Residents of Carroll Gardens were incensed by District Attorney Charles Hynes’s decision last week to drop charges against two mob-tied rivals who settled a beef the old-fashioned way — with a brazen and bloody daylight knife fight in front of a public school.
Locals on Monday were still stunned by the lawman’s abandonment of a case against Benny Geritano, 38, and Mark Iacono, 44, who settled a beef on April 15 in the most old-school of Carroll Gardens crimes — in public with knives.
“It’s pretty disgusting; there were kids all around here,” said Lanie Livigny, who works at the salon next door to the now-shuttered Joe’s Superette on Smith Street, where the crime went down. “They should have prosecuted. It was pretty brutal.”
Prosecutors claim they had no case without testimony from the two men, both of whom refused to sing to a grand jury about the vicious battle over a woman that turned the streets red with blood.
“I saw blood everywhere,” said Loretta Gendville, who picked up her daughter at PS 58 and was shocked by the aftermath of the fight. “Even if they don’t want to press charges against each other, they still should be guilty of disturbing the peace.”
Iacono, owner of Lucali on Henry Street, suffered the brunt of the attack, and was hospitalized after being slashed on his legs, face and back. Geritano was reportedly also stabbed in the back and stomach.
“Neither defendant would go to the grand jury to testify without immunity,” said Jerry Schmetterer. “At the end of the day, we had no case to present.”
That’s a change from what prosecutors initially said, charging both men with attempted murder, a crime so heinous that it can’t be left up to the alleged perps to decide whether the county moves forward with the case, legal experts say.
“The victim is the people of Kings County, really — it’s not up to the individuals [involved] to decide whether they pursue a criminal case,” said Eugene O’Donnell, a former cop and prosecutor now teaching at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “There’s plenty of precedent in pursuing cases where the parties involved don’t [cooperate].”
Both men have mob ties, though Geritano’s are stronger; he previously served 71 months for robbing banks as part of the “Night Drop Crew,” and was planning more heists at the time of the knifing, feds allege. Iacono once employed Dominick “Black Dom” Dionisio, an alleged mobster, while he was awaiting trial.
Getting people to rat each other out is a perennial problem for law enforcement, according to lawyer Eddie McDonald, the attorney who headed up the Justice Department’s organized crime team in the 1980s — the so-called “Golden Age” of the Five Families.
“Every day, there are cases that don’t get prosecuted because people don’t want to cooperate, either because of principle or because they’re scared,” he said.
But the failure to prosecute can send the message that perps are above the law, a sentiment that betrays the famous saying that prosecutors could indict a ham sandwich, if so inclined, said O’Donnell.
“You don’t want to fuel that idea that there are different rules for those guys,” said O’Donnell. “Get ’em if you can get ’em.”
The DA’s office wouldn’t discuss the public perception of the dissolution of the case.
“We have no control over how people perceive this. We operated within the law,” said Schmetterer.
To some, the fight seemed to like the bad old days rearing its ugly head in a neighborhood now brimming with trendy restaurants and cafes serving $4 coffee.
“It is old-school — a knife fight between the new Italian pizza guy and the old bagel shop guy? It feels like old Smith vs. new Smith,” said Don Rauf, a Carroll Gardens local and leader of Life in a Blender, whose recent hit, “What Happened to Smith?” offers a witty riposte to the changes on the strip.
“That old gang on Sackett/Is folding up their blades/And all the social clubs are/Pulling down their shades,” goes the song.
— With Haru Coryne