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Tag: Sanford Plotkin

Six Highwaymen Motorcycle Gang Members Convicted of Racketeering in Detroit

Michael Cicchetti

Michael Cicchetti

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Six members of the Highwaymen Motorcycle Club, accused of engaging in violence, drug trafficking and other illegal activities, were convicted Thursday in Detroit federal court of racketeering conspiracy charges including one member who was tried in absentia after having a heart attack in the third week of trial.

The verdict marked a major victory for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which took on an ambitious project by indicting more than 80 members and associates of the motorcycle gang.  This was the first of potentially many trials to come in what has been regarded as one of the biggest indictments in the history of the U.S.  Attorney’s Office in Detroit.

Those convicted included Aref (Steve) Nagi, 46; Gary (Junior) Ball Jr., 44; Leonard (Dad) Moore, 61; Joseph (Little Joe) Whiting, 56; Anthony (Mad Anthony) Clark, 52, and Michael (Cocoa) Cicchetti, 55, who recently suffered a heart attack during the trial.

“Violent crime is a top priority of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and we will use all of the tools available to us to attack violent criminal organizations like this one,” Detroit  U.S. Attorney Barbara L.  McQuade said in a statement.

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Can a Heart Attack Help a Defendant in Court? The Feds in Detroit Think So

heart attack
By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Does it help a federal defendant’s case  if he has a heart attack while on trial? Can it make the jury far too sympathetic?

Assistant U.S. Attorneys in downtown Detroit prosecuting six members of the Highwaymen Motorcycle Club fear the answer is YES!

Last weekend, three weeks into the trial, defendant Michael Cicchetti, 55,  had a heart attack.  Interestingly, in opening statements, his attorney Sanford Plotkin claimed Cicchetti was a harmless person plagued with multiple ailments and the government was off the mark by charging him with racketeering, drug dealing conspiracy, assault, transporting stolen vehicles and a weapons offense.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Nancy G. Edmunds, after learning of the heart attack,   declared a mistrial for Cicchetti and decided he would be tried later while trial would continue for the other five defendants.  On Tuesday, Plotkin told the judge he had spoken to his client, who wanted the trial to go on in absentia.

On Tuesday, the judge spoke by teleconference call to Cicchetti in the hospital, who said he was happy with the trial and wanted it to go on in his absence.  The judge on  Wednesday  obliged. She reversed her mistrial ruling and declared that Cicchetti should be tried in absentia.

The prosecution didn’t like that idea one bit. In fact, it had argued in a motion filed on Tuesday that the judge should declare a mistrial. Period.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Graveline wrote in a motion that after the  judge told the jury about the heart attack “many jurors in their body language and facial expressions, rightly expressed concern for Mr. Cicchetti.”  The prosecutor said the government did not object to the judge telling the jury about the heart attack because it assumed that Cicchetti would be prosecuted later  before a different jury.

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