Com. v. French

Citation357 Mass. 356,259 N.E.2d 195
Parties, 46 A.L.R.3d 1106 COMMONWEALTH v. Wilfred Roy FRENCH (and five companion cases 1 ).
Decision Date04 May 1970
CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts

Page 195

259 N.E.2d 195
357 Mass. 356, 46 A.L.R.3d 1106

Wilfred Roy FRENCH (and five companion cases 1).
Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk.
Argued Jan. 5, 1970.
Decided May 4, 1970.

[357 Mass. 361]

Page 204

Joseph J. Balliro, Boston, for defendant Tameleo.

Manuel Katz, Boston, for defendant French.

Ronald J. Chisholm, Boston, for defendant Cassesso.

Albert L. Hutton, Jr., Boston (John B. Greene, Boston, with him), for defendant Grieco.

Chester C. Paris, Boston, for defendant Salvati.

David Berman, Medford, for defendant Limone.

Jack I. Zalkind, Asst. Dist. Atty. (James M. McDonough, Legal Asst. Dist. Atty., with him), for the Commonwealth.

Before [357 Mass. 356] WILKINS, C.J., and CUTTER, KIRK, SPIEGEL, and REARDON, JJ.

[357 Mass. 361] CUTTER, Justice.

French and Grieco were indicted on October 25, 1967, for the murder of Edward Deegan on March 12, 1965. Tameleo, Limone, Cassesso, and Salvati were separately indicted as accessories before the fact. All these defendants, together with Joseph Baron (born Barboza), were charged in one indictment with conspiracy to murder Deegan, and in another indictment with conspiracy to murder Anthony J. Stathopoulos.

French was found guilty of murder in the first degree and Salvati was found guilty of being an accessory, each with a recommendation that the death penalty not be imposed. Grieco was found guilty of murder in the first degree, and Cassesso, Tameleo and Limone were found guilty as accessories. These four defendants were sentenced to death. Each defendant was found guilty on the two conspiracy [357 Mass. 362] indictments. Baron entered a plea of guilty to the two conspiracy indictments on the opening day of the trial. 2 The other defendants appealed. The cases were tried under G.L. c. 278, §§ 33A-33G, as amended.


On the evidence the jury could have found the following facts: Deegan's body was discovered in an alley in Chelsea about 11 P.M. on March 12, 1965. There were six

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gunshot wounds in the body. At least three different weapons had been used.

About 9:30 P.M. on that evening, Stathopoulos stopped an automobile on Fourth Street, Chelsea, opposite the entrance to the alley. With him were French and Deegan. 3 These two entered the alley. A few seconds after they disappeared, Stathopoulos 'heard a volley of shots.' French reappeared and was joined by a 'quite heavy' man with a gun in his hand who looked like Grieco. Stathopoulos had not seen the man before. He heard a voice say, 'Get him too.' He 'took off.'

Baron's testimony was of major importance. His direct examination consumed two days and his cross-examination nearly six and one-half days. He had a long criminal record. Boron had known Grieco since 1961, and French and Limone since 1961 or 1962. He met Cassesso and Tameleo in 1964 and Salvati in February, 1965.

Baron, then a 'loan shark,' saw Limone about January 20, 1965, near an old store, known as the 'dog [357 Mass. 363] house,' on Prince Street, Boston. Baron gave Limone weekly interest on illegal loans owed by Baron to Limone. Limone asked to talk to baron about 'something important.' They went to an office used by Limone. There, Limone (B--1) 4 offered him a 'contract' to kill Deegan for $7,500, which Limone said had been approved by the 'office' and that Tameleo knew of it. Baron explained (without objection) that the 'office' was what 'people termed as the Cosa Nostra.'

Limone gave reasons for offering the 'contract.' (1) Deegan had participated in a theft from one Puopolo's house. Harold Hannah and William Delaney had been with him. They already had been 'found floating in the water' dead. 5 (2) Deegan and Stathopoulos had been involved in the death (on October 17, 1964) of one Sacramone and 'the office' was going to do something about it; and (3) Deegan had caused trouble, at the Ebb Tide Restaurant in Revere (see fn. 6), and had caused annoyance to Limone. Baron told Limone that he wanted to speak to Tameleo about the proposal.

Baron spoke to Tameleo (B--2, see fn. 4) at the Ebb Tide Restaurant about two days later. He told Tameleo that Limone 'offered me a contract on * * * Deegan' and also 'that the office okayed it.' Tameleo said, 'yes, that's right.' Baron said that, even though Limone 'said it was [357 Mass. 364] all right * * * I want you to

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okay it * * * if you don't okay it, I won't do it.' Tameleo said, 'He definitely goes. * * * No punk like Deegan is going to push the office around and cause trouble inside the Ebb Tide.' 6 Reference was made to Deegan as 'involved in a $82,000 burglary in * * * Puopolo's' house.

Early in February, 1965, Baron spoke to Grieco and Tameleo, and by telephone with Cassesso, then in Florida. Baron went to Florida. There he told Cassesso (B--3) that he had a 'contract' for $7,500. Before leaving Florida, he told Cassesso (B--4) that he would 'try to cut him in on the contract.'

