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Convict guilty in plot to decapitate U.S. judge, prosecutor

By Bernard Vaughan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Long Island man serving a 15-year sentence for running a fraudulent coin-selling operation now faces life in prison for hatching a plot to have the judge and prosecutor who sent him there decapitated and their heads preserved in formaldehyde as souvenirs.

A jury in federal court in Brooklyn on Thursday convicted Joseph Romano of conspiring to murder Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Gatz and U.S. District Judge Joseph Bianco, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York said in a statement.

"A threat against a member of the criminal justice system, such as a judge or an attorney, is nothing less than an attempt to subvert the system, and as such will not be tolerated," U.S. Attorney William Hochul said.

Romano, 51, was sentenced in 2012 to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to the Long Island-based coin-selling operation.

After he was incarcerated, prosecutors said Romano told another Nassau County Correctional Center inmate, who turned informant, that he wanted to hire a hit man to kill Bianco and Gatz.

He agreed to pay $40,000 to an undercover police officer posing as a hit man to carry out the murders, according to evidence presented at trial.

Romano also requested that both their heads and Gatz's breasts be preserved, prosecutor Una Dean told jurors during opening arguments earlier this month.

An associate outside of prison, Dejvid Mirkovic, acted as Romano's middle-man to arrange the plot. In August, he was sentenced to 24 years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to murder a government employee.

In his opening argument earlier this month, Romano's lawyer, Michael Bachrach, argued that Romano was merely trying to look tough in front of dangerous inmates, and that he had been entrapped.

Bachrach did not immediately return requests for comment on Thursday.

(Reporting by Bernard Vaughan, editing by Cynthia Johnston and Gunna Dickson)

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