An attorney for the Staten Island man accused of killing a reputed Gambino mob boss says the 24-year-old suspect was influenced by far-right internet rhetoric and radicalized by the QAnon conspiracy theory and President Donald Trump.
Anthony Comello appeared in a St. George criminal court Monday and was arraigned on charges including murder, assault, and criminal possession of a weapon in connection with the March 13 shooting death of Francesco “Frankie Boy” Cali outside his home.
While his client did not plead guilty to the crime, lawyer Robert Gottlieb cited “other right-wing conspiracy websites, hate words that have been spewed by citizens, including politicians, including right at the White House.” In court, Comello displayed handwritten pro-Trump slogans on his palm, including the phrases “MAGA Forever,” “Make America Great Again,” and “Patriots in Charge.” Comello was remanded without bail. Gottlieb told the court Comello’s “family and friends… recognize and picked up on significant changes in him over the past few months. Something dramatically happened to him that certainly seems to have been affected by that hate spewed throughout the internet.”
Is Mob Boss Murder Suspect Anthony Comello Just Nuts—or a QAnon Crazy?
He showed in court with scribbles on his hand, including the Q symbol and “Patriots in charge.”
When he raised his manacled left hand in a New Jersey courtroom on Monday afternoon, the 24-year-old accused of gunning down the boss of the Gambino crime family revealed that he had scribbled the QAnon symbol on the palm, along with some right-wing watchwords.
“MAGA forever… UNITED WE STAND… Patriots in charge.”Has the QAnon fixation been extended from the Clintons to the Gambinos?
With his ballpoint pen scribblings, Anthony Comello seemed to affirm the opinion of three NYPD detectives who had independently described the Staten Island resident with the very same word after his arrest over the weekend.
The only question seems to be how nuts.
Maybe Comello is a Staten Island variation on the QAnon believers who imagine that a series of anonymous clues posted online since late 2017 prove that Trump is engaging in a secret war against the deep state and high-ranking pedophiles in the global elite. Your basic QAnon whacko blames a wide variety of targets for the world’s ills, including the media, the federal bureaucracy, the Democratic Party, and Hollywood.
But a Staten Island QAnon paranoid seeking to do battle with a permanent elite might very well include the Mafia. That could be particularly true if he had an interest in dating the niece of the Gambino crime family boss and had been told to stay away.
If Comello is a QAnon kook, he wouldn’t be the first believer to turn violent.
Last year, an armed QAnon believer allegedly shut down a road near the Hoover Dam with an improvised armored truck.
In January, another QAnon believer allegedly committed fratricide with a 4-foot sword because he was convinced his brother was a lizard.
Comello stands accused of shooting Mafia boss Frank Cali 10 times in front of his Staten Island home while his wife and niece sat inside at an interrupted family diner.
Comello was arrested early Saturday morning at his parents’ house in New Jersey. He had been identified by fingerprints he left at the crime scene and he had been traced from there by his cell phone. License plate readers recorded his pickup truck crossing into New Jersey. The pickup truck was in his parents’ garage when he was taken into custody. He had on the same coat and sneakers the gunman was seen wearing on the surveillance video of the shooting. He is said to have made incriminating statements.
But what remained unclear was the motive. One theory was that Comello became enraged when Cali forbade him from dating his niece. Another theory was that Comello is a drug user and pushers may have put him up to killing Cali.
And then there was this QAnon craziness at Monday’s hearing. One cop joked that this MAGA stood not for Make America Great Again but Make Another Gambino Appointment.
Comello waived extradition and is scheduled to be arraigned on murder charges in Staten Island next Monday. His declared allegiance to QAnon is not exactly a guarantee of personal safety in the New York City jails. Nor is being accused of killing a mob boss.
“Because of serious threats, he has been placed in protective custody, where he will remain while this case in pending,” the accused killer’s attorney, Robert Gottlieb, reported in a statement.
Gottlieb repeated an earlier assertion.
“Mr. Comello’s family and friends simply cannot believe what they had been told.”
Gottlieb added, “There is something very wrong here and we will get to the truth of what happened as soon as possible.”
By one report, Comello has tried to say that he was acting in self-defense. Those who have seen surveillance video of the fatal encounter say that Cali posed no manifest threat and in fact had his back to Comello when he was gunned down. The video is said to show Comello then standing over the sprawled Cali and firing numerous times.
The gunman in the video holds the gun in right hand, the same one that Comello apparently used to write on his palm and offered evidence that he is indeed a nut of whatever kind.
The last mob hit in New York involved a wise guy who was whacked while buying coffee at a McDonald’s.
But a QAnon rubout of a mob boss?