LUSKIN THIS WAS A MARRIAGE THAT SEEMINGLY COULDN’T GET WORSE
This spring, Luskin thought he saw a way to prove his innocence. One of the alleged hit men who as a co defendant of Luskin’s had declined to testify at the trial gave a statement to Luskin’s appellate attorney. There was no murder for hire, he said. He and his partner had concocted the whole story in jail so they would be able to trade Luskin to prosecutors for reduced prison time. Luskin’s lawyer moved for a new trial. District Court Judge J. Frederick Motz bluntly rejected Luskin’s plea. The word of a convicted felon was not enough to overturn the conviction. Of course, it was exactly that the word of a career criminal that had gotten Luskin convicted in the first place.
“I feel as low right now as I can get,” Luskin said after he heard Judge Motz’s decision at the Federal Correctional Institution in Jesup, Ga. “I don’t Jack Wolfskin Outlet know if I’ll ever get out of here alive.”
But for an alert security guard on an Amtrak train northbound through the Carolinas, Paul Luskin might never have had to worry about federal prison. In July 1987, four months after the assault on Marie, security agent Calvin Burns spotted two suspicious passengers. James Manley and Sonny Cohen had boarded the Silver Meteor in Fort Lauderdale en route to Baltimore, a 24 hour trip. Mr. Burns learned that e Jack Wolfskin Outlet ach man had bought a round trip ticket for $449 cash. They had adjoining roomettes. They were returning to Baltimore after only one day in Florida. All this fit the typical “drug courier profile.”
Mr. Burns phoned ahead. When the train stopped in Baltimore’s Penn Station, another Amtrak undercover cop pointed out the suspects. Cohen was carrying a black travel bag, Manley a black guitar case. The cops pounced. Two police dogs excitedly sniffed the luggage. Inside Cohen’s bag, cops found more than 3 ounces of cocaine in 13 plastic packets, $3,761 in cash, a .25 caliber Beretta pistol, a 6 inch silencer and a .22 caliber Sturm Ruger pistol. Inside Manley’s guitar case was a .223 caliber AR 15 A2 Colt rifle with a laser and scope. The weapons were loaded. Manley and Cohen were jailed on drugs and weapons charges.
The contents of the guitar case may not have been able to make music, but Manley, a graying 44 year old ex con, knew how to sing. A month later, in exchange for a lighter sentence, he offered to testify in what he said would be a much bigger case. Federal officials took him up on it. Manley told them that Cohen was under contract to murder Marie Luskin and that after blowing the first attempt, Cohen had hired Manley to help him finish the job. T Jack Wolfskin Outlet he contractor? Paul Luskin.
A STAR IS BORN
The feds listened, fascinated, as Manley sketched the complicated chain of connections from South Florida to Baltimore and back that tied him to Luskin. He and Cohen were in laws; they had met in reform school. Manley said Cohen told him he had been commissioned to kill Marie by Jimmy Liberto, who owned Palughi’s restaurant in Little Italy. Liberto’s brother Joe, who lived in Coral Springs, Fla., had worked 20 years for Luskin’s Hi Fi and had been a senior executive for Paul Luskin and a family friend. Manley said Cohen told him that Paul Luskin wanted to kill his wife because he risked losing Jack Wolfskin Outlet his business in the divorce. Manley told the feds that the total price for the hit was $50,000; that once Marie was dead, the Libertos would have split $20,000 and he and Cohen would have gotten the remaining $30,000. But the money was never paid because the hit never came off.
Prosecutors made Manley a deal: Testify, and we’ll let you plead guilty to a lesser charge possession of a silencer. Instead of a maximum 90 year sentence on federal drug and weapons charges which might have meant roughly 20 years actual prison time Manley would plead to a charge that could bring him a sentence of 10 years. The judge gave him seven, with an expected release date of 52 months.
Manley knew a bargain when he saw one. In January 1988, when Luskin appeared in court alongside the Libertos and Cohen, the prosecution’s star witness spewed forth details, specifics, dates, names. But he admitted that he had never personally dealt with Luskin or even the Libertos. Everything he knew, he got from his old pal Cohen, who took his orders from the Libertos. Manley said Cohen told him all about playing the florist and bungling the hit.