“They should have been here,” said Judge David Lowy, who expressed concern that the defendants were not present for a significant proceeding in their case.
A.J. Camelio, the assistant district attorney handling the case, told the judge that his office had no say in the decision by federal prosecutors, and said he was “frustrated” with that decision.
“After much preparation and effort, the Commonwealth was ready to try this case today to a verdict,” Camelio wrote in a filing with the court.
The U.S. Attorney’s decision “has resulted in the waste of countless man-hours and tens of thousands of dollars by the court, by the defense counsel, by the citizens of Essex County who were called for jury duty in this case, by the Salem Police Department, by the state police officers who have worked this case for months, and by the District Attorney’s office.”
Behind Camelio in the courtroom were several top Essex prosecutors, including first assistant district attorney Jack Dawley.
And while Essex prosecutors were upset by the 11th-hour decision by the feds, so were the lawyers for the four men, who have been held without bail since their arrests last spring.
“The Essex District Attorney’s office got tooled,” said Defronzo’s attorney, Mark Miliotis, who suggested that federal prosecutors had “manipulated” their state counterparts to gain an advantage in what they hoped to turn into a larger case.
In his statement filed with the court, Camelio said federal prosecutors were “fully aware” that their failure to provide the FBI reports would prevent state prosecutors from trying their case, which besides kidnapping and extortion also included charges of mayhem, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and larceny of a motor vehicle.
The judge had given prosecutors until Friday afternoon to release the reports.