Crime

Murder and the Musitano clan

Sons of a Hamilton crime boss go to jail

Paul Palango February 14 2000
Crime

Murder and the Musitano clan

Sons of a Hamilton crime boss go to jail

Paul Palango February 14 2000

Murder and the Musitano clan

Crime

Sons of a Hamilton crime boss go to jail

With the Musitano clan of Hamilton, murder seems to run in the family. In 1984, Domenic Musitano, his brother Anthony and a nephew were among six people imprisoned over the kidnapping and killing of Toronto mobster Domenic Racco. When Domenic Musitano died in 1995, he left his criminal organization in the hands of his 27-year-old son, Pasquale, known as Pat. With his monogrammed designer shirts, the burly Musitano presented himself as a jovial man-abouttown. He would often go to the downtown Y to “work out” by walking around the indoor track. His Gathering Spot restaurant served some of the best wood-oven pizza in southern Ontario, and Musitano liked to hobnob with the elite. One of his proudest social accomplishments was being listed as a patron on the program of a 1996 fund-raising dinner for federal cabinet minister Sheila Copps, who represents the riding of Hamilton East.

As much as he tried to rise above the family’s legacy, however, Musitano failed. Last Friday, in a Hamilton courtroom, Ontario Superior Court Justice Eugene Fedak sentenced Pat, now 32, and his younger brother, Angelo, 22, to 10-year prison terms for conspiring to murder Carmen Barillaro, a Niagara Falls criminal who was shot and killed in his home on July 23,

1997. The sentences ended one of the most dramatic cases in the history of the Canadian underworld.

In the early morning of Nov. 24,

1998, police swept down on the Musitano brothers and arrested them for the murders of Barillaro and his boss, notorious Hamilton Mafioso John (Johnny Pops) Papalia. A few hours later, hit man

Ken Murdock appeared before a judge in Hamilton on charges of murdering both men, and of being the trig| german in the 1985 ma« chine-gun slaying of Hamil§ ton j anitor Salvatore Alaimo.

In an unprecedented turn, | Murdock was allowed to I plead guilty and was senPat (left) tenced to life imprisonment with no hope of parole for 13 years.

The court was told the deadly relationship between the Musitanos and Murdock dated from 1984, when Domenic Musitano was in Collins Bay Penitentiary for his involvement in the Racco murder. Domenic Musitano befriended the young, tough Murdock and asked him to protect his children when he got out of jail. “It proved to be an extremely unhealthy relationship,” Angelo’s lawyer, John Rosen, told Fedak.

The strategy of defence lawyers Rosen and Dean Paquette was to portray Murdock as the one who led the Musitanos to commit the murders, not the other way around, as the Crown and Murdock had contended. “Murdock was a vicious career criminal,” said Rosen. “Pat had a minor criminal conviction [for possession of stolen goods in 1991] and Angelo had no record.” But a preliminary hearing last summer, in which Murdock was the star witness, made it evident the case against Angelo Musitano was very strong, while the case against Pat was not.

In recent weeks, Rosen and Paquette negotiated a deal with the Crown: the Musitanos would not be charged in the Papalia case, and Pat would take brotherly love to an extreme and share responsibility for conspiring to kill Baril-

laro, if his younger brother was given a break. Pat, originally charged with conspiring to kill Papalia, had faced no charges in the Barillaro case. In amending the charges on Friday, Crown attorney John Nixon said while there was no solid evidence that the Musitanos ordered the Papalia killing, they did order the murder of Barillaro. The court heard that a police surveillance videotape captured Barillaro in a heated discussion with Pat Musitano. Nixon said it eventually became clear to police that Barillaro intended to kill Pat in retaliation for the Papalia murder. But Murdock and Angelo Musitano acted first. They drove to Niagara Falls, where Murdock gained entrance to the Barillaro home. He shot Barillaro in the head and chest, said Nixon in an agreed statement of fact, but not before telling him: “I got a message from Pat.”

Told of the Musitanos’ sentencing deal, Murdock was annoyed. “They’re trying to make it look like I decided on my own to kill John Papalia,” he told Macleans from prison. “I had no reason to kill Papalia. They ordered the killing, and they get just 10 years. They’ll be back on the streets in less than four. It doesn’t make sense to me.”

Paul Palango