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    Tuesday, November 29, 2022

    Trial date set for man charged in Preston biker murder

    A murder trial is slated to start later this month for a Glastonbury man charged in the shooting death of a Preston man, both with alleged ties to rival motorcycle gangs.

    Francis Giannelli, 28, is accused of murder in the Oct. 26, 2019 death of 35-year-old Robert Thompson of Preston. The trial is scheduled to start Nov. 30 in New London Superior Court.

    At about 1:26 a.m., police allege Giannelli, who was a passenger in a vehicle, fired six shots into an adjacent pickup truck stopped at a red light at the intersection of routes 12 and 2A in Preston. Giannelli claims the shooting was an act of self-defense, that the man driving the pick-up truck in which Thompson was a passenger had motioned as if making a move for a gun.

    Thompson died of a single gunshot wound to the neck.

    Giannelli and Thompson were among two groups that had crossed paths in a confrontation earlier that night at Mohegan Sun Casino. Police said Giannelli claimed Thompson was taking cell phone photos of him and the two exchanged words. Security asked both men to leave.

    The case has drawn attention from the FBI because of a pending investigation involving rival motorcycle clubs known as the Mongols, Ruthless For Life and Hell’s Angels. Defense attorneys in the case alleges Thompson was a member of the Hell’s Angels and has raised the idea of “third party culpability,” or the idea that Giannelli was not the only one involved in the killing. Giannelli is represented by public defenders Kevin Barrs and Michael Miller.

    Giannelli showed up at Montville police headquarters three days after the shooting to turn himself in. Police said Giannelli told police, “Yeah, I’m the one who shot the truck. I’d like to state that it was self-defense.”

    Police said Giannelli, after declining to talk about any details of the shooting without an attorney while being questioned, later made incriminating statements to a retired undercover detective in the lobby of state police barracks in Montville.

    One of Giannelli‘s defense lawyers, Michael Miller, has filed a motion to suppress statements made to that undercover officer, claiming any statements he made came after he already had told state police he would not speak without a lawyer present. The statements Giannelli made to retired state police detective Carmine Verno, who posed as a bystander, is the subject of an ongoing suppression hearing in New London Superior Court.

    Giannelli allegedly told Verno he was a member of the “Ruthless 4 Life” motorcycle gang, but was going to be a member of a different gang.

    During the conversation, Verno said Giannelli was confused about why state police released him after confessing to a crime and had assumed he would be taken into custody.

    Giannelli allegedly relayed to Verno a story about a confrontation with a rival motorcycle gang at the casino. He allegedly told Verno one of the men from the casino made a gun motion with his hands and Giannelli said, “so I did what I had to do...before he did it to me.”

    “The undercover agent was planted to to obtain information after the right to counsel had been invoked. That tactic ran afoul of the law,” Miller wrote in his motion to suppress the statement from being used in court.

    Giannelli has already rejected an offer to plead guilty to murder in exchange to a 35-year prison sentence. He faces 65 years in prison at trial on charges of murder, criminal use of a firearm and carrying a pistol without a permit.

    Thompson’s death has also led to a wrongful death lawsuit that Susan E. Thompson, administrator for the estate of Robert Thompson, filed in September against Gary Giannelli, Francis Giannelli’s father. Gary Giannelli recently ran an unsuccessful campaign for state representative in the 31st District.

    The suit alleges that Gary Giannelli was negligent in the storage of his Ruger LCP 380 semi-automatic handgun, the gun was used in Thompson’s killing. The gun was registered to Gary Giannelli, the suit alleges, and stored either in the glove box of his truck or secured with a gun lock in his bedroom. The suit alleges he had informed his son of where the gun and gun lock keys were stored.

    Prior to the killing, the suit alleges, Gary Giannelli knew his son had taken the gun on multiple occasions without his permission. He had also permitted his son to target practice with the gun, the suit alleges.

    Gary GIannelli “knew that (his son) was a member of, or was attempting to become a member of certain motorcycle clubs with reputations for criminal activity, including Ruthless 4 Life and the Mongols, and was associating himself with members of said motorcycles clubs,” the suit alleges.

    Two weeks before the shooting, Francis Giannelli told his father he was in fear for his safety and for his family and “had reason to believe that a member of the Hell’s Angels motorcycle club was looking for him,” the suit alleges.

    Before the murder, Francis Giannelli also told his father he had been asked by a manager of a mixed martial arts fighter with connections to the Mongols to provide protection for the fighter on Oct. 25, 2019, at the event at Mohegan Sun.

    Francis Giannelli remains held on a $1 million bond and is scheduled to be in New London Superior Court on Nov 22 for the suppression hearing.

    g.smith@theday.com

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