Thursday, Nov. 30, 2000 | 12:13 p.m.
PITTSBURGH - An organized crime leader who is serving 28 years in prison for racketeering saved the lives of six people targeted for killings and deserves to get out early, an FBI agent testified.
All the targets were in the federal witness protection program, including one who was helping authorities with an investigation of the skimming of profits at Las Vegas casinos.
Charles Porter, 67, even gave the FBI information about a pending hit on Joseph Rosa, a western Pennsylvania organized crime figure and the key witness against Porter at his 1990 trial, FBI agent Roger Greenbank said.
"This shows that there is a coming to grips with his conviction," Greenbank said Wednesday.
Porter, who has served 10 1/2 years, also supplied information that headed off an attack on Philip "Crazy Phil" Leonetti, the nephew of Philadelphia crime boss Nicodemo Scarfo and also a witness against Porter, Greenbank said. Leonetti had been an emissary from the Philadelphia mob to the Pittsburgh mob.
Greenbank, who helped investigate Porter, was testifying at a hearing on a request by federal authorities to reduce the sentence.
The tips from Porter started coming in 1992, and all the targets were in the Justice Department's Witness Security Program, Greenbank said. U.S. District Judge Donald Ziegler said he would rule promptly on the request.
"Send him home to his family and his loved ones. His cooperation has saved lives, most remarkably of witnesses against this man himself," said Porter's attorney and son, Charles Porter Jr.
The younger Porter fought back tears as he argued for the release of a man described by federal authorities as one of two top aides to a reputed Pittsburgh mob boss.
Greenbank, formerly of Pittsburgh and now of Wilmington, Del., said Porter obtained from other federal prison inmates many details about the addresses, habits and routines of mob witnesses who were cooperating with authorities.
The fact that Porter was able to get the information highlighted failures that were later corrected in the witness program run by federal marshals, Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce Teitelbaum said.
"His cooperation not only saved those people but also saved the integrity of that system," Teitelbaum said.
Porter was accused of drug dealing, extortion, robbery, gambling and conspiracy to commit murder. Eight other defendants were convicted after a two-month trial that broke up a 70-year-old organization.
Greenbank said Porter obtained advance word of mob assassinations while at federal prisons in New York, Texas, Maryland and Pennsylvania.
The agent said another target, whom he did not identify, was helping authorities with an investigation of the skimming of profits at Las Vegas casinos.
Porter has diabetes, blood sugar that is twice to three times normal, nerve damage in his feet, failing eyesight and kidneys that work only as half as well as they should, said Dr. Michelle Roberts, a diabetes specialist who reviewed 10 years of Porter's medical records.
Porter helped with organized crime investigations in Boston; New York; Newark, N.J.; Philadelphia; Youngstown, Ohio; Detroit; Cleveland and Miami, Greenbank said. The agent said Porter would be in danger if he remained in jail.
Porter thanked Ziegler for previously letting him visit his dying mother.
"Let me spend some time with my children. Hopefully, I can ease some of the pain that I have caused," Porter said.