NORRISTOWN -- The alleged mastermind behind a violent home invasion robbery in Limerick can withdraw his guilty plea to robbery-related charges, a judge has ruled.
Montgomery County Judge William T. Nicholas on Thursday granted accused robber Leonard Carmen Bisignaro's request to withdraw his April 23 guilty plea. The judge made the ruling after learning that Assistant District Attorney John N. Gradel did not object to allowing Bisignaro to withdraw the plea.
Gradel is prepared to take Bisignaro to trial on robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery and burglary charges in connection with the May 2005 home invasion that left a Limerick man seriously injured. A trial date has not yet been scheduled.
However, the judge denied defense lawyer Barry Miller's request to withdraw as Bisignaro's lawyer at this time. Nicholas said that until another lawyer officially is retained by Bisignaro, Miller will remain Bisignaro's lawyer.
Bisignaro, 22, of the 100 block of Liberty Avenue, West Norriton, was supposed to be sentenced this week for his alleged role in the May 18, 2005, home invasion in the 600 block of West Ridge Pike in Limerick during which intruders used a bat to severely beat the homeowner, James Mascaro.
But Bisignaro asked to withdraw the plea, contending he was "enlightened" by new legal advice "to see another angle for the process" pertaining to his court case. Bisignaro, according to court papers, wrote Miller a letter expressing that he wanted to withdraw his guilty plea because he "felt pressured into the decision and also felt it was my only option at that point."
Miller indicated in court papers that "under the existing circumstances" he could no longer represent Bisignaro.
Gradel has alleged the motive for the robbery was Bisignaro's greed.
Authorities alleged Bisignaro devised the
plan to rob Mascaro and that he was the one who recruited two others, Gianni Calabretta and Leonard James Pinchok, to carry out the robbery.
Calabretta, 21, of the 2000 block of DeKalb Pike, Norristown, and Pinchok, 20, of the 500 block of Barbara Drive, East Norriton, each previously pleaded guilty to robbery- and conspiracy-related charges in connection with the incident. Calabretta and Pinchok, who face possible maximum sentences of up to 60 years in prison on the charges, remain free on bail pending their sentencing hearings.
Calabretta and Pinchok, according to a criminal complaint filed by county Detective John Fallon, went to Mascaro's home at 11 a.m. for the purpose of robbing Mascaro. Under the guise of being a deliveryman, Calabretta, carrying a bouquet of flowers, knocked on Mascaro's door, detectives alleged.
When Mascaro answered the door, Calabretta and Pinchok pushed their way inside the residence.
"Both men attacked Mascaro and one struck him in the head with a baseball bat," Fallon alleged in court documents.
The intruders bound Mascaro with duct tape and they then ransacked his home, stealing $4,500 in cash, golf clubs, electronics and a cell phone, according to the criminal complaint.
Bisignaro, Calabretta and Pinchok eventually all shared the proceeds from the robbery, authorities alleged.
After the intruders fled from the home, Mascaro was able to use a home computer to send a message to a friend, asking the friend to notify police, court documents indicate. Mascaro required medical treatment for head injuries as a result of the beating.
Authorities were able to identify Bisignaro as a potential suspect after witnesses reported he bragged about being part of the home invasion, according to court papers.
Telephone records also showed that Bisignaro and Calabretta had phone contact with one another during the moments leading up to and after the home invasion.