Mob Killer Loses Bid for FBI Investigation Docs

     (CN) – A convicted killer who stabbed a mobster to death in a 1995 revenge killing can’t access a trove of FBI arrest and investigation records, a federal judge ruled.
     The May 26 ruling by U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton upheld previous denials by the FBI to grant John Petrucelli access to hundreds of pages of documents, as well as photos, videos, and audio tapes.
     The ruling also stated that the Executive Office for United States Attorneys had not properly demonstrated its reliance on legal disclosure exemptions, but that Petrucelli had not demonstrated he was entitled to judgment, either.
     Petrucelli was convicted for the 1995 killing of a member of the Genovese crime family, and sentenced to life in prison. He was at the time of the murder a gang member of the Tanglewood Boys, an Italian-American crew that engaged in murder, armed robbery and bookmaking, among other offenses.
     The FBI had determined that most of the records sought were exempt from disclosure under exemptions 7(C), 7(D), and 7(E) of the Freedom of Information Act, even though the investigation into Petrucelli had been concluded.
     In 2012, the FBI released some of the electronic records to Petrucelli, but stipulated the remaining documents needed to be kept sealed because they could reveal the identity of three confidential sources.
     Petrucelli has stated in court documents that he believes two witnesses and a suspect – Joseph Defede, Sean McKiernan and Eric Tofty, respectively – were kept confidential during the case against him. But all three are now dead, so revealing their identities shouldn’t matter, Petrucelli argued.
     In the ruling, Walton wrote that Petrucelli’s argument didn’t hold water.
     “The plaintiff offers nothing more than speculation as to both the identities of the FBI’s sources and content of the information withheld,” Walton wrote. “His unsupported assertions neither demonstrate his entitlement to summary judgment nor defeat the defendant’s representations.”
     Walton also agreed the FBI should keep secret arrest records that included a chart of investigation techniques, which Petrucelli had sought. Such charts are used for statistical reviews of FBI investigations, to see which techniques work the most often and in which circumstances.
     The FBI had sought to keep that chart – specifically the column with ratings assigned to each technique – confidential to prevent mobsters and other criminals from changing their modus operandi to avoid detection and surveillance in the future.
     Releasing documents containing information on its confidential sources could “place them and/or their families in danger” and “likely subject them to harassment or reprisal,” the FBI argued, adding that such disclosures would lead to a chilling effect in future investigations involving confidential sources.
     Walton had previously denied the government’s attempts to completely withhold the information. In a July 2014 decision, the judge postponed a decision to summarily deny all of Petrucelli’s requests, ruling that the Executive Office for United States Attorneys had not made it clear enough whether their cited exemptions under FOIA applied to the case or if some information could be segregated and disclosed.
     In the May 26 ruling, Walton again ruled the EOUSA has not been clear in its invocation of the FOIA exemption for invasion of personal privacy.
     The office “failed to demonstrate that or explain why FOIA Exemption (C) protects not only confidential sources themselves” but also the information they furnish, Walton wrote.
     Ultimately, though, Petrucelli has no right to the documents because he has “not demonstrated that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law,” Walton wrote.
     Petrucelli’s arrest capped off a multi-year investigation into the Tanglewood Boys gang. The gang was for many years considered a mob “farm team,” as many of its members, including the sons of several notable made men, aspired to become members of the Luchese mob family, rivals to the Genovese family.
     In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the gang lost power after its leader Darin Mazzarella became a government snitch and testified against best friend Petrucelli and several other members. During its heyday, the gang was considered a scourge in the Bronx and southern Westchester.
     In that heyday, Petrucelli allegedly became a killer.
     According to court documents, Petrucelli witnessed the murder of a fellow Tanglewood gang member by a Genovese associate, and within a few hours stabbed a cousin of the mob hit man. He was arrested for the crime in 2002 and began filing FOIA requests while in jail awaiting trial.

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