The lawyer for the man formally charged in the murder of Gambino crime family boss Francesco “Franky Boy” Cali is blaming President Donald Trump, days after his client showed up to court with “MAGA forever” and a QAnon symbol scrawled on his hand.
Robert Gottlieb suggests that Anthony Comello was radicalized by White House rhetoric and the internet and says that his client will plead not guilty to the killing, the New York Daily News reported.
“Hate words that have been spewed by citizens, including politicians, including right at the White House, those words matter, and they have an effect,” Gottlieb said, apparently assigning blame to the president.
“This is a tragedy for everybody, for two families, but this case perhaps more than any other reflects what everyone has been saying recently, and that is that words matter,” he added. “Hate words matter … We certainly are taking this very seriously, but at the end of the day, the truth and the reasons for whatever happened here will become so clear and will be shown to be directly related to the impact of the hate that people are bombarded with every day on the internet and elsewhere.”
Gottlieb urged the public to wait until the evidence is out. It’s not clear if the aforementioned “MAGA forever” and QAnon writings were a ploy or sincerely connected to the alleged motive. Cimello was charged on Monday with murder, assault, and criminal possession of a weapon for a loaded firearm. According to the New York Post, Comello confessed to the killing but “later shut his trap and lawyered up.” It was no secret that Comello was increasingly more involved with political commentary on social media.
So far, there has not been an indication that this was connected to organized crime. There is a theory that Comello did this to retaliate against Cali when he did not approve of Comello dating his niece. Cali apparently said Comello wasn’t good enough for her. It’s not clear if there’s more to it than this or if there’s another motive.
Comello’s behavior of late is notable. On top of the “MAGA forever” court incident, Comello created an Instagram account as recently as October to vent about the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings and other political subjects. Comello, a construction worker who lives with his parents, once tried to drum up support for a citizen’s arrest of NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio.
An anonymous friend said that Comello “had a secret Instagram” and “used to post crazy things about politics and Trump and Democrats.”
“Horrible how they can try to ruin a man and his family name and it was all fake just to win. I hope you Dems never get power,’’ Comello wrote in response to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford‘s sexual assault allegation against Kavanaugh. Another political post praised Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, saying, “This has been the greatest and amazing two years in this great country (THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA) for god, for country, for family @realdonaldtrump @vp you rocked the world. We the people are blessed for your SELFLESS PATH FOR THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. THANK YOU.”
The anonymous friend recalled Comello as a “good kid” in high school, but said he “hung out with the wrong crowd and did pills and smoked weed and got into fights but now it’s like he’s someone else.” Gottlieb mentioned that Comello is taking medication, but didn’t see what it was.
“It’s strange,” the anonymous person continued. Another friend said he wasn’t sure if Comello knew who he killed and worried that he’d be a prime target in prison.
“I’m not sure if he knew who Cali was but I know that it was over a girl, and if you ask me, he wasn’t all in the head,” the person said. “And it’s sad, because of who he killed, it’s a matter of time before he’s found dead in jail.”
Gottlieb mentioned that he is concerned for Comello’s well-being behind bars.
“The issue of safety for Mr. Comello while he’s in prison is real,” he said. “I know that the Department of Corrections is very concerned about it, and we’ll continue to speak to them to ensure his safety while he’s in prison. That’s why we asked for protective custody.”
[Image via NBC screengrab]