Frank (Frankie Loc) Locascio, who was convicted in the most celebrated mob trial of his generation and sentenced to life in prison, says he has just remembered an important detail about a 1989 tape-recorded talk he had with John Gotti. The good thing about this sudden recollection is that he says it totally exonerates him and should set him free.
The proof of his innocence, says Locascio, is hidden away in the single-most devastating piece of evidence that prosecutors used to convict the late Dapper Don and send him to a lonely death behind bars - a fate that the ailing 78-year-old gangster is desperately seeking to avoid.
In court papers, Frankie Loc claims that the tell-tale evidence is contained in the same December 12, 1989 tape-recorded conversation that prosecutors used to convict Gotti of three murders that the Mafia boss admitted during a long and angry tirade against his wayward underboss, Salvatore (Sammy Bull) Gravano.
No one has ever heard the Locascio-redeeming words, but the convicted consigliere says he knows he said them so they have to exist. He is sure of that because he uttered them in a failed effort to talk Gotti out of his desire to whack Gambino mobster Louis DiBono, the only slaying that Frankie Loc was charged with.
The words are contained in still sealed, never-turned over to the defense, original FBI tapes, according to attorney Ruth Liebesman, who has asked Brooklyn Federal Court Judge I. Leo Glasser to order the feds to turn them over for analysis and testing by a defense acoustics expert.
In a somewhat surprising turn of events, Glasser - the no-nonsense trial judge who has made short shrift of numerous similar efforts by the jailed-for-life mobster over the years - scheduled a hearing to consider Locascio's last gasp effort for freedom.
Unfortunately for Frankie Loc, he won't get a chance to say hello again in person to the judge who sent him away. Locascio is currently housed at a prison hospital in Massachusetts, and is too ill to attend the court session. In 2005, he was able to view his last get-out-of-jail try via a remote TV feed. But this time, even that may not be possible because of logistical problems caused by his constant use of an oxygen tank. The court session had been set for last Friday, but Glasser put it off until Wednesday to give prosecutor Rachel Nash more time to file her opposition papers, which had been due last week.
In her court papers, Liebesman - and technical expert Norman Dotti, whom the defense first hired in 1992 - assert that defense lawyers never received "unenhanced" tapes, only "enhanced" versions the government used to make "certain tracks more audible, at the expense of other tracks." The tracks that got the short-end of the enhancement stick "contain the exculpatory material," according to the defendant.
Let's return for a moment to that devastating tape from yesteryear: At the beginning of a one-minute long segment of the Gotti-Locascio conversation picked up by an FBI bug in an elderly woman's apartment above the Ravenite Social Club, Gotti is heard explaining why he is going to kill mobster Louis DiBono.
"He didn't rob nothing," Gotti begins in the tape that was played for the jury. "You know why he's dying? He's gonna die because he refused to come in when I called. He didn't do nothing else wrong."
LOCASCIO: "You have that meeting yet?"
GOTTI: "No. Gonna have it tomorrow."
LOCASCIO: "Because at the meeting, I predict that he's gonna bring you fifty."
"But I wouldn't take nothing," responded Gotti, before ending the discussion about DiBono with a dramatic flourish: "The cocksucker! I wouldn't take nothing from him. He's gonna get killed because he, he disobeyed coming..."
Even though Locascio never admitted anything to do with the murder on the tape, the jury, which listened to that recording several times during its deliberations, heeded arguments by then-prosecutor John Gleeson to find Frankie Loc guilty of the October 4, 1990 slaying of DiBono.
Both Glasser and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals have consistently found that the totality of the evidence at the two month trial supports that verdict.
But if jurors had been able to hear what Fankie Loc swears he told Gotti in the middle of their discussion about the ill-fated DiBono, "they would have realized I opposed and prevented DiBono's murder," said Locascio.
"It is my clear recollection that, after telling Gotti that 'I predict that he's going to bring you fifty,' I told Gotti, in sum and substance, to take the money and forget about his anger with DiBono," Locascio recalled in an affidavit filed last week.
"I had nothing to do with DiBono's murder. DiBono, in fact, was murdered ten months after this conversation, for reasons of which I am unaware, but which to my knowledge, had nothing to do with the conversation of December 12, 1989," said Locascio.
At trial, Locascio - who was "made" in the 1950s and elevated to consigliere in 1990 - often attended sidebar conferences. Invariably, he would return to his seat with a big smile and a thumbs-up gesture. More than once, after listening to a whispered report from Frankie Loc, Gotti would turn to reporters, smile, and point to Locascio and mouth the word, "Counselor."
At their sentencing, Locascio praised Gotti as a great man and said that his only crime was "being a good friend of John Gotti. If there were more men like John Gotti, we would have a better country."
Those heady days are long gone, however. Gotti is dead, and Frankie Loc is pulling out all the stops in an effort to avoid the same fate as his late boss.
This latest move may have gotten him to first base, but getting all the way home seems like an uphill, almost impossible dream.