One of two men charged in the Jefferson Parish “sniper van” case was released on bail Friday, a day after his defense attorney argued he wouldn’t pose a flight risk despite his felony record and reputed ties to organized crime.
Joseph F. Gagliano, a convicted racketeer whose father was widely believed to be an underboss of the Marcello crime family, posted a $50,000 property bond after spending three months in federal custody on weapons charges.
Gagliano was allegedly a passenger in a suspicious Ford van, pulled over in May, that authorities say had been outfitted with custom gun ports; sawed-off, mounted dining room chairs; and a .22-caliber rifle with a scope and silencer.
U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon, ruling on a sealed court motion this week, lifted an earlier magistrate order that denied Gagliano bail. After a hearing Thursday, Gagliano, 55, was placed on home incarceration with electronic monitoring and was forbidden from possessing a firearm — a restriction that already applied to him because of his 1995 conviction in a video poker fraud scheme.
“We argued that it’s been 22 years since he’s been arrested,” said Pat Fanning, Gagliano’s defense attorney. “This guy ain’t running anywhere.”
Dominick Gullo, the man who was driving the van, filed a similar court motion Thursday seeking reconsideration of his earlier bond denial.
Gagliano and Gullo are both scheduled to stand trial Nov. 3.
Gullo, 72, was pulled over about 11 p.m. May 7 after the van’s stolen license plate triggered an automatic plate reader positioned near Orpheum Avenue and Metairie Road. According to court documents, Gullo told authorities he had bought the van earlier that day for $300 from a woman he encountered in a coffee shop, and that he had yet to receive the paperwork to finalize the purchase.
Investigators have portrayed the van as being furnished for an assassin, saying the traffic stop may have prevented a horrific crime. The authorities also have been investigating whether the firearm is linked to any shootings.
A search of the van — which Gullo’s attorney says was conducted without a warrant — turned up a silencer secreted in a side compartment, a rifle and scope stashed under a carpet and an 8-foot piece of cannon fuse, a wire capable of detonating an explosive device.
Both men were indicted on a charge of possession of the unregistered silencer, a violation of the National Firearms Act, while Gagliano also was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Authorities said Gagliano got out of the van as a Jefferson Parish sheriff’s deputy pulled Gullo over in front of his East William David Parkway home and that after the rifle and silencer were found Gagliano claimed he had never been in the vehicle.
Fanning said in a telephone interview Friday that Gagliano had been waiting at Gullo’s home when the van pulled in and that he got into the vehicle “only for a few seconds” before noticing the law enforcement lights and climbing out.
Gagliano had no knowledge of the rifle and silencer, Fanning said, and couldn’t have seen the items from the passenger seat, which was set off by a partition from the van’s cargo area.
“There’s no way to connect my guy to the gun, and the government’s got an obligation to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he knew the gun was there,” Fanning said, dismissing the van’s alleged gun ports as “Home Depot windows.”
Gullo’s defense attorney, meanwhile, has sought to suppress the evidence from the van, saying investigators illegally searched the vehicle without a warrant. Prosecutors maintain that investigators had to conduct an inventory search of the van before towing it.
Gagliano is the son of Frank Gagliano Sr., the reputed underboss of the Marcello organization before his 2006 death.
Asked whether the younger Gagliano maintained any ties to organized crime, Fanning said his client never had been involved in that type of activity.
“I just would hope that by 2014, we’re past the point where people think that if you have a name that ends in a vowel you’re in the mafia,” Fanning said.
“The whole history of organized crime in New Orleans, I think, is overblown.”
Follow Jim Mustian on Twitter, @JimMustian.