The New York man accused of gunning down a reputed mob boss believed his victim was a figure in the "deep state" and had planned on making a citizen's arrest, his defense lawyer claimed.
The March 13 slaying of Francesco "Franky Boy" Cali, a Gambino crime family underboss, was originally believed to be a mob hit.
But now it appears suspect Anthony Comello, 24, gunned down Cali in an off-base belief that the mob figure was "deep state," a secret organization out to take control of the U.S. government, defense lawyer Robert Gottlieb wrote in court papers filed Friday in a Staten Island court.
“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,” Gottlieb wrote.
Comello, charged with second-degree murder, will also claim that he didn't plan to kill Cali. He actually wanted to take him into custody, but when Cali "made a furtive movement close to his waistband," that's when Comello opened fire, according to Gottlieb.
"Mr. Comello became afraid for his life," the defense lawyer wrote. "He reached into his vehicle, withdrew his gun and shot Mr. Cali in self-defense."
The "deep state" conspiracy theory has picked up steam in recent years thanks to the Qanon movement, which believes President Donald Trump is leading a winning battle against these sinister covert forces.
Qanon activists have become regular attendees at Trump rallies, often carrying cardboard Qs.
Comello killed Cali with the full belief Trump would support it, Gottlieb said. At Comello's first court appearance on March 18, he had the phrases "MAGA Forever" and "United We Stand MAGA" scrawled across his left hand.
“Mr. Comello became certain that he was enjoying the protection of President Trump himself, and that he had the president’s full support,” Gottlieb wrote.
Cali, 53, was shot to death outside his home in the Staten Island neighborhood of Todt Hill. Comello allegedly rammed his pickup truck into Cali's parked Cadillac, prompting the victim to come outside to investigate.
Cali was then shot 10 times, and Comello was caught a few days later in New Jersey.