Boston mobster says feds waited too long to prosecute him in Idaho

Wanted poster issued by the FBI, seeking the capture of Enrico Ponzo for an attempted murder case in Boston.
Wanted poster issued by the FBI, seeking the capture of Enrico Ponzo for an attempted murder case in Boston.

Less than two weeks after he pleaded guilty to illegal possession of 33 firearms, Enrico Ponzo wants the conviction erased, saying prosecutors violated his constitutional right to a speedy trial.

Ponzo, 47, who spent more than a decade on the lam in Idaho posing as a Marsing rancher, John “Jay” Shaw, said it took nearly three years for his Idaho case to move forward. Federal law dictates that trials commence within 70 days.

It’s rare for a criminal case to go to trial that quickly. Typically, one side or the other, or both, seek delays that push cases back months or even years. The defendant usually has to waive his or her right to a speedy trial to allow that to happen.

In this case, Ponzo was taken into custody near his Marsing ranch on Feb. 11, 2011. He was arrested after federal authorities determined his true identity as one of the FBI’s most wanted.

He had been indicted in 1997 on attempted murder charges in Boston. He was accused of responsibility in the attempted killings of two rivals, including Mafia leader Francis “Cadillac Frank” Salemme, shot by masked men outside a restaurant.

After Ponzo was captured in Idaho, he was returned to Boston to stand trial in that case. He was convicted in October 2013 and sentenced the following year to 28 years in prison and ordered to forfeit $2.3 million in drug profits.

He wasn’t indicted in the Idaho case, which included weapons charges and accusations of identity theft, until February 2012. While being held in a Rhode Island jail while awaiting trial in the Boston case, Ponzo in April 2013 waived his right to an in-person arraignment on the Idaho charges and pleaded not guilty.

He said the 70-day speedy trial clock should have begun ticking at that point.

Federal prosecutors have not responded to Ponzo’s motion. They are expected to argue that the Boston case took precedence and the clock stopped while Ponzo fought those charges.

Ponzo is scheduled to be sentenced April 14 on the weapons charge, in federal court in Boise. He faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

John Sowell: 208-377-6423, @IDS_Sowell