Looking at Charlie Raso testify without paying attention to his words on direct examination he seemed to be an innocuous and benign old man. Listening to him tell his life’s story he was all but that. Watching him on cross-examination, not so much listening to him because he like all prosecution criminal witnesses who have testified seem to have a great memory on direct examination which suddenly becomes impaired when defense counsel stands up, tells a different story.
Sometimes I think Hank Brennan is emitting some type of rays that cause a memory failure. The only one not affected by them so far was the inimitable Ralph DiMasi, who for the life of me I don’t understand why he was called by the prosecution. But watching Raso’s facial expressions and body movements on cross-examination showed a totally different person, as it did when watching Martorano. The expressions show outrage that one would dare question them, the disgust, the “do you know who you are talking to” attitude, the ready to jump down your throat demeanor or that “you’re a piece of dirt” questioning me all become blatantly apparent. The nice old gentlemen has a metamorphosis into a snarling vicious pit bull ready to bite or attack anyone who comes near him.
It was obvious near the end of his direct testimony. Hank Brennan was looking at him closely as he testified. Brennan has the habit of watching witnesses to get a feel for them, he did the same thing to Martorano. But doing it to Raso got him a little unnerved and he said “why do you stare at me” out of the blue. No one reacted; so he went on, “why is that guy in the glasses keep staring at me, any reason.” Again no one answered and Wyshak went on with his questioning.
Raso presents as the typical gangster cooperating with the government. Being a gangster it’s who they are. It’s so much a part of them – that inner meanness that rises when confronted by something they do not like. The snarl is so typical of these guys who play nice with the prosecutors and turn on the defense counsel.
Raso owned a bunch of barrooms, one being Mother’s where the young Michael Milano worked. He got into booking handling football cards and then took in sports betting. He grew up with Joe Notarangeli, Indian Al, who he called a rough neck and manic depressive who liked to get in trouble, and Sal Sperlinger, two other bookies. Sal is shown on Wyshak’s chart as being an associate of Howie Winter. He and Howie who are brothers-in-law went away in 1979 effectively breaking up Winter Hill.
When Raso first got into the business he gave his lay-off work to Gerry Angiulo. He tells of a meeting he had at Carrol’s Diner in Medford Square with John Martorano, Howie Winter, Joe McDonald and Jimmy Bulger (interestingly he does not call him Whitey – which tells me Martorano who called him Whitey when he testified never called him Whitey when he hung around with him – it may be the prosecutor wanted him to use the name Whitey even though he didn’t use it back when he was partners with him)
He tells how they told him they wanted to straighten out a beef they had with Joe Notarangeli. They and asked him to arrange for Joe to meet with Sal Sperlinga in the Pewter Pot in Medford Square at 3:00 the next afternoon. (This conflicts with Martorano’s testimony that he got the number by calling the telephone company.) Joe was happy to go. He wanted the wise guys to know he was separate from his brother Al. As we know when Joe showed up, Martorano shot him in the telephone booth on a contract from Gerry Angiulo. Raso having brought about the set up fled town.
His brother told him it was OK to come home. He did and met with “Johnny and Howie” who told him they would be his new partners and would bring him lots more agents. He’d settle the week’s business at Marshall Motors with “Johnny, Jimmy, Stevie and Howie, Stevie was there later.” He said he had a monthly fee of $1,000 for paying off law enforcement people. They’d get tips on whose phones were being tapped. He connected Whitey and Stevie. He was photographed at Lancaster Street where he went to settle up after they moved from Marshall Motors.
He said the partnership broke up after he lost a lot of money and Whitey (he called him Jimmy) wouldn’t back him. Whitey said they were out of the sports business, that is taking risks they might have a losing week, and went into the rent business of charging bookies a monthly fee to operate. John Martorano stayed in the sports betting business. Raso said for years he paid rent to “Jimmy or Stevie” but sometimes to George Kaufman their close associate.
He told how he gave money to a Boston attorney Richard Egbert who would pass it on to Johnny. On cross-examination he told of a long-term friendship with Johnny that included renting a house for him and his wife. A couple of inconsistent statements were brought in that he made before a grand jury and he was asked about being into money laundering which cause a little back and forth but nothing really to remember.
Raso was good to show the type of people who were involved in this business if the jury read between the lines. He ties Whitey into Stevie and the rent business. He hurts Whitey by adding him into the killing of Joe Notorangli and this is over a year before he became an informant. If Whitey is sitting down discussing that murder, then isn’t it likely he was involved in the Milano, Plummer, O’Brien and O’Toole murders. It’s not only Johnny saying he was part of that group at that time, Raso is also adding to it.
There is a little confusion in his testimony when he uses the name Jimmy. On cross-examination it was shown that he had previously testified that Jimmy Martorano was at the meeting where he was first told that he had to be partners with Howie and John Martorano. The more Jimmy Martorano is brought up the better it is for Jimmy Bulger.