Be­fore the Musi­tanos fell

In 1998, Hamil­ton’s infamous brothers were fight­ing, yes, a traf­fic case, but the po­lice were nip­ping at their heels

The Hamilton Spectator - - Front Page - ANDREW DRESCHEL

Let’s turn back the clock, put away the guns, res­ur­rect the dead, and catch a glimpse of the Musi­tano brothers be­fore their fall.

Be­fore Pat was fight­ing for his life in hos­pi­tal after be­ing gunned down last Thurs­day. Be­fore An­gelo was shot to death in his drive­way in 2017.

Be­fore they were both bro­ken by the wheels of jus­tice.

The time was late Oc­to­ber, 1998. They were young. They car­ried a big cud­gel among lo­cal mob­sters.

And they were a mere month away from be­ing charged with the mur­der of gang­land boss Johnny Pa­palia, which was later pleaded down to con­spir­acy in the death of his hench­man Car­men Bar­il­laro.

But that day they were in court for, of all things, a traf­fic charge. By pure hap­pen­stance, the col­umn I wrote about it re­vealed how close po­lice were nip­ping at their heels.

I’ve edited it slightly, but it went like this: The Musi­tano brothers are as short and stocky as fire­plugs and when you see them stand­ing side-by-side they look like slightly mis­matched book­ends carved from the same side of beef.

They’re the scions of the late Do­minic Musi­tano, re­puted to be a no­to­ri­ous Hamil­ton crime boss, who died of a heart at­tack in 1995.

At 30, Pat is the older and heav­ier of the two and you get the feel­ing no mat­ter how old 21-year-old An­gelo gets, he’s al­ways go­ing to be the lit­tle brother.

Both An­gelo and Pat are fac­ing charges in con­nec­tion with a mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar book­mak­ing operation slammed shut by po­lice last De­cem­ber.

But that’s not why they were in court yes­ter­day. They were there, as re­laxed and ca­sual as their court ap­parel, in con­nec­tion with a dan­ger­ous driv­ing charge against An­gelo.

Pat was present not as a wit­ness, but to give An­gelo moral sup­port. He sat on the bench be­hind Ang the whole time, never once com­pletely doz­ing off.

Dean Pa­que­tte, An­gelo’s le­gal coun­sel and one of the city’s finest crim­i­nal lawyers, has ad­vised both men not to talk to the me­dia about the case.

Prob­a­bly just as well. Based on yes­ter­day’s cross-ex­am­i­na­tion of two Crown wit­nesses, Pa­que­tte seems to have the mat­ter well in hand.

Pa­que­tte main­tains the charge against An­gelo is pure baloney. He ar­gues it’s a trumped-up piece of work de­signed to drag An­gelo into the po­lice sta­tion so he could be in­ter­viewed in con­nec­tion

with the hit on mob­ster Car­men Bar­il­laro, who was gunned down at his Ni­a­gara Falls home in 1997.

Pa­que­tte went after the tes­ti­mony of two Ni­a­gara re­gional cops — both mem­bers of a joint task force in­ves­ti­gat­ing the un­solved mur­ders of mafia boss Johnny (Pops) Pa­palia and his lieu­tenant, Bar­il­laro — with ra­zor­like logic.

By the time he was fin­ished, the ques­tion arose: Ex­actly who was driv­ing dan­ger­ously on Nov. 17, 1997?

The de­tec­tives tes­ti­fied they were in Hamil­ton that day look­ing for an op­por­tu­nity to talk to An­gelo. They planned to either stop his car or ap­proach him on the street.

They’d ar­ranged for Hamil­ton cops to put An­gelo un­der sur­veil­lance so they’d know his where­abouts. They waited in a park­ing lot in their un­marked car while An­gelo was in­side The Gath­er­ing Spot, a James Street North eatery run by brother Pat.

When sur­veil­lance ra­dioed that An­gelo was heading off in a white Buick, the Ni­a­gara cops made their move.

They spot­ted the Buick stopped at a red light at James and Can­non. They al­lege An­gelo made an im­proper right turn onto Can­non and then ran a red at Bay.

The Ni­a­gara cops fol­lowed. So did four un­marked Hamil­ton cop cars. Un­der ques­tion­ing by Pa­que­tte, it came out that the five cop cars may have run two red lights each while chasing An­gelo.

As Pa­que­tte pointed out, that’s 10 red lights. There was no emergency. They didn’t use lights or sirens. And there was no ar­rest.

At least not un­til days later, after An­gelo had slammed his door in the face of the two Ni­a­gara cops when they tried to talk to him at his home.

Notes from a task force meet­ing that took place after the car chase in­di­cate they talked about charg­ing An­gelo with dan­ger­ous driv­ing to make it eas­ier to in­ter­view him.

He was ar­rested Nov. 20, four days after the al­leged driv­ing in­ci­dent.

The Ni­a­gara de­tec­tives were no­ti­fied and tore back to Hamil­ton. They got noth­ing from An­gelo dur­ing their six-minute in­ter­view. He pretty much closed his eyes, put his head back and told them he wanted to talk to Pa­que­tte ...

Look­ing back on that trial 20 plus years later, I expressly re­mem­ber Pat breath­ing heav­ily through his mouth, eyes heavy, strain­ing to stay awake.

I re­mem­ber the judge smil­ing ap­pre­cia­tively at Pa­que­tte’s line of at­tack. The charge was later re­duced to care­less driv­ing and An­gelo was fined $500.

But most of all I re­call how care­free the Musi­tano brothers seemed as they climbed into their white Buick and drove away, bliss­fully un­aware of the ju­di­cial come­up­pance and bloody reck­on­ings wait­ing for them down the road.

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