Anthony Comello.Ocean County Jail

Defense attorneys said internet hate speech and hostile language from the White House influenced the Staten Island man accused of killing Gambino mob boss Frank “Franky Boy” Cali as they entered a not guilty plea in court on Monday. 

“Hate words that have been spewed by citizens, including politicians, including right at the White House, those words matter, and they have an effect,” Robert Gottlieb told the New York Daily News in defense of 24-year-old Anthony Comello. “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.” 

Comello was arrested in New Jersey for allegedly whacking Cali, 53, on March 13, and is facing murder, assault and weapons charges. He is set to return to Staten Island court on April 3. During his appearance in a New Jersey court, Comello wrote “United We Stand” and “MAGA Forever” on his hands, and made sure to display them to reporters. 

According to authorities, Comello crashed his pickup truck into Cali’s SUV on Hilltop Terrace. Cali then went out to investigate. Video footage captured an argument between the two men, before Comello allegedly brandished a gun and fatally shot Cali. 

 

According to the Daily News, Judge Raja Rajeswari agreed to keep Comello under protective custody due to death threats directed at him and his family since Cali’s death. The judge also granted Gottlieb’s request for Comello to be sent to the jail infirmary for medication. Gottlieb told reporters that Comello was taking medication and had been without it since his arrest. 

“The issue of safety for Mr. Comello while he’s in prison is real," Gottlieb said, adding that concerns over potential violence in prison have been heightened in this case. “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.”

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