The opinion of the court was delivered by: POLLACK
The application for a writ of Habeas Corpus is denied. There is no merit in any of the grounds asserted for the issuance of a writ.
The petitioner was convicted in 1961 in the New York State Court of General Sessions, New York County, of conspiracy with others to extort an interest in the check cashing business and in bars and grills owned by one, Moss, as well as of the substantive offense of actual attempts to extort such interests by use of wrongful force and creation of fear of wrongful injury to the person of Moss.
Petitioner's trial was subjected to months of delay by maneuvers of the petitioner in relation to the attorney to represent him. These were finally ended by the Court's assignment of an able, experienced lawyer to represent the petitioner. This was not to petitioner's liking and he behaved accordingly, electing to stand mute and resisting any cooporation with his assigned counsel. The trial itself was brief -- it was completed in less than three days. At the opening of the trial petitioner announced that he would remain mute until he could have the services of the lawyer he wanted to represent him. That lawyer was unavailable -- ill, aged and located in Florida.
Petitioner's conviction was affirmed on appeal in People v. Gallo 19 A.D. 2d 620, 241 N.Y.S. 2d 383 (1st Dept. 1963); leave was denied to appeal to the New York Court of Appeals and certiorari to the Supreme Court was denied, 376 U.S. 953, 84 S. Ct. 971, 11 L. Ed. 2d 972 (1964). State coram nobis relief was then sought and denied on the claim that petitioner had been deprived of his right to trial counsel of his choice. This ruling was affirmed on an appeal. Petitioner then tried out this claim in the federal court and coupled it with a claim that he was denied a fair trial because of undue and prejudicial pre-trial publicity. This federal attempt failed; the petition was dismissed for failure to exhaust state remedies. (N.D.N.Y. 1966, Port, J.) (66 Civ. 334).
In 1967, petitioner sought habeas corpus relief in this District and Judge Weinfeld found the reasserted claim of denial of counsel of his choice to be "specious" and determined that the publicity claim had not been passed on in the state courts. United States ex rel. Gallo v. Follette, 270 F. Supp. 507 (S.D.N.Y. 1967).
Defendant's next move was in Dutchess County, Supreme Court, where he claimed that his sentence was beyond the judge's power; he claimed that he could not be subjected to consecutive sentences because the conspiracy and substantive counts were posited on the same acts. This identical issue had been unsuccessfully raised theretofore on his appeal from the judgment of conviction. Habeas corpus was denied, April 8, 1969, the order of denial was affirmed, People ex rel. Gallo v. Warden, 32 A.D. 2d 1051, 303 N.Y.S. 2d 752 (2d Dept. 1969), and leave was denied to appeal to the New York Court of Appeals, 26 N.Y. 2d 609, 307 N.Y.S. 2d 1026, 255 N.E. 2d 785 (1970).
In 1970, petitioner again sought state coram nobis which was denied without a hearing. In that proceeding, he raised the claim of prejudicial publicity in the pre-trial and trial periods. He claimed additionally that the trial Judge improperly had neglected to raise on his own initiative the question of petitioner's competency at trial, albeit there was no assertion that petitioner, in fact, was incompetent. The order of denial of coram nobis was affirmed on appeal, without opinion, 36 A.D. 2d 796, 319 N.Y.S. 2d 388 (1st Dept. 1971) and leave to appeal further was denied.
On March 10, 1971, the petitioner was conditionally released from the correctional facility at Ossining to the custody of the State Board of Parole in the New York Department of Correctional Services pursuant to N.Y. Correction Law, § 212. He had been sentenced on December 21, 1961, to consecutive terms which amounted together to not less than 7 years 3 months and not more than 14 1/2 years.
Prejudicial publicity as tainting the trial
Petitioner asserts here that his trial was not fair because he and his family were targets in advance and during trial of massive and hostile publicity.
Petitioner concedes that before Sheppard v. Maxwell, 384 U.S. 333, 86 S. Ct. 1507, 16 L. Ed. 2d 600 (1966) a defendant was required to prove a direct connection between the publicity and the alleged denial of a fair trial, Beck v. Washington, 369 U.S. 541, 82 S. Ct. 955, 8 L. Ed. 2d 98 (1962); Irvin v. Dowd, 366 U.S. 717, 81 S. Ct. 1639, 6 L. Ed. 2d 751 (1961). In this case, the record fails to establish, indeed it negates, any connection between the publicity and the veniremen or any adverse influence on the impartiality of the jurors selected. Consequently, petitioner suggests that "The law is now settled that the community may be so permeated with prejudice as to deny a fair trial." But cf. United States v. Kahaner, 204 F. Supp. 921, 924 (S.D.N.Y. 1962); United States v. Cohn, 230 F. Supp. 589, 590 (S.D.N.Y. 1964); Sheppard v. Maxwell, 384 U.S. 333, 363, 86 S. Ct. 1507, 16 L. Ed. 2d 600 (1966). No authority is cited for this broad contention. At all events, the petitioner's community prejudice test fails here since the members of the community chosen as jurors were questioned on the publicity and nothing in the record supports any notion of knowledge of the publicity by the jurors selected.
The publicity in this case dealt in significant part principally with defendant's brother, an attempted garrotting of the brother, the serious wounding of a policeman who foiled that attempt, the investigation that followed thereon and the murder of an associate of the Gallo brothers. The press articles also dealt with organized crime groups at war with each other. During most of this publicity, the instant case was in adjournment -- from August 7 to October 23; after October 23, much of the publicity ebbed. As in United States v. Persico, 425 F.2d 1375, 1380 (2d Cir. 1970), where the claim of prejudicial publicity was rejected, the publicity did not deal with the issues of petitioner's guilt.
While there undoubtedly was a large amount of publicity placing the Gallo family members in an unfavorable light, it must be recognized that they were figures who had come to the attention of the public over the years and that news coverage did not necessarily carry with it a probability of prejudicial effect on the defendant's trial or even an awareness of the Gallos by the veniremen. The petitioner's trial was very brief and not conducted in any sense in a carnival atmosphere. No prejudicial statements emanated from the prosecutor or from the trial judge. To the contrary, the only controversy was over defendant's persistence in seeking to delay the start of the trial with demands for an unavailable and ailing lawyer whom he wanted as his trial lawyer and in demanding that no trial be had meanwhile. This form of delay was indulged until it became ...