The man who allegedly gunned down a leader of the Gambino crime family earlier this year was obsessed with internet conspiracy theories like QAnon and believed he was working to aid President Donald Trump, The New York Times reported on Sunday.
Attorneys for Anthony Comello, 24, have argued in court documents that their client intended to conduct a citizen’s arrest of Francesco “Franky Boy” Cali during a late-night encounter in March. Instead, the pair spoke outside Cali’s home on Staten Island, and when the mob boss resisted arrest, Comello shot him 10 times.
Now, Comello’s defense lawyer plans to argue that his client is not guilty of murder due by reason of mental defect, saying the man was so obsessed with conspiracy theories that he should be held in a psychiatric facility rather than be prosecuted.
Comello is currently being held in protective custody ahead of his trial.
“He ardently believed that Francesco Cali, a boss in the Gambino crime family, was a prominent member of the deep state, and, accordingly, an appropriate target for a citizen’s arrest,” Robert Gottlieb, Comello’s attorney, wrote in the documents obtained by the Times. “Mr. Comello became certain that he was enjoying the protection of President Trump himself, and that he had the president’s full support.”
Comello was reportedly also interested in two senior California Democrats, Reps. Maxine Waters and Adam Schiff, and tried twice to conduct an arrest of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. All are frequent targets of Trump, who regularly wields his Twitter account against the two representatives and rallies his supporters to boo and jeer their names at campaign events.
During Comello’s initial court appearance in March, he held up one of his palms which had the letter Q scrawled across it in ink, as well as other phrases linked to the conspiracy theory. He also wrote mottos like “MAGA Forever,” pointing to the Trump campaign’s slogan, and “Patriots in Charge.”
QAnon is a baseless conspiracy theory that has spread on dark corners of the internet. Its followers believe, in part, that Trump is working with an anonymous official to unveil a global network of pedophiles. Supporters also buy into paranoia that Q is working to counter the so-called “deep state.”
There is no evidence to back up any of the claims.
Gottlieb told the court that his client’s involvement in QAnon was intense, going “beyond mere participation” and evolving into what the attorney called “delusional obsession.” The Times also noted that Comello posted hundreds of times on far-right social media forums and had an Instagram account in which he shared conspiracy-laden memes.
It’s unclear how or why the man targeted Cali, but it was the most high-profile murder of a mob boss since 1985.