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U.S. v. Pelullo

January 9, 1997






LEWIS, Circuit Judge.


Filed January 9, 1997)



This appeal represents the third time this case has come before our court. On both previous occasions we reversed Pelullo's convictions. See United States v. Pelullo, 964 F.2d 193 (3d Cir. 1992) ("Pelullo I") (reversing all but one of Pelullo's fraud convictions due to the erroneous admission of unauthenticated bank records); United States v. Pelullo, 14 F.3d 881 (3d Cir. 1994) ("Pelullo II") (reversing all of Pelullo's convictions on the ground that it was error to invoke the doctrine of collateral estoppel with regard to the single wire fraud conviction upheld in Pelullo I).

The procedural history of this case, particularly as it involves Pelullo's first trial, helps place in context the issues raised in this appeal, and we begin with a discussion of that trial.


When Pelullo was first indicted, he was the Chief Executive Officer of The Royale Group, Limited ("Royale"), a publicly held corporation. The indictment alleged that as its CEO, Pelullo had engaged in a series of illegal schemes to defraud Royale. Paramount among these for our purposes was Count 54 of the indictment, which charged Pelullo with wire fraud. Specifically, Count 54 alleged that in early 1986, Pelullo diverted $114,000 from a Royale subsidiary to pay-off part of a $250,000 personal loan owed to Anthony DiSalvo, a loanshark purported to have ties to the Philadelphia mafia. The indictment also alleged that Count 54 constituted a predicate act, Racketeering Act 60, for a separate RICO count.

The government's case against Pelullo on Count 54 was based primarily upon the testimony of two government agents, FBI Agent Randal Wolverton and IRS Agent James Kurtz; and an admitted mafia underboss, Philip Leonetti. In particular, Wolverton testified that Pelullo had admitted in an interview with FBI agents to using the $114,000 to pay-off DiSalvo. In addition, there was testimony establishing that after Pelullo initially failed to repay the $250,000 loan, DiSalvo sought the assistance of Leonetti in an attempt to collect the outstanding debt. In fact, Leonetti testified that he met with Pelullo in January 1986 at the Florida home of Nicodemo Scarfo, the reputed boss of the Philadelphia Mafia, to inform Pelullo that he had to repay DiSalvo. In late February of 1986, Pelullo wired $114,000 from a business bank account to a family corporation in Philadelphia. The transferred money was allegedly converted to cash by Arthur Pelullo, Leonard Pelullo's brother, and given to Peter Pelullo, Leonard Pelullo's other brother, to drop-off at DiSalvo's home in Philadelphia.

In response to the government's case, Pelullo took the stand in his own defense and, among other things, contradicted Wolverton's claim that he had admitted to using Royale funds to repay his personal debt to DiSalvo. Instead, he testified that the loan had not been paid-off until the Summer of 1986 and that the $114,000 in question had been used to repay an intercompany debt earlier that same year. See Appellant's Br. at 10. The jury, apparently unpersuaded by Pelullo's testimony on this and other matters, returned a guilty verdict on all counts of the indictment. As noted earlier, however, on appeal we reversed all of Pelullo's convictions from his first trial, except for his conviction of wire fraud on Count 54.

Sometime after Pelullo's first appeal, but before his retrial, the defense obtained potential impeachment evidence from the government that the government had withheld despite Pelullo's repeated production requests. The withheld evidence consisted of an IRS memorandum, which detailed Leonetti's interview with IRS Agent Kurtz. The memorandum contained references to meeting dates between Pelullo and Leonetti that directly contradicted Leonetti's testimony at trial.

On retrial, Pelullo was again found guilty on all counts. Thereafter, he filed a Rule 33 motion for a new trial on Count 54 based on the fact that during the first trial the government had withheld potential impeachment evidence in violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), which creates a duty on the part of the government to provide the defense with potentially exculpatory or impeachment evidence. See also United States v. Bagley, 473 U.S. 667, 676 (1985) (noting that impeachment evidence falls within the Brady rule). The district court denied Pelullo's Rule 33 motion, and Pelullo appealed that ruling as well as his convictions from the second trial.

On the second appeal, we affirmed Pelullo's conviction on Count 54 on the grounds that the withheld IRS memorandum did not lead to a "reasonable probability" that the outcome of the first trial would have been different had the government turned the memorandum over prior to the first trial. See Pelullo II, 14 F.3d at 887. We reversed Pelullo's convictions, however, on all other counts. Specifically, we held that the district court erred in according Pelullo's prior conviction on Count 54 preclusive effect in Pelullo's second trial. Id. at 897.

At some point following Pelullo's second trial, but before the beginning of his third trial (which ended in a hung jury), the government turned over to the defense three more pieces of potential impeachment evidence, which Pelullo's counsel had repeatedly requested since the first trial. Pelullo contends that each of the three items undermined the testimony of the government agents and Leonetti and supported his claim that in early 1986, he had used the $114,000 to pay-off an intercompany debt. This evidence consisted of: (1) rough notes of FBI Agent Wolverton taken during an interview with Pelullo, which included the notation "repaying intercompany debt," a statement that had not appeared in the FBI 302 report; (2) rough notes of IRS Agent Kurtz taken during an interview with Leonetti, which referenced a date, "Summer 1986," which was not included in Kurtz's final memorandum; and (3) a series of FBI surveillance tapes of Nicodemo Scarfo's Florida home from January 1986, which do not list Pelullo as a visitor to the residence.

Prior to the fourth trial, Pelullo filed a motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section(s) 2255 to reverse his conviction on Count 54 and to dismiss the indictment due to the government's alleged Brady violations. The district court did not rule on that motion until after the conclusion of the fourth trial. In a post-trial ruling, the district court denied Pelullo's Section(s) 2255 motion on the ground that the government had not violated its Brady obligations. See United States v. Pelullo, 895 F. Supp. 718, 738 (E.D. Pa. 1995) ("Pelullo III").

Obviously this protracted litigation, with its wide audience (four juries and two prior appellate panels), has given rise to more than we have set forth above in terms of procedural and factual matters. But our purpose here is to focus upon what we believe to be particularly relevant to what occurred in Pelullo's fourth and most recent trial.


At the fourth trial, Pelullo was convicted of 46 counts of wire fraud and one RICO count, Racketeering Act 60. The substance of the government's case against Pelullo during the fourth trial, including the allegations contained in the Racketeering Act 60 charge in particular, was largely indistinguishable from that of his three earlier trials. In fact, the only noteworthy difference was that at the conclusion of its case-in-chief in the fourth trial, the government introduced portions of Pelullo's testimony from his first trial. With respect to Racketeering Act 60, the government admitted the following testimony from the first trial:

Q: First of all, did you ever have any contact with Mr. Leonetti?

A: I have knowledge of who Mr. Leonetti is. I grew up in South Philadelphia. I know these people from seeing them on the street and maybe running into them at a restaurant. Do I ...

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