By ERICA NOONAN
Associated Press Writer
-- Wearing a gray suit and a smile, reputed New England mob boss
Francis "Cadillac Frank'' Salemme took the witness stand
in federal court on Thursday and surrendered his four-year-long
fight against the government.
Salemme pleaded guilty to more than a dozen
counts of racketeering, loansharking and extortion -- a list so
lengthy that it took Judge Mark Wolf nearly 45 minutes to finish.
Although the massive indictment had charged
Salemme with the 1967 killings of mob associate Richard Grasso,
rival bookmaker Edward "Wimpy'' Bennett and his brothers
William and Walter, the murder charges will be dismissed or suppressed,
Salemme's change of plea was spurred by frustrations
with fighting a case alongside Stephen "The Rifleman'' Flemmi,
who worked as an FBI informant for three decades while conducting
mob business, Salemme's attorney said. "Essentially he was tired of sitting
next to Steve Flemmi,'' said defense attorney Anthony Cardinale.
"He spent 17 years in jail because of Flemmi's treachery,
then when he got out he got shot because of Flemmi's treachery.''
Salemme, who spent much of the 1970s and
1980s in prison for a car bomb attack on an attorney, faces 10
to 14 years in prison. With time served, Salemme, 66, could be
out in less than five years, Cardinale said.
U.S. Attorney Donald Stern called the agreement
"appropriate'' and issued a warning to anyone aspiring to
take Salemme's place. "Salemme's plea is only the latest reminder
that the occupational hazards of being a mafia boss include the
prospect of substantial prison time,'' Stern said in a statement.
Earlier hearings in the case revealed that
Flemmi and fugitive co-defendant James J. "Whitey'' Bulger
informed on Salemme and other mob rivals.
Salemme, who was shot by rivals outside a
pancake house a decade ago, claims federal agents with whom Flemmi
worked knew about the plot on his life, but did nothing to stop
Salemme is not obliged to cooperate with
authorities as part of the plea, Cardinale said.
Copyright 1999 Associated Press. All rights reserved.