A Hudson business owner and family man who got ensnared in a prosecution tied to New York mobsters walked out of court a free man Friday.
Craig Sobel, 40, was accused of shooting a teenager out the window of a limousine on Halloween night in 1989. Prosecutors said he was paid $100 to do the crime — retaliation over a gang fight — by the son of infamous mobster Gregory Scarpa.
A jury took less than four hours — including a lunch break — to acquit him, his attorney Bruce Barket said.
"This was a prosecution that clearly never should have happened," Barket said.
One tabloid declared Sobel's acquittal the final piece in a "trifecta of failure" by the Brooklyn district attorney's office.
The big fish was former FBI agent Lindley DeVecchio. DeVecchio had led law enforcement's war against organized crime in the 1980s and '90s. After he retired to Sarasota, prosecutors began looking into whether he played a role in plotting four Mafia slayings.
He was eventually indicted for murder, but the case fell apart during last year's trial when the star witness was caught lying.
One homicide DeVecchio was accused of helping mastermind: that of his son's best friend Patrick Porco, who was also riding in the limo the Halloween night when 17-year-old Dominick Masseria was killed. Porco was killed six months later. Prosecutors said DeVecchio leaked to Scarpa, the mob boss, that Porco was about to rat him out.
But charges were also dismissed against the man accused of killing Porco after it was revealed that authorities had declined to prosecute him years earlier.
"These are three murder charges against three reputable people," Barket said. "It's not just that they lost. All three collapsed at their foundation."
Sobel's trial lasted two weeks. The government's star witness was Reyes Aviles, who claimed he drove the limo the night of the killing and years later wore a wire while getting Sobel to talk about the crime.
But Barket said Aviles showed no credibility.
"He had given multiple inconsistent accounts of important facts, including who was driving, who gave the order to fire," Barket said.
In addition, other witnesses said the limo driver had tattoos covering his left arm; Aviles did not, Barket said.
Sobel, who is married with three kids, was happy and grateful for the jury's decision, Barket said. If convicted, he could have faced life in prison.
No one answered the door at Sobel's Hudson home Monday.
Barket said Sobel is a Florida native who lived in New York only briefly after leaving the Marine Corps. Before his arrest in March 2006, he owned a plumbing business and skippered a charter fishing boat under the nickname Capt. Scupperz.
"It was a horrible tragedy to have the police knock on his door and drag him out of his life," said Barket, noting Sobel spent nine months in jail.
"Hopefully the resounding nature of his acquittal will go a long way to re-establishing his good reputation. He's a good man with a good family."
Molly Moorhead can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6245.