A Buffalo lawyer and four co-defendants were convicted Friday of conspiracy in connection with a Los Angles-to-Buffalo cocaine link that prosecutors described as "a major supply route" for the area.
The conviction touched off an emotional scene in the courtroom, with the wife of one of the defendants accusing her husband of lying to her when he told her the couple would be acquitted.
The scene continued in the hallway, where the convicted lawyer, who faces disbarment as a result of his felony conviction, said the prosecutor was the one who should be disbarred.
After that, two dozen relatives of the convicted defendants jostled a television reporter who was covering the story, and they were forced to leave the courthouse by sheriff's deputies.
The jury verdict was read to State Supreme Court Justice Julian F. Kubiniec about 4 p.m. at the close of two days of deliberations.
After hearing her conviction, defendant Suzanne T. Vizzini openly sobbed, pointed to her husband and told him, "You lied."
Afterward she told her husband's lawyer, Kevin W. Spitler, and various Vizzini relatives that her husband "told me that this wouldn't happen."
"Now, I'm going to go to jail because he lied to me," she said. "He told me he would do something."
Mrs. Vizzini, 27; her husband, Joel, 48, and her stepson, Joel Jr., 26, were convicted of conspiracy, a charge carrying a one- to three-year prison term.
In addition, her husband, a Williamsville real estate investor, and John Battaglia, 61, a Van Nuys, Calif., real estate investor, were convicted of cocaine possession charges carrying mandatory prison terms of 15 years to life for masterminding the L.A.-to-Buffalo drug ring in the late 1980s.
Patrick E. Granger, the Buffalo lawyer accused by prosecutors of helping mastermind the drug operation, was acquitted of the cocaine possession charge but convicted of conspiracy.
Outside the courtroom, Granger, who faces disbarment as a result of the felony conviction, called for the disbarment of the chief prosecutor in the case.
Granger, 40, called Karel F. Keuker of the state's Organized Crime Task Force a dirty and vicious prosecutor who should be disbarred. Granger said Keuker tried to pressure him into helping authorities convict Battaglia, Granger's father-in-law and co-defendant. He predicted his conviction would be overturned on appeal.
Keuker said the Battaglia-Vizzini operation represented a "major supply route" of cocaine into the Buffalo area. But the prosecutor declined to comment on Granger's accusations.
Following Granger's denunciation of the prosecutor, a dozen sheriff's deputies evicted about two dozen members of the defendants' families from the courthouse after they started jostling Tony Farina, a WKBW-TV reporter.
Farina said he wasn't injured, and no charges were filed against the unidentified persons who jostled him.
Michael F. Jacobi, 33, who operates an Amherst real estate management concern, and Randy A. Lanthier, 37, a Buffalo plumber, were both acquitted of involvement in the drug ring.
Carmen J. Gentile, Lanthier's attorney, said his client was implicated only because he knew the Vizzini family. Jacobi and his attorneys, Harold and Robert Boreanaz, said he was falsely implicated because of what they called a gambling relationship with the other defendants.
"I never had nothing to do with it; I'm a businessman," Jacobi said.
Because Battaglia and the senior Vizzini face mandatory life terms, Kubiniec ordered them jailed pending sentencing Feb. 15. They had been free on bail. Battaglia also was convicted of conspiracy, and the senior Vizzini was convicted of selling cocaine.
Granger, Mrs. Vizzini and Joel Vizzini Jr. were allowed to remain free.
Granger and the senior Vizzini were arrested March 8, 1989, in a flat rented by Vizzini at 2106 Delaware Ave. where state police seized 3.5 pounds of cocaine valued at $100,000. Granger told the jury he was just visiting the flat.
Keuker had extensive tape recordings of telephone calls between the five convicted defendants.
The senior Vizzini was accused of making at least three trips to California between November 1988 and March 1989 to purchase cocaine from Battaglia for distribution in Buffalo.
On Dec. 11, Kubiniec dismissed a drug conspiracy count lodged against Fariborz Eslamieh, 36, another Battaglia son-in-law.
Kubiniec ruled that prosecutors lacked evidence to prove that Eslamieh, a Hollywood, Calif., garage owner, was the drug intermediary named "Bozy" mentioned on wiretapped calls.