Jeffrey Riddle Jr., who was serving life in a federal prison after he was linked to the organized crime enterprise of Lenine ''Lenny'' Strollo following a high-profile trial in 1999, has died behind bars.
Riddle, 53, died Sept. 30 in West Virginia, according to an announcement by L.E. Black, Phillips & Holden Funeral Home.
Riddle, formerly of Youngstown, was 39 when a federal judge in Cleveland handed down life sentences with no chance of parole to Riddle, Bernard Altshuler of Liberty and Lavance Turnage of Youngstown. A jury deliberated two days and heard six days of testimony before finding Riddle and the others guilty.
The trio was convicted of racketeering, including the specific racketeering acts of murdering Strollo's rival mobster, Ernie Biondillo on June 3, 1996; conspiring to murder Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains, who was shot on Dec. 24, 1996; and conducting illegal casino-style gambling activities. They also were found guilty of racketeering conspiracy and gambling charges.
In addition, Riddle and Turnage were convicted on a separate charge of violent crimes in aid of racketeering for their roles in Biondillo's death.
At the time, Riddle's attorney, Jay Milano of Rocky River, told the judge he objected to the imposition of the mandatory life without parole sentence on Riddle, calling the prison term ''cruel and unusual punishment'' under this set of circumstances and ''unconstitutional.''
''This is so disproportionate,'' Milano argued.
He stressed how Strollo, who admitted being a member of the Pittsburgh mafