Jury selection to start in Preston murder trial with motorcycle gang ties
Jury selection will start next month in the trial of a man charged with shooting and killing a Preston man in 2019.
Francis L. Giannelli, 28, of Glastonbury is charged with murder in the Oct. 26, 2019 shooting death of 35-year-old Robert Thompson of Preston. In July, Giannelli rejected an offer to serve 35 years in prison, opting for a jury trial instead.
Prosecutors allege Giannelli was a passenger in a vehicle when he fired six shots from a .380 semi-automatic handgun into an adjacent vehicle stopped at a traffic light at the intersection of routes 12 and 2A in Preston.
Giannelli told police he thought Randy Deveau, the driver of the vehicle in which Thompson was a passenger, was making a move as if reaching for a gun. He claims Thompson was accidentally hit by a bullet. Police said Thompson was struck in the neck.
A Ledyard police officer pulled Deveau’s pick-up truck over on Route 12 several minutes after the shooting, police said.
The driver of the vehicle that GIannelli allegedly fired the shots from, Michael Soto of Hartford, was later arrested on charges he had a fully loaded, .40 caliber handgun in his Hartford home, within reach of a child.
Police said Giannelli and Thompson, along with a group of others, had crossed paths earlier in the night at Mohegan Sun Casino where they were asked to leave by casino security. In the casino’s parking garage, Giannelli claims Thompson and a man he was with made a “gun gesture” with their fingers before leaving.
Court documents filed by defense attorneys Kevin Barrs and Michael Miller reveal the case was investigated by both state police and the FBI due to a possible ties between the two groups of men to the Mongols and Hell’s Angels motorcycle clubs.
Barrs filed a motion to request from the prosecution any information or evidence of “third-party culpability” that would indicate Giannelli was not the only one involved in the shooting.
Video footage from Mohegan Sun shows “a group of outlaw motorcycle gang members known as the Mongols having a heated verbal dispute with Mr. Deveau and Mr. Thompson, both either members of and/or associates of rival outlaw motorcycle club, the Hell’s Angels,” Barrs states in his court filing.
Barrs also claims that police have questioned the veracity of Giannelli’s statements to police, specifically whether he was actually present at the scene of the murder or if he was acting as a ‘fall guy’ to distract police from investigating whether other Mongols were present at the shooting.
In a “request for evidence of motive,” filed by the defense, Barrs said state police also questioned Giannelli about Mongols moving in on Hell’s Angel’s territory in Connecticut and whether he was trying to trying to prove himself by shooting at a Hell’s Angels member.
It remains unclear if the prosecution, led by State’s Attorney Paul Narducci, will explore the ties to the motorcycle clubs.
Jury selection is slated to start Oct. 3 in New London Superior Court.