By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
"My son Larry could never be part of a RICO case," continued the father. "He does not associate or is an associate with any person or persons and is not mentally capable to conspire with anyone. He would resent anyone to suggest to him in any way to commit a crime. . . . This is a good, hardworking decent man, your honor. Don't allow the Persico name and an overzealous prosecutor the ability to ruin what my son worked for all his life."
Since his arrest, Lawrence Persico has had a hard time of it. In February, he suffered what his lawyer called "a psychotic episode" which landed him in Manhattan's Lenox Hill Hospital for three weeks. Ordered in early August by the judge to meet with a psychologist, he failed to show up for the appointment. He later apologized for the lapse. But Johnson questioned how he had managed to make a court-approved trip to visit his father in California's Lompoc Penitentiary but hadn't made it to a doctor's office on Brooklyn's Court Street. Persico was remanded to the Metropolitan Detention Center. A psychiatrist there described his behavior as "childlike," according to his lawyer.
Released in early October, he missed another scheduled meeting, this time on the day before Thanksgiving with the court's pre-trial investigator. Again he apologized, saying that he forgot the date because he was off from work that week. Again, he was sent to jail, where he remains.
Dale L. Smith, Lawrence Persico's new lawyer, said it was too soon to tell whether his client's mental health will be an issue at trial. That's if the case goes to trial. Ten co-defendants have already pled guilty.
"My client is a legitimate union man. He went to work and got paid," said Smith. "If you speak to the dispatchers and everyone else involved, they will tell you he worked for his wages."
Lawrence is the middle of Carmine Persico's three sons. The eldest, Alphonse, 49, is currently serving a 13-year sentence for racketeering. Michael, 47, is a businessman, owner of a limousine company and the family's 50-acre complex in Ulster County. There, Lawrence, despite his father's claims, appears to indulge at least one passion: He owns four big Harley-Davidsons and a 2003 Range Rover.
At age 70, the elder Persico spends his days raising roses in the prison garden, playing cards with other forcibly retired wiseguys, and keeping track of the fortunes of both his families. "I gave careful consideration before writing this letter," he told Judge Johnson. "In no way do I want to offend the court." He signed the letter, "With respect, Carmine Persico."