NEW YORK—No matter where one ranks on the cynicism scale, the charge by a defense lawyer in the ongoing Gambino crime family case in New York that his client was a government witness and his handlers knew about his sexual abuse of minors is a twist that can't help but boggle the brain.
The New York Times is reporting that the lawyer, Gerald McMahon—in what would appear to be a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black—said in court papers, “A reasonable person might wonder whether the government—in its zeal to make a case against the Gambino family—allowed a girl to be shamefully and criminally exploited.”
McMahon, who is representing only one of the 14 charged defendants (and the 13 others have to thank their lucky stars for that), has asked federal judge Lewis A. Kaplan to dismiss the indictment against his client on grounds of “outrageous government misconduct,” the Times reported.
The paper goes on to say that because the U.S. attorneys’ office in Manhattan does not allow undercover witnesses to engage in criminal activity unless it is a part of the ongoing investigation, the defendant’s role and activity in the trafficking ring “was most likely approved.”
According to court papers, the defendant—identified in court papers only as CW-1, but “outed” as Jude Buoneto by McMahon—began working for the government in 2008, and the sex trafficking allegedly happened in 2009. Originally, reported the Times, the government said the trafficking ring had operated from 2008 to early 2009, but it has since changed its allegation and now says the ring was active for three months in the summer of 2009.
McMahon told the paper that no matter when the alleged crimes took place, the government should not have let his client continue to commit them, saying, “They let this thing get away from them a little bit.”
Buoneto has a history of sexual violence, according to McMahon, who said his client raped one girl and sexually abused another in the 1990s, and once ran a brothel in Brooklyn with his mother. Prosecutors say that when Buoneto was 19, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor offenses involving injuring a child under 17, and also to sexual abuse in the third degree. They say he will be called to testify, and claim he has information on the Gambino family beyond the trafficking charges.
The April 2010 indictment charged 14 members of the Gambino crime family with a variety of offenses, including extortion, gambling, loan sharking, and marijuana and cocaine trafficking—and for the first time in known memory with operating an interstate sex trafficking network. That charge was called a “new low” by Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York.
If the new allegations are found to be true, the government itself may have allowed that “new low.”