Baron also saw Grieco in Florida. He (B--5) told Grieco, 'I am trying to grab Deegan * * * and I can't * * * set him up.' Grieco replied that 'Deegan stole with * * * French.' Baron offered Grieco 'a piece of the action' if he would speak to French.

Later Baron in Boston spoke (B--6) with Limone about 'the Deegan matter.' While driving to Providence with Cassesso, Baron told (B--7) him 'that the Deegan contract was an office matter and that * * * Limone was the one that offered it' to Baron 'and that it was okayed.' Baron told Cassesso 'why the office wanted * * * Deegan wiped out.'

About March 7, Baron arranged (B--8) for Grieco to see French at the Ebb Tide Restaurant where French was 'a bouncer.' Later Baron joined them and they discussed (B--9) the Deegan situation. French said, 'I steal with Deegan, but I am not a friend of his.' He undertook to help 'to arrange this.'

On March 11, French reported to Baron (B--10) 'that there was a strong possibility of Deegan, Stathopoulos, and himself robbing a finance company in Chelsea' and that 'it looked * * * as if Deegan and French were going to go in the alley and Stathopoulos was going to wait outside.'

Baron (because he did not want Limone to know the [357 Mass. 365] precise date) then reported (B--11) to Limone 'that it looked like within a few weeks' he could straighten out the matter but that 'Stathopoulos would be involved.' Limone said that he would 'add * * * $2,500 if Stathopoulos was taken out of the picture.' Baron inquired whether Tameleo knew about this. Limone replied that 'the office knows about' it and that, 'if they could get the two of them, it wouldn't make no difference.'

Baron then went to Cassesso's apartment on Fleet Street. There he found Cassesso and Romeo Martin, an ex-convict. There had been a previous talk with Martin, in Cassesso's presence, about bringing Martin in on the 'contract.' Baron told (B--12) the others that he had 'a contract on--Deegan' and 'it looks like it's set for tomorrow.' He also said that 'French was * * * setting Deegan up.' They were then joined by Chico Amico, then Baron's 'partner.' At the time of trial Martin and Amico were both dead (see fn. 5). Later Baron saw Grieco and told him (B--13) that Cassesso, Amico, Martin, and he (Baron) were involved 'in regards to the contract itself' and that he (Baron) had 'seen' Limone. Grieco said that he 'didn't want the office to know' that he was involved but that the other participants were 'all right with him.'

Grieco and Baron then returned to Cassesso's apartment and (with Cassesso, Martin, and Amico) they discussed (B--14) the project of killing both Deegan and Stathopoulos. Grieco and Martin were to be in the alley before French and Deegan arrived. After Deegan was shot, Baron and Cassesso would 'go to Stathopoulos' car.' Amico, in a car not stolen, would endeavor to 'stall' his car and delay any

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police in the neighborhood. At this discussion, it was suggested that Salvati be brought into the project.

Baron spoke (B--15) to Tameleo at the Ebb Tide. Baron reported to Tameleo that Limone had said 'it would be all right to whack out Stathopoulos and * * * he was sure the office would okay it.' Tameleo replied, '(H)e has * * * as many sins as Deegan has and he goes too.' Baron testified that, if Tameleo had not given this approval and the earlier [357 Mass. 366] approval of killing Deegan, he (Baron) would have done nothing further about killing Deegan and Stathopoulos.

About 2 P.M. on March 12, 1965, French who had just left Stathopoulos and Deegan reported (B--16) to Baron 'French and Deegan would go in the alley and * * * Stathopoulos would stay * * * in the car.' The project was set for 9 P.M.

Baron then went to the Fleet Street apartment. Grieco, Cassesso, Martin, Amico, and Baron discussed (B--17) the arrangements. Baron said that Salvati 'would have to be involved.' Cassesso produced Salvati, talked with him privately, and then reported, 'Joe's included.' Weapons and items of disguise were discussed.

At some point, it was agreed (B--18) that the murder fee be divided among Baron, Cassesso, Grieco, Martin ($1,500 each) Salvati and Amico ($750). No provision was made for French. Baron regarded his participation as 'an act of friendship' to Grieco. The fee for killing Stathopoulos was to be divided in the same proportions.

About 7 P.M. Baron, Cassesso, Salvati, Martin and Amico met at the Fleet Street apartment. Salvati distributed silk gloves and, from a weapons stockpile kept by Cassesso, issued .357 magnums to Baron and Cassesso. Martin, who had his own .38, was given a .45 for Grieco. Baron later gave Salvati his own .38. For disguises, Baron and Cassesso each 'had phony glasses and a moustache,' Salvati 'had glasses and a moustache and a wig that made him look bald (see fn. 7)' and Amico had a moustache. Martin had no disguise. Amico had no gun.

Cassesso, Martin, and Baron went to Fourth Street, Chelsea, and stopped. They attracted some attention, so moved on...

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