Saturday, August 29th, 2009

Cap’n Crunched

United States v. Pizzonia, No. 07-4314-cr (2d Cir. August 19, 2009) (Calabresi, Straub, Raggi, CJJ)

Dominick Pizzonia, a one-time captain for the Gambino crime family, was convicted of a racketeering conspiracy and sentenced to fifteen years in prison. On appeal, he raised an unsuccessful statute of limitations claim.

The government filed the indictment against Pizzonia on May 26, 2005; since a five-year statute of limitations applied, the government had to prove that Pizzonia’s participation in the conspiracy extended past May 26, 2000.

Pizzonia’s indictment charged a broad pattern of racketeering activity encompassing the entire spectrum of Gambino malfeasance. It alleged specifically that the pattern “consisted of” seven specified predicates. The jury found that he participated in only two of them: a 1992 double-murder conspiracy and a 1994-96 gambling offense. It also concluded that these two seemingly distinct events were sufficiently related to constitute a racketeering “pattern.” Finally, although the predicates ended well before May 26, 2000, the jury concluded that Pizzonia’s participation in the conspiracy continued beyond that date.

On appeal, Pizzonia argued that because the pleading alleged a racketeering pattern that “consisted of” seven acts, this temporally limited the conspiracy to the predicates. And, because the only proven predicate acts did not extend into the post-May 2000 limitations period, he argued, his conviction could not stand.

The circuit disagreed. The court held that the temporal scope of a RICO conspiracy is not limited to the charged or proven predicate acts. “[W]here, as here, the affairs of the enterprise in which a defendant agreed to participate through a pattern of racketeering are broadly defined to encompass all its criminal money-making objectives and all means used to protect those objectives, the conspiracy does not end, as a matter of law, with the last proved predicate.” Even if the government pleads a pattern that “consisted of” or “included” specified predicate acts, a defendant’s completion of those predicates “does not, as a matter of law, dictate the end of the pattern, much less the attainment or abandonment of the conspiracy’s overall objective.” Accordingly, an indictment drafted in this way does not “limit the temporal scope of the charged racketeering conspiracy to the time-frame of those predicates.”

Here, since Pizzonia “effectively concede[d]” that there was sufficient evidence that he participated in the conspiracy, although not in a charged RICO predicate, after May 26, 2000, the court affirmed his conviction.

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