Anthony Comello, the 24-year-old "nobody" (as the NY Times charitably christened him) accused of killing Gambino crime family patriarch Frank Cali, has been charged with murder, assault, and criminal possession of a weapon. Comello was arraigned Monday in a Staten Island court, after being extradited from New Jersey.
This being the first slaying of a mob boss since 1985, the hit initially prompted speculation about mafia infighting. Investigators suggested that Cali may have been lured from his Staten Island home—25 Hilltop Terrace in Todt Hill, a reputed mob stronghold—by a staged crash into his Cadillac.
Shortly after the March 13th shooting, however, police arrested Comello, a nascent far-right conspiracy theorist with an alleged history of abusing prescription painkillers and an aggressive streak. Police raised the possibility that Comello became enraged after the mob head told him he couldn't date Cali's niece, who was having dinner at her uncle's house when he was murdered. Comello allegedly backed his pickup truck into Cali's Cadillac around 9:15 on the night in question, dislodging a license plate.
Footage from surveillance cameras reportedly shows Comello walking up to Cali's door and ringing the bell. Cali then follows the young man outside, where Comello picks up the license plate and hands it to him. Cali then tosses the plate in the back of the Cadillac, and that, according to investigators, is when Comello began firing, hitting Cali 10 times.
Police pulled Comello's finger prints—on file thanks to his purchase of a rifle—from the license plate and arrested him at his parents' house in Brick, New Jersey.
Comello, whom the Times has characterized as "rudderless" and (aside from having taken out the head of a local organized crime syndicate) "otherwise unsensational," has reportedly become enamored of right-wing Internet rabbit holes in recent months. He landed on the NYPD's radar after storming into a Manhattan federal courthouse in February and attempting to instigate a citizen's arrest on Mayor Bill de Blasio, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and other notable Democrats. When he appeared at his extradition hearing last week, he flashed his palm for reporters: On it, he'd doodled "M.A.G.A. forever" and "United We Stand," alongside a prominent QAnon symbol.
QAnon, for the uninitiated, is a wild conspiracy theory that says Special Counsel Robert Mueller was never investigating the Trump administration's Russia ties, but instead, top Dems—Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Podesta—for collusion and possible participation in a global pedophile scheme.
Asked what he was doing, waving his fringe-y scribbles at the press, Comello reportedly smirked, "Why not? I'm handcuffed." That Comello got his hands on a "sharp object" (the ballpoint pen he used to do his drawings) while in custody reportedly raised some questions in court.
At Comello's arraignment today, his attorney—Robert Gottlieb—framed his client's behavior as the result of rhetoric from President Donald Trump, QAnon, "and other right wing conspiracy web sites, hate words that have been spewed by citizens, including politicians at the White House," according to ABC 7.
"Words matter," he said. "Hate words matter."
It's not immediately clear how right-wing ideology might have motivated Comello to shoot Cali. Gottlieb has requested that Comello be held in protective custody since his arrest, shielding him from the possible threat of Gambino wiseguys seeking revenge for Cali's killing.