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Convict gets life sentence for plot to decapitate U.S. judge, prosecutor

By Bernard Vaughan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A convict was sentenced to life in prison on Monday for plotting to have a judge and a prosecutor decapitated and their heads preserved in formaldehyde as souvenirs, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's office for the Western District of New York.

District Judge John Keenan handed out the sentence to Joseph Romano, 51, for conspiring to murder District Judge Joseph Bianco and Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Gatz.

Romano's lawyer, Michael Bachrach, said Monday that he plans to appeal Romano's conviction and sentence, but declined to comment further.

In 2012, Bianco sentenced Romano to 15 years in prison for running a fraudulent coin-selling operation. Gatz helped prosecute Romano.

After Romano was incarcerated for the scheme, he told another inmate at Nassau County Correctional Center that he wanted to hire a hit man to kill Bianco and Gatz, prosecutors said.

Romano later agreed to pay $40,000 to an undercover police officer posing as a hit man to carry out the murders. In a grisly twist, he requested that both their heads and Gatz' breasts be preserved in formaldehyde, a prosecutor told jurors during Romano's trial in January.

"Originally sentenced to 15 years for fraud, Joseph Romano will now spend the rest of his natural life behind bars because of his heinous crimes," U.S. Attorney William Hochul said in the press release.

Bachrach argued that Romano was merely trying to look tough in front of dangerous inmates, and that he had been entrapped.

Keenan, from Manhattan federal court, presided over Romano's trial in federal court in Brooklyn because Eastern District judges were disqualified from hearing the case.

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

(Reporting by Bernard Vaughan; Editing by Scott Malone and Andrew Hay)

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