The witnesses largely corroborated the murder charges presented against DeVecchio by Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, Snyder wrote, and also "gave general support to Linda Schiro's grand jury and trial testimony."

As a result, Snyder said, she felt "compelled to raise" issues "which warrant further investigation by an appropriate agency or some other investigative body." Chief among them was whether the FBI and prosecutors had combined to cover up DeVecchio's misdeeds in order to avoid facing new trials for convicted members of Scarpa's crime family.

As it happens, that's the exact claim originally advanced by a private investigator named Angela Clemente, who first brought the DeVecchio allegations to Hynes's office back in 2005 and who helped spark the indictment and ensuing fiasco.

After the trial collapsed, Clemente, who bills herself as a "forensic analyst," took her theories to the special prosecutor, who was deeply appreciative. Snyder writes that it was "largely thanks to Angela Clemente" that her new witnesses came forward. "Forensic analyst Angela Clemente, who has been investigating the DeVecchio story and the Colombo family for many years," wrote Snyder, "offered invaluable assistance."

What's deeply weird here—and genuinely disturbing in someone who may soon be calling the shots as a top city prosecutor—is what Snyder either didn't know or care to mention: that this invaluable assistance came from someone who wasn't so much investigating the Colombo crime family as working on behalf of members and relatives of a Colombo faction who were desperate to capitalize on whatever crimes could be attributed to DeVecchio and Scarpa in order to win new trials.

Clemente made no secret of it. In a pre-trial hearing in 2007, she testified how she had spent years gathering evidence on behalf of imprisoned-for-life Colombo family mobsters hoping to prove that DeVecchio's misconduct caused their own convictions. Clemente also acknowledged that she stood to profit from a multimillion-dollar lawsuit filed against the FBI and DeVecchio by family members of a Colombo capo killed by Scarpa.

One of those Clemente was helping was Vittorio "Little Vic" Orena, the former acting boss of the Colombo family and head of the rival faction who had been appealing his murder and racketeering conviction for years.

The conspiracy theory advanced by Clemente was so vast that it included the current general counsel for the FBI, as well as the agent who first complained that he thought DeVecchio had crossed the line in dealing with Scarpa (that agent later testified that he knew nothing of DeVecchio's involvement in any murders).

The grateful Colombo mobsters provided an attorney to represent Clemente at the hearings. They also picked up the tab for travel expenses as she visited imprisoned gangsters around the country with her late investigative partner and mentor, a man named Dr. Stephen Dresch.

It's too bad that Dresch, an economics professor who lived in Michigan's remote Upper Peninsula, wasn't also around to help Snyder in her expanded perjury probe. Dresch, who died in 2006 shortly after DeVecchio's indictment, wrote what he called his "Prosecution Referral Memo" on DeVecchio, which Clemente hand-delivered to the Brooklyn D.A.'s office and which sparked Hynes's probe.

Dresch, an avowed libertarian, was quoted this way in 2004 in The Daily Mining Gazette: "I'll be honest," he said. "I want nothing more than to bring the FBI into complete disrepute." Shortly before his death, the paper ran another interview in which Dresch was pictured in a big, red plaid shirt and an immense white beard. The DeVecchio indictment, he said, was "a notch" in "my gun."

According to the website still maintained for his firm, Forensic Intelligence International, LLC, among the projects Dresch was working on when he died were "The Phenomenology and Dynamics of Sexual Exchange," and "Taxation and International Trade in the Context of Soviet Economic Reconstruction."

Such was the troupe that pressed the case against DeVecchio. When Hynes held his press conference in March 2006 announcing the indictment, he also praised Angela Clemente as crucial to the effort. In the back of the room, smiling and passing out his business card to reporters, was Andrew Orena, son of the Colombo acting boss.

No one understands these zany overlaps between conspiracy theorists and gangsters seeking their ticket to freedom better than DeVecchio's defense attorneys, Mark Bederow and Douglas Grover. But Snyder never got around to calling them either.

Every investigator—reporters included—knows what it's like to sometimes get lost in the weeds when chasing theories advanced by sources who appear otherwise sane. But Judge Snyder seems to have been only too glad to follow Clemente and her mob backers down the same rabbit hole where Hynes and his team had already gone woefully astray. She never even sought opposing views, a reality check that even Law & Order prosecutors routinely get, usually from the Adam Schiff/D.A. character.

Snyder's response to questions about her report was the same last week as it was last fall: "She called it as she saw it," said Ken Frydman, a campaign spokesman.

Her vision may have blurred because she was focused on another target. The same week Snyder was named special prosecutor, she sent out an e-mail blast to her campaign supporters, the first in nearly two years. It announced a major policy shift: She was now against the death penalty, the issue that so hobbled her in the 2005 race against Morgenthau, an avowed capital-punishment foe. The e-mail linked back to her newly revived campaign website.

trobbins@villagevoice.com

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