EXCLUSIVE (ONLY ON CVP): Imprisoned Latin Kings leader Juan “King Black Rose” Rosario came to court in Hackensack today for what many hope will be the last time — and left with some scratching their heads over remarks by his lawyer.
By pleading guilty to making threats in open court against Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Catherine Fantuzzi, Rosario had five years added on to what already was a 45-year prison term in connection with a high-profile killing and attempted murder in Lodi eight years ago.
It is the second five-year sentence for Rosario for threats against Fantuzzi, who prosecuted him for the shooting death of 18-year old Ralph Pinto of Hasbrouck Heights and a viscious assault that left Monica Penalba of Lodi with only one eye and partial use of her arm.
The proceeding was a stark change for the onetime leader of the Latin Kings’ Passaic chapter, who vowed in open court in November 2007 to put a bomb in Fantuzzi’s car — then repeated the threat to a detective at the Hudson County Jail.
This time he pretty much kept quiet after being accompanied from Trenton State Prison — as in the past — by a corrections officer in body armor.
The hearing nonetheless took an odd twist when Rosario’s lawyer, Donald Liberman, said he enjoyed and benefitted from their association.
“I have never before been assigned and represented a single individual for over eight years,” Liberman told the sentencing judge, Presiding Superior Court Judge Liliana DeAvila-Silebi.
“I have been proud and humbled to develop my personal skills as an attorney in representing this client,” he said. “We have probably spent over 16 weeks in the well of trials, and they have been some of the most challenging of my life.
“I may be a far better attorney than I was before.”
Fantuzzi was in the courtroom for the sentencing but didn’t comment.
At Rosario’s direction, several gang members kidnapped Pinto a day after the Hasbrouck Heights teen and a friend beat a Latin Kings leader and snatched money from his safe.
After luring Pinto to a Lodi parking lot, where they intended to kidnap him at gunpoint, crew members shot and killed Pinto as he tried to wrestle away the weapon.
Rosario then ordered a hit on Penalba, 19, who witnessed the killing.
She was later stabbed 32 times and run over twice with her own car at a Paterson car wash. Although she survived the attack, Penalba lost an eye and is partially paralyzed in her left arm.
Rosario was convicted of manslaughter, attempted kidnapping and conspiracy in the Pinto trial. He then was convicted of attempted murder in the Penalba case.
He got 20 years each, to run consecutively.
Rosario was also convicted in a third trial of threatening Fantuzzi during a previous court hearing, for which he got five years tacked on to his sentence.
STORY / PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter
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