Saturday, July 13, 2002

FBI angry at parole recommendation

Retired prosecutor supported former mob boss' release

The Associated Press

        CLEVELAND — A retired FBI agent who directed a federal probe of a former mob boss said Friday he disagreed with a state prosecutor's recommendation that the killer be paroled from state prison.

        “I respect Carmen Marino as a prosecutor, (but) I disagree with his take on this case,” said John Sommer, who retired from the FBI 2 1/2 years ago.

        The disagreement involves Mr. Marino's letter recommending parole for Ronald “The Crab” Carabbia of Youngstown. Mr. Carabbia, who was sentenced to life in prison, “deserves to serve the time,” Mr. Sommer said.

        Mr. Marino, a former Cuyahoga County prosecutor, won an aggravated-murder conviction against Mr. Carabbia, 73, in 1978 for the bombing death of Cleveland gangster Danny Greene.

        Mr. Marino wrote a letter to the Ohio Parole Board on Jan. 30, the day before he retired, in which he recommended Mr. Carabbia's release.

        Based largely on that letter, the board voted Tuesday to free Mr. Carabbia on Sept. 24.

        FBI spokesman Bob Hawk called it inappropriate for Mr. Marino to recommend parole without checking with the FBI, given the agency's involvement in investigating Mr. Carabbia.

        “The FBI was a crucial part of the Danny Greene investigative team in the late '70s, and we should have been told about it,” Mr. Hawk said. “Mr. Carabbia was convicted of violently taking a life. He was sentenced to serve life, and he should serve life.”

        The FBI thinks Mr. Carabbia is running a sports-betting operation out of La Villa Sports Bar and Grille, a Mahoning County pub owned by his sister-in-law, Sally Almasy, said Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason. The FBI raided the bar in January, the Plain Dealer reported.

        If the FBI had presented evidence that Mr. Carabbia was involved in illegal gambling, Mr. Marino said, he would have opposed parole.

        “Because I'm relatively certain they didn't make a very impressive display to the pardon and parole commission to convince them that this guy was still involved in organized crime, I don't see any reason to change my position,” he said.

        Mr. Mason has not decided whether to appeal.

        “Carmen is and was an outstanding prosecutor,” he said.

        Mr. Carabbia was convicted after a 79-day trial that pitted Mr. Marino, Cleveland's top Mafia prosecutor, against Cleveland Browns President Carmen Policy, who was a lawyer for some of Youngstown's top mob figures.

        During his closing argument, Mr. Marino apologized for granting immunity to mobsters for their testimony.

        “If we stink a bit, it's because we had to climb down into the sewers and haul these lice, maggots and creeps into court to stand trial,” he told jurors.

        Policy called Mr. Marino's witnesses “liars and perverts.”

        Mr. Marino said one reason he recommended parole for Mr. Carabbia was that the state's star witness, confessed bomber Raymond Ferritto, had lied.

        After repeatedly saying another defendant triggered the bomb, Mr. Ferritto changed his story during jury selection and fingered Mr. Carabbia.

        Mr. Marino said the switch still bothers him, even though he believes the latter story.


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