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Suspect in Frank Cali murder, appears in court with ‘MAGA’ on palm


Anthony Comello, the man accused of killing reputed mob boss Francesco Cali, agreed to be returned to New York to face charges there.
Thomas P. Costello and Kathleen Hopkins, USA Today Network New Jersey

TOMS RIVER, N.J. – Anthony Comello, the Staten Island man accused of rubbing out reputed mob boss Francesco “Franky Boy” Cali, appeared in court here Monday and agreed to be returned to New York to face charges there.

After being led into the courtroom of Superior Court Judge Wendel E. Daniels, Comello, 24, sat in the jury box with his hand raised, as a bevy of news photographers feverishly snapped photographs. On Comello’s palm, scribbled in ink, was “MAGA Forever,” and “United We Stand.”

The acronym MAGA stands for Make America Great Again, President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan.

Comello will appear for an arraignment in Staten Island on Monday, after waiving extradition, defense attorney, Robert C. Gottlieb of the New York law firm Gottlieb and Janey said in a prepared statement. 

More: Alleged Gambino crime boss Francesco ‘Franky Boy’ Cali shot and killed in front of New York City home

‘A couple of guys got to get killed now’: Gambino murder sparks Mafia rumor mill

“Because of serious threats, he has been placed in protective custody, where he will remain while this case is pending, Gottlieb said in the statement.

“As I previously stated, Mr. Comello’s family and friends simply cannot believe what they have been told,” Gottlieb said in the statement. “There is something very wrong here, and we will get to the truth about what happened as quickly as possible.”

Cali, 53, was discovered outside his Todt Hill home, shot several times, shortly after 9 p.m. on Wednesday. He was pronounced dead at a hospital that evening.

Cali was believed to be the most recent head of the Gambino organized crime family, though he never faced a criminal charge to that end.

New York Police Department detectives announced that they had arrested a suspect Saturday, and that he was in custody in Ocean County pending extradition to New York. The U.S. Marshals Service carried out the arrest  on Cadiz Drive in a Brick neighborhood on Barnegat Bay.

Near Cadiz drive on Monday, a police officer filtered residents into the neighborhood through Saint Laurence Boulevard and blocked media from entering, citing an ongoing investigation.

Comello is a graduate of Tottenville High School in the Huguenot section of Staten Island — practically at the other end of the borough from Cali’s Todt Hill home — according to Comello’s Facebook page. New York police said Comello had several residences, including one on Staten Island.

New Jersey state court records show no previous criminal charges against Comello. The records show a couple of moving violations from 2016 in Old Bridge and 2018 in Middletown.

NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot F. Shea also said Comello had “crossed paths” with city police there several times, including the day of the Cali murder, when Comello received a parking summons.

Appearing in court in a green and white striped jumpsuit, Comello assertively replied “Yes, sir,” when Daniels asked him if he was waiving his right to an extradition hearing and willingly agreeing to return to New York to face charges. 

“He has signed and agreed to waive his extradition rights,” Hackensack attorney Brian Neary said of Comello. Hillary Bryce, assistant Ocean County prosecutor, said Comello signed the waiver form in her presence. 

Afterward, Neary would not comment on what Comello’s defense might be, referring reporters to Gottlieb.

NYPD: Man arrested in death of Frank Cali, reputed Gambino crime family boss

More: Organized crime has a long history at the Jersey Shore

Follow Alex N. Gecan and Kathleen Hopkins on Twitter: @GeeksterTweets and @KHopkinsapp

Contributing: Amanda Oglesby, Asbury Park Press


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