appropriate penalty" and argued that Merlino was well award of the ban on him associated with current and former Mafia members on convicted felons.
Troyer said what happened the night of June 18 was "Mr. Merlino's night on the town with his mob buddies and convicted felons at a cigar bar that had just opened."
Surrick gave no hinted about how will rule. The judge could let Merlino go home, return him to prison or extend the original three-year-term of supervised release, which expired Sept. 6.
Sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2011 for his conviction on racketeering conspiracy charges, the 52-year-old Merlino was so close to freedom.
But on Sept. 2, federal prosecutors in Philadelphia filed notice that they would ask for his probation to be revoked for violating its terms.
In addition to the June 18 meetings in Boca Raton, Troyer said Merlino also violated his supervised release by refusing to answer a question about his finances in a May 20 deposition with federal prosecutors.
Troyer said Merlino invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when he refused to say if he had received a loan from a convicted mobster.
This story was published through a news content partnership between The Philadelphia Inquirer and NBC10.