NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A federal judge on Tuesday reduced by a decade the sentence of a convicted mobster credited with providing the FBI information about hidden explosives in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing plot.
U.S. District Judge Edward Korman in Brooklyn shaved the 40-year racketeering sentence being served by Gregory Scarpa Jr. as he blasted prosecutors and the FBI for their handling of the reduction request. The 10-year reduction means Scarpa could be eligible for release in 2025, though the judge said he could die before that because of cancer and generally poor health.
In a written ruling, the judge said that the son of an infamous Colombo crime family enforcer reached out to the government in 2005 while Scarpa and Terry Nichols were serving time together. The judge noted that Scarpa told the FBI Nichols had told him there was a secret cache of explosives in the house where he lived at the time of the Oklahoma City bombing.
An FBI agent interviewed Scarpa, and a polygraph examination was conducted, but the FBI did not conduct the search until it was prodded to do so by a congressman who was contacted by a private forensic investigator Scarpa had contacted, the judge said.
Nichols is serving a life sentence for planning the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building with Timothy McVeigh. The bombing killed 168 people. McVeigh was executed in 2001.
Prosecutors declined to comment on Tuesday. A lawyer for Scarpa, 64, did not immediately comment.
The judge said prosecutors relied on an FBI affidavit that was “sloppy, vague and inaccurate in material respects” to insist Scarpa’s sentence should not be reduced.
Prosecutors claimed that Scarpa was not the source of information leading to the explosives, that he took false credit and that he embellished it, significantly wasting the government’s time, the judge said.
The judge said the government supported its arguments with a “series of largely implausible, contradictory and factually unsupported reasons” offered by a prosecutor and an FBI agent, including an agent’s affidavit that made “flatly incorrect” assertions such as that the FBI had obtained a search warrant for Nichols’ home and that Scarpa was not the source of evidence leading to the search.
“Particularly, at a time when we live under the threat of domestic terrorism, providing information that leads to the discovery of explosives planted by one who had engaged in such terrorism should clearly come within the definition of substantial assistance,” the judge said. “Quite significantly, the U.S. attorney has been willing in the past to grant cooperation credit even to defendants who have committed serious crimes and have lied repeatedly during the course of their cooperation.”
The judge said evidence showed Scarpa acted “in a manner that was both truthful and forthright and that he did not engage in exaggeration or deliberate obfuscation.”
He added: “A modest sentencing reduction to an incarcerated defendant who has provided evidence that explosives were left by a domestic terrorist in a residential area is necessary to encourage others to come forward.”
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