TAMPA — The fate of two men accused of assassinating a rival motorcycle gang leader is now in the hands of a federal jury.
U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven sent the 12 jurors home late Thursday. They will reconvene on Monday morning to decide whether Christopher “Durty” Cosimano and Michael “Pumpkin” Mencher are guilty of murder, conspiracy and a host of other charges in the 2017 execution of local Outlaws Motorcycle Club president Paul Anderson.
Cosimano and Mencher are alleged members of the local “Killsborough” branch of the 69ers Motorcycle Club. They face sentences of up to life in prison if convicted.
The deliberations cap a two-week trial in which the two men pointed the finger at one another in the Dec. 21, 2017 ambush on a Pasco County highway.
Both defendants sat next to each other at the defense table as their respective defense attorneys tried to pin it on the other guy during closing arguments Thursday.
Mencher’s attorney, Anne Borghetti, told the jury that it was Cosimano, 31, who shot Anderson.
Cosimano’s attorney, J. Jervis Wise, implied that it was Mencher, 52, who killed the Outlaws leader.
“He’s the one that’s going to fly off the handle and shoot Paul Anderson,” Wise said.
The government has accused both men of conspiring to commit murder. The state has accused Cosimano of pulling the trigger, but also said that if he missed, Mencher was there to finish the job.
The two men were on motorcycles, tracking Anderson’s pickup truck as he drove north on the Suncoast Parkway, prosecutors said. Cosimano and Mencher were armed and wearing masks.
The two were out for revenge, the state has alleged. Anderson and a group of Outlaws had previously beaten up other 69ers members at the Local Brewing Company restaurant in Palm Harbor.
When Anderson took an exit and stopped at a red traffic light near State Road 54, prosecutors said Cosimano walked up to the truck’s window and shot the 44-year-old Outlaws president with a Glock .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol.
The government said Mencher was Cosimano’s backup, prepared to kill Anderson if the 69ers’ president messed up the hit.
Both defense attorneys, however, argued that their respective clients had no idea that the other defendant was planning to shoot Anderson.
But the jury heard from a witness who was inside the 69'ers organization at the time: Sean “Phelps” Leonard, founder of the gang and purported friend of the defendants.
A day after Anderson was killed, the two men called Leonard for help.
“This is not a good situation, brother,” Mencher told Leonard over the phone.
The jury heard a recording of that conversation. Neither defendant knew that Leonard was working as a confidential informant for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and secretly taping their conversations for his handlers.
Several of those audio recordings were played in court Tuesday. Then Leonard, 34, was called to the witness stand by the government.
They heard this call with Mencher, recorded Dec. 22: “Well, at least, at least you guys covered your faces ... ” Leonard said. Authorities at the time were circulating photos of the two masked motorcyclists after the murder.
“Yeah, thank God,” Mencher replied. He added later, “I don’t mind doing things, but not in broad daylight.”
During their talk, Mencher implied that Anderson would not have been allowed to escape.
“If he drove away, I would’ve just opened up into the back of him,” Mencher said. “You know what I mean?”
Three other members of the 69ers — Allan Burt “Big Beefy” Guinto, Erick Richard “Big E” Robinson and Cody James “Little Savage” Wesling — were indicted along with Cosimano and Mencher and accused of taking part in the plot to kill Anderson. They all struck plea deals earlier this year. Guinto and Wesling testified last week.
The Outlaws and the 69ers are two of the nation’s most well-known biker gangs. The assassination was part of a local conflict being waged by the two Tampa Bay chapters, authorities have said.
Contact Sam Ogozalek at email@example.com. Follow @samogozalek.