'Entrapment' Is Theme in Trial Over Murder Plot

, New York Law Journal

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The prosecution and defense clashed on the merits of an entrapment defense during closing arguments Tuesday for a man accused of trying to arrange the beheadings of a federal judge and prosecutor.

Joseph Romano is charged with attempting to mastermind the murders of Eastern District Judge Joseph Bianco (See Profile) and Eastern District Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Treinis Gatz for $40,000 as revenge for their roles in a coin fraud case in which Romano pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Though Romano maintains he was set up by the government with an informant who was intent on reducing his own prison sentence, Eastern District Assistant U.S. Attorney Una Dean called the assertion "completely ridiculous," saying it was the "arguments of a desperate man who was caught red-handed." She said Romano wanted the pair killed "long before" the informant, Gerald Machacek, met Romano. She told the jurors that the defense was trying to "distract" them from the "huge sums of money" Romano arranged for the would-be assassinations and how "eager" Romano was to carry out the plans.

Romano's defense attorney, George Goltzer of Manhattan, said the government did not produce any recordings of Romano talking with convicted codefendant Dejvid Mirkovic about murder schemes before Machacek's meeting.

Though the government said Romano previously approached others to carry out acts of violence, Goltzer said Romano had only discussed the beating of a car mechanic.

"Don't combine or conflate the notion of wanting to punch someone in the nose with a predisposition to kill," said Goltzer, saying Romano was prone to "vent[ing]".

When Machacek testified last week, he said he reported news of Romano's purported plans out of a fear for safety and realized his own possible gain later. In his closing, Goltzer said Machacek's alleged fears were "a fable" and "a lie"

Assistant U.S. Attorney Marshall Miller delivered the rebuttal in United States v. Romano, 12-cr-691. Romano is also represented by Michael Bachrach of Manhattan.

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