Thomas Trantino

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Thomas Trantino (born February 11, 1938) is an American convicted murderer who was sentenced to life in prison for the execution style shooting deaths in 1963 of two police officers in Lodi, New Jersey. He was sentenced to death by electrocution, which was commuted to life in prison after the death penalty was abolished in the 1970s. This began a long battle for parole, which continued until his release from prison in 2002.

United States federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

Lodi, New Jersey Borough in New Jersey

Lodi is a borough in Bergen County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the borough's population was 24,136, reflecting an increase of 165 (+0.7%) from the 23,971 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn increased by 1,616 (+7.2%) from the 22,355 counted in the 1990 Census.


Trantino grew up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. He was expelled from school for truancy, became a drug addict in his early teens and served the remainder of his teen age years in jail for robbery. [1]

Williamsburg, Brooklyn Neighborhood of Brooklyn in New York City

Williamsburg is a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, bordered by Greenpoint to the north; Bedford–Stuyvesant to the south; Bushwick, East Williamsburg, and Ridgewood, Queens to the east; and Fort Greene and the East River to the west. Part of Brooklyn Community Board 1, the neighborhood is served in the south by the NYPD's 90th Precinct and in the north by the 94th Precinct. On the New York City Council, the western and southern parts of the neighborhood are represented by the 33rd District; and its eastern part by the 34th District. As of the 2010 United States Census, the neighborhood's population is 32,926, an increase of 2.0% from 2000.

Truancy unexcused absence from school

Truancy is any intentional, unjustified, unauthorized, or illegal absence from compulsory education. It is absence caused by students of their own free will, and usually does not refer to legitimate excused absences, such as ones related to medical conditions. Truancy is usually explicitly defined in the school's handbook of policies and procedures. Some children whose parents claim to homeschool have also been found truant in the United States. Other terms for truancy include playing hooky, skiving off, and bunking. Attending school but not going to class is called skipping class. Recent estimates in the United States suggest that approximately 11% of adolescents have skipped school during the past month.


Responding to reports of a disturbance at the Angel Lounge on U.S. Route 46 in Lodi on August 26, 1963, Sgt. Peter Voto and P.O. Gary Tedesco were dispatched to follow up on the call. Voto entered the bar — leaving behind Tedesco, a probationary officer who could not carry a weapon — and was immediately ambushed by Frank Falco and Thomas Trantino, who were there to celebrate a successful robbery. When Voto did not return, Tedesco went into the bar and was also ambushed. Both were tortured and killed execution style. Falco was shot while resisting arrest and killed in Manhattan by officers of the New York City Police Department. [2]

U.S. Route 46 is an east–west U.S. Highway completely within the state of New Jersey, running for 75.34 mi (121.25 km), making it the shortest signed, non-spur U.S. Highway. The west end is at an interchange with Interstate 80 (I-80) and Route 94 in Columbia, Warren County on the Delaware River. The east end is in the middle of the George Washington Bridge over the Hudson River in Fort Lee, Bergen County while the route is concurrent with I-95 and US 1-9. Throughout much of its length, US 46 is closely paralleled by I-80. US 46 is a major local and suburban route, with some sections built to or near freeway standards and many other sections arterials with jughandles. The route runs through several communities in the northern part of New Jersey, including Hackettstown, Netcong, Dover, Parsippany-Troy Hills, Wayne, Clifton, Ridgefield Park, Palisades Park, and Fort Lee. It crosses over the Upper Passaic River at several points. The road has been ceremonially named the United Spanish–American War Veterans Memorial Highway.

Manhattan Borough in New York City and county in New York, United States

Manhattan, often referred to locally as the City, is the most densely populated of the five boroughs of New York City and its economic and administrative center, cultural identifier, and historical birthplace. The borough is coextensive with New York County, one of the original counties of the U.S. state of New York. The borough consists mostly of Manhattan Island, bounded by the Hudson, East, and Harlem rivers; several small adjacent islands; and Marble Hill, a small neighborhood now on the U.S. mainland, physically connected to the Bronx and separated from the rest of Manhattan by the Harlem River. Manhattan Island is divided into three informally bounded components, each aligned with the borough's long axis: Lower, Midtown, and Upper Manhattan.

New York City Police Department municipal police force in the United States

The City of New York Police Department, more commonly known as the New York Police Department and its initials NYPD, is the primary law enforcement and investigation agency within the City of New York, New York in the United States. Established on May 23, 1845, the NYPD is one of the oldest police departments in the United States, and is the largest police force in the United States. The NYPD headquarters is at 1 Police Plaza, located on Park Row in Lower Manhattan across the street from City Hall. The department's mission is to "enforce the laws, preserve the peace, reduce fear, and provide for a safe environment." The NYPD's regulations are compiled in title 38 of the New York City Rules. The New York City Transit Police and New York City Housing Authority Police Department were fully integrated into the NYPD in 1995 by New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.

On August 29, a funeral for the 21-year-old Tedesco was held at Our Lady of Mount Virgin Roman Catholic Church in Garfield, New Jersey and a separate service for 40-year-old Sgt. Voto was held at St. Joseph's Church in Lodi, with more than 1,000 officers representing 40 different departments in attendance, a memorial described as the largest such funeral in New Jersey police history. Governor of New Jersey Richard J. Hughes flew in from Trenton, New Jersey to offer his condolences to the respective families. [3]

Garfield, New Jersey City in New Jersey

Garfield is a city in Bergen County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city's population was 30,487, reflecting an increase of 701 (+2.4%) from the 29,786 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn increased by 3,059 (+11.4%) from the 26,727 counted in the 1990 Census.

Governor of New Jersey head of state and of government of the U.S. state of New Jersey

The Governor of the State of New Jersey is head of the executive branch of New Jersey's state government. The office of governor is an elected position, for which elected officials serve four-year terms. Governors cannot be elected to more than two consecutive terms, but there is no limit on the total number of terms they may serve. The official residence for the governor is Drumthwacket, a mansion located in Princeton, New Jersey; the office of the governor is at the New Jersey State House in Trenton.

Richard J. Hughes American judge

Richard Joseph Hughes was an American lawyer, politician, and judge. A Democrat, he served as the 45th Governor of New Jersey from 1962 to 1970, and as Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court from 1973 to 1979. Hughes is the only person to have served New Jersey as both governor and chief justice. Hughes was also the first Roman Catholic governor in New Jersey's history.

Arrest and conviction

Trantino was placed under arrest after turning himself in at the East 22nd Street Station in Manhattan on August 28 after 66 hours in hiding; he was arraigned and the case was adjourned until September 17 with Trantino held in jail without bail. Trantino's attorney described both of the accused killers as "gentlemen", saying that Trantino had never killed anyone and that the half-Jewish, half-Italian Trantino was called "Rabbi Tom" because he was so kind to others. [3]

Trantino was transferred from New York on September 26, 1963, after an extradition hearing, transported in leg irons and accompanied by Bergen County first assistant prosecutor Fred C. Galda. [4]

Fred C. Galda was an American attorney and Democratic Party politician from New Jersey who served as a prosecutor in the Thomas Trantino murder case, as a judge on the New Jersey Superior Court who issued the state's first ruling acquitting a woman of murder based on a battered woman defense and served as Mayor of Paramus, New Jersey.

In his summation at the February 1964 trial, held at the Bergen County Court House, prosecutor Guy W. Calissi said that Trantino had pistol whipped Sgt. Voto, forced him to undress and shot both Voto and Tedesco after the second officer entered the bar. Trantino's attorney argued that both officers had been shot and killed by Falco and that Trantino—who had been previously jailed on a robbery charge and had a history of addiction to narcotics—had been too drunk to have committed the crime. On February 19, 1964, the jury of seven men and women took 7 hours and 20 minutes to find Trantino guilty.

The jury's decision not to recommend mercy had the consequence that the death sentence would be imposed. Trantino's attorney Albert S. Gross recommended a life sentence, saying "isn't a lifetime in prison enough?" [5] On February 28, Bergen County Judge Joseph W. Marini sentenced Trantino to death in the electric chair to take place in the week of April 5. At the sentencing, Trantino's attorney argued against the death penalty, stating that "legalized murder was no better than criminal murder". [6]


Trantino was originally sent to Trenton State Prison where he sat on Death row. After New Jersey abolished the death penalty in the state in 1971, Trantino was sent to Rahway State Prison. [1]

While in prison at Rahway, Trantino pursued an interest in poetry and art. His paintings were described by The New York Times in a 1973 article as being reminiscent of Pablo Picasso. The firm of Alfred A. Knopf agreed to publish two books of his works. [1]

In 1974, Trantino was one of five prison inmates found to have organized an illegal mass meeting attended by 200 inmates in which the subject was believed to be criticism of the prison's administration. The group of 200 had started meeting and refused to disperse for 30 minutes after guards ordered them to end the meeting, citing the explosive security risk arising from such a gathering. The five leaders, including Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, were transferred to other prisons around the state. [7]


Trantino's sentence had been commuted on January 17, 1972, to a single life sentence, which would make him eligible for parole in 1977, after serving 15 years in jail. Under the Parole Act of 1979, the parole board could require the sentencing judge to set restitution as a condition of parole, with Trantino being the first case under the law after two previous parole applications had failed. The New Jersey State Parole Board was willing to release him once arrangements were made for making restitution to the survivors and Judge Theodore Trautwein took responsibility for setting the amounts as the original sentencing judge had retired ten years earlier. In September 1980, 500 police officers protested at the steps of the Court House in Hackensack, joining the families of the slain officers in arguing that Trantino should remain in jail and that compensation would not be accepted in exchange for the deaths of the two police officers. [8]

Judge Trautwein refused to set a restitution amount, saying, "It would be a gruesome, illogical, self-evident act of futility to order the restoration of the victims' lives." [9] Without the restitution arrangements, Trantino's parole had been rejected and he remained in jail beyond the judge's death. [10]

In 1982, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in a case filed by Trantino to uphold a law that requires restitution as a condition of parole, limiting such payments to medical costs, funeral expenses, lost property and wages over a limited period of time. The court's opinion questioned if the 18 years Trantino had spent in prison were adequate, stating that "it is hard to imagine that Trantino has been sufficiently punished to be considered rehabilitated", though it did not place any restrictions on the parole board's authority to release him. [11] In November 1982, the Parole Board ruled that "rehabilitation has not been sufficiently achieved" and that "the shocking nature of the homicides" Trantino committed as "part of a continuing pattern of antisocial behavior usually involving the use of force", would require him to serve an additional ten years in prison, though he could be released in 5½ years for good behavior. [12]

In January 1988, two members of the State Parole Board approved Trantino's release, though the decision could be taken up by all seven members of the Board if a new hearing was requested. [13] In February, a group of 2,000 residents, police and politicians protested the possible parole. [14] When the full parole board met in March 1988, its members voted 4–3 against releasing Trantino on parole. [15]

In his fifth appearance before the parole board, in November 1990, the full board voted against parole and set his next eligibility data for 1994, with the possibility of an earlier date with good behavior. [16]

In November 1998, the New Jersey Department of Corrections rejected Trantino's request to be placed in a halfway house on the basis of the results of an intensive evaluation of the inmate, which indicated that Trantino was still a risk to commit further crimes and would be unable to adapt to a community setting. He had been transferred from Riverfront State Prison in Camden, New Jersey to a facility in Kearny for the review, and was then transferred to South Woods State Prison once his request was rejected. [17]

At a parole hearing in November 1999, by which time Trantino had become the longest-serving inmate in the New Jersey prison system, the board decided that Trantino was still a danger to society on the basis of his pattern of lies about the murders and would have to serve another 4½ years in prison before being eligible for parole. [18]

A three-member panel of the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division ordered the Department of Corrections in June 2000 to release Trantino within 30 days and to immediately transfer him to a halfway house or residential center in advance of his release, on the basis of their finding that the parole board's decisions in the case were unreasonable. New Jersey Attorney General John J. Farmer, Jr. appealed the ruling. [19] In his fourth appeal to the New Jersey Supreme Court, its members voted in January 2001 by a 4–1 margin (with two justices not participating because of potential conflicts in the case) that he should be sent to a halfway house in advance of his ultimate release, calling it long overdue and the result of public pressure to keep him in jail. In its ruling, the court stated that Trantino had satisfied the terms of release and did not pose a danger to commit any further crimes once paroled. He would have to spend a year in a halfway house before being released. [20] He would not be able to leave the halfway house at all for several months and could be allowed to hold a job, with major restrictions. [21]

On February 11, 2001, his 63rd birthday, Trantino was relocated to a halfway house in Camden. There he would be held inside for 24 hours a day in a facility operated by Volunteers of America, until he is deemed ready for a job. [22]

Trantino was finally released on February 11, 2002, after spending 38 years in the New Jersey prison system, making him the longest-serving prisoner in the state as of the time of his parole. [23] [24]

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  1. 1 2 3 Ferretti, Fred. "An Inmate at Rahway Writes and Illustrates Two Books; He Turns to Art He Talk of His Life", The New York Times , March 4, 1973. Accessed October 15, 2009.
  2. Voto / Tedesco Memorial, Lodi, New Jersey Police Department. Accessed October 15, 2009.
  3. 1 2 Slocum, John W. "1,000 POLICE JOIN IN LODI FUNERAL; Victims of Gunmen Buried as Town Mourns Citations Ordered Second Funeral Held Emotions Summed Up Trantino Arraigned 'I Held My Breath'", The New York Times , August 30, 1963. Accessed October 15, 2009.
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  9. Hanley, Robert. "Judge in Jersey Declines to Put Price on 2 Lives; So Restitution Move Fails in Murder Parole Case An 'Impossible' Task Background of the Case Police Demonstration Recalled Judge Declines to Set A Price for Restitution In Murder Parole Case Application to Murder", The New York Times , October 3, 1980. Accessed October 12, 2009.
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  16. via Associated Press , "Metro Datelines; Killer of 2 Officers Denied Parole Again", The New York Times , November 23, 1990. Accessed October 16, 2009.
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  24. Jacobs, Andrew. "Freed After 38 Years, a Killer Struggles to Fit In", The New York Times , February 27, 2002. Accessed October 14, 2009. "But living in obscurity will be a challenge for Mr. Trantino, 64, who was the state's longest-serving inmate, but was given his liberty only after the New Jersey Supreme Court intervened on his behalf."