Fugitive Witness Back, Ex-Boss’ Son Gets Lesser Sentence

A possible mob-intimidated witness, Richard DeSantis, turn himself in Nov. 20 after evading Chicago police and the FBI for 7 months. He faces 3 years in prison for obstruction of justice. Due of his absence and the death of another prosecution witness, two of three defendants in a hate-crime case worked out a plea bargain and got merely probation for their roles in a racially motivated beating. Defendant Frank Caruso’s father and brother, Frank and Bruno, were powerful bosses in the Laborers’ Int’l Union of No. Am. in Chicago. Both were ousted this year by LIUNA for alleged links to organized crime. (Both have not faced criminal charges demonstrating the weakness of LIUNA internal reform effort.) Further, DeSantis’ father has been identified as a reputed mob bookmaker for an alleged gambling boss, Angelo LaPietra.

DeSantis witnessed the Mar. 21, 1997, beating of Lenard Clark. He gave prosecutors a handwritten and signed statement that said he saw Caruso and two others beat Clark, who suffered a brain injury in the attack. The statement said he saw Caruso hit Clark so hard that he fell off his bicycle and hit his head on a metal wall. The three chased, beat and kicked Clark, and afterwards he heard the defendants brag about it. When called to testify before the grand jury, DeSantis invoked the 5th Amendment for most questions. In April, with the trials of Caruso and the others about to begin, prosecutors learned that DeSantis’ family was unaware of his whereabouts. Caruso was sentenced to 8 years in prison for his role in the attack after a jury convicted him of aggravated battery and committing a hate crime but acquitted him of attempted murder. The other defendants were sentenced to probation for lesser roles. But prosecutors believe the jury would have found differently had DeSantis had been available to testify. [Chi. Trib. 11/21/98]