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United States of America v. Joseph Massimino

December 20, 2011

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOSEPH MASSIMINO, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Eduardo C. Robreno, J.

MEMORANDUM

I.INTRODUCTION

The issue before the Court is the Government's Motion for the Disqualification of Defendant Joseph Massimino's counsel of record, Joseph Santaguida, Esq. For the following reasons, the Court finds that Mr. Santaguida faces an actual and a serious potential for conflict of interest with respect to two other co-defendants in the case. However, as effective waivers are obtainable in this case, the Court will permit Mr. Santaguida to continue to represent Defendant Massimino provided that, Defendant Massimino and co-Defendant Joseph Ligambi enter informed waivers of the respective conflicts of interest.

II. BACKGROUND

The Defendant Joseph Massimino is one of thirteen

defendants charged in a fifty-count superseding indictment. The case emerged from a criminal investigation spanning ten years and has been designated a complex case due to the number of defendants and the nature and quantity of evidence, including over 14,000 intercepted wire and oral communications. See ECF No. 166. Among other counts, Defendant Massimino is charged with conspiring to conduct and participate in the conduct of the affairs of the criminal enterprise of the Philadelphia La Cosa Nostra Family ("LCN") through a pattern of racketeering activity and through the collection of unlawful debts. Defendant Massimino, a/k/a Mousie, is alleged to be a long-standing "made member," and the "underboss" of the LCN. Compl. ¶ 5.

Following the indictment, on May 24, 2011, Joseph Santaguida, Esq., entered an appearance on behalf of Defendants Ligambi and Massimino. ECF Nos. 20 & 23. Mr. Santaguida represented both Defendants in connection with their initial appearances. ECF Nos. 24 & 29. However, since June 5, 2011, Mr. Santaguida has only represented Defendant Massimino. ECF No. 98.

Mr. Santaguida, along with attorney Robert Mozenter, has previously represented Louis Monacello ("Monacello") in two state criminal cases relevant to the case at hand. Id. at 8. On July 22, 2008, Monacello was arrested and charged by the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office in two separate criminal matters.*fn1 Id. at 7. In the case filed in the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County, Pennsylvania, Monacello was charged with crimes involving racketeering, conspiracy, and illegal gambling. Id. In the case filed in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, Monacello was charged with soliciting someone to commit an aggravated assault on Martin Angelina, an alleged made member of the Philadelphia La Cosa Nostra ("LCN") Family and a co-defendant in this case. Id. at 8. According to Mr. Santaguida, his involvement in the two state cases consisted of counseling a waiver of the preliminary hearing in the former case, and conducting a preliminary hearing in the latter case. ECF No. 287, at 3-5.

In the case at bar, Monacello pleaded guilty and will testify at trial as a cooperating witness for the Government. Id. Moreover, the Government states that it will present evidence at trial to show that Monacello's criminal activities charged in the two state cases were committed in furtherance of the racketeering enterprise of the Philadelphia LCN Family. Id. Given these circumstances, the Government argues that Mr. Santaguida's former representation of Monacello presents an actual conflict of interest that requires disqualification because he would be placed in the position of cross-examining a former client after presumably having learned confidential information during the course of the prior representation.

Mr. Santaguida has also represented co-Defendant Ligambi in connection with his case. In addition to appearing on behalf of Defendant Ligambi in connection with his initial appearance, Mr. Santaguida subsequently represented Defendant Ligambi for his arraignment and pretrial detention hearing.*fn2 See ECF Nos. 29 & 60. On June 5, 2011, Mr. Santaguida withdrew his appearance on behalf of Defendant Ligambi and entered his appearance on behalf of Defendant Massimino. ECF Nos. 97 & 98. Based on these facts, the Government additionally asserts that Mr. Santaguida faces a serious potential for conflict of interest because of conflicting loyalties to his former and current client. ECF No. 271, at 11-12.

Mr. Santaguida has represented Defendant Massimino since 1968 in various other criminal matters and was and continues to be Defendant Massimino's choice with respect to counsel in this matter. ECF No. 287, at 7. Moreover, since June 2011, Mr. Santaguida has worked a significant number of hours on Defendant Massimino's defense, including but not limited to, filing bail appeals, visiting Defendant Massimino at the Federal Detention Center, participating in status conferences, and familiarizing himself with the voluminous discovery in this case. Id.

III. MOTION FOR DISQUALIFICATION

The Government seeks to disqualify Joseph Santaguida, Esq., from representing Defendant Massimino because of an actual and serious potential for conflict of interest.*fn3 Specifically, the Government argues first, that Mr. Santaguida faces an actual conflict of interest because he previously represented Monacello, a co-defendant who has pleaded guilty and will testify at trial as a cooperating witness. Second, the Government contends Mr. Santaguida is potentially conflicted because he previously represented co-Defendant Ligambi in this case.*fn4

Mr. Santaguida responds that there is no legitimate reason to disqualify him because his previous representations of Monacello and co-Defendant Ligambi were of a limited nature and the Government cannot point to any evidence that Mr. Santaguida ...


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