By Jessica Dye
NEW YORK, Nov 13 (Reuters) - Two men pleaded not guilty
Tuesday to charges of attempting to hire a hit man to murder a
federal judge and prosecutor, and then have their heads
preserved in formaldehyde as "souvenirs."
Joseph Romano, 49, and Dejvid Mirkovic, 38, were arraigned
in Brooklyn federal court before U.S. District Judge John Keenan
on two charges of murder conspiracy, according to Robert
Nardoza, a spokesman from the U.S. attorney's office.
A lawyer for Mirkovic, Susan Kellman, said her client looked
forward to clearing his name and moving on with his life.
Prosecutors say that Romano, who is serving a 15-year prison
sentence for fraud, tried to pay two undercover officials, one
posing as a hit man, to kill the Long Island judge who presided
over his 2009 criminal case and the assistant U.S. attorney who
led the prosecution.
The U.S. attorney's office has declined to confirm the
targets of the alleged threats, but court records indicate that
U.S. District Judge Joseph Bianco was the judge and the lead
prosecutor was Lara Gatz.
Mirkovic, a former business associate of Romano, also was
involved in the plot, prosecutors allege. Both men face life in
prison if convicted. They are being held in custody and their
next court appearance is scheduled for Dec. 17.
Judges in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District
of New York, where Bianco sits, have been disqualified from
presiding over the case, according to an administrative order
from Chief Judge Carol Amon. Keenan, the presiding judge, sits
in the Southern District of New York.
Romano was one of five defendants charged in 2009 with
running a boiler-room operation related to the sale of valuable
coins. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank and wire
fraud, and was sentenced to 15 years in prison in February.
After Romano, who was incarcerated at the Nassau County
Correctional Center, allegedly told a confidential informant
that he wanted to take out a hit on the judge and prosecutor,
the informant alerted authorities, who sent an undercover
officer to meet with him, according to a criminal complaint
unsealed in October.
Soon afterwards, Romano directed Mirkovic to give the
officer the green light to murder the judge and prosecutor, the
complaint said. Mirkovic offered the officer a $20,000 down
payment and said that Romano had requested that the victims'
heads be preserved in formaldehyde as "souvenirs," the complaint
Romano's lawyers could not immediately be reached for
The case is U.S. v. Romano et al., U.S. District Court for
the Eastern District of New York, No. 12-691.
For Romano: Joseph Kilada.
For Mirkovic: Susan Kellman.
For the U.S.: Michael Canty, Marshall Miller and Una Dean.
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