The sentencing of Joseph Matranga for loan sharking and racketeering convictions was postponed Monday by a federal judge who said that Matranga's chances of getting a fair trial on unrelated charges would be prejudiced if he were sentenced on April 29.
Matranga, 63, and his brother-in-law, Michael Polizzi, 61, were convicted in March on 16 counts of racketeering and loan sharking. The convictions were based on the testimony of Harry Hall, a convicted swindler and con man who testified that he borrowed $300,000 from the pair at an interest rate of 10% a month.
Matranga and Polizzi were scheduled to be sentenced one day before Matranga is scheduled to begin trial on federal charges that he plotted to skim money from the Tropicana Casino in Las Vegas. The new trial stems from a September indictment that named Matranga and eight other defendants.
U.S. District Judge William Enright said that Matranga's April 30 trial would be prejudiced by unfavorable publicity if he were sentenced on April 29.
"It will present some impediment to fairness in a second trial," said Enright. "We should put over sentencing for Mr. Matranga and his co-defendant for four weeks (from the April 29 date)."
Enright will sentence Matranga and Polizzi during the last week in May.
On Monday, defense attorney Eugene G. Iredale announced that he will file a motion for a new trial when Matranga returns for sentencing in May. Iredale said that he will base his argument on newly discovered affidavits that show Hall committed perjury when he testified against Matranga.
During the trial, Hall testified that he had never worked as an informant for the federal government. But Iredale said that, in the affidavits, Hall swore that in the past 35 years he has served as an informant for the FBI, Internal Revenue Service and the Senate Select Committee for Investigations. According to Iredale, the affidavits also revealed that at one time Hall was listed on the Treasury Department payroll as a "special employee."
At the trial, Iredale asked Hall about a Wall Street Journal article in which Hall mentioned that he had worked as a government informant. Hall denied ever telling the Journal reporter that he had been an informant.
Assistant U.S. Atty. Charles Gorder, who prosecuted Matranga, said he would respond to Iredale's charges when Iredale files the motion.
"During the course of the trial, I told Mr. Gorder that Mr. Hall was committing perjury . . . But Mr. Gorder took no action," said Iredale.
Meanwhile, Gorder said that Iredale has refused to give him the names of witnesses who could testify that Hall lied.
Gorder and Iredale also figured in a recent case involving attorney Frank Prantil, who was convicted of perjury in December, 1983. Gorder was the prosecutor in the case, and Iredale was the defense attorney. Iredale appealed, and Prantil's conviction was overturned in March.
In a 23-page opinion, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals criticized Gorder for refusing to step down from prosecuting Prantil after it had become apparent that Gorder had also assumed the role of a potential witness in the case.
Gorder was criticized for making "derogatory and gratuitous" comments about Prantil's character in his closing arguments. The court found that the comments "served to compound the prejudice to the defendant that flowed from Mr. Gorder's ambiguous role as both prosecutor and participant witness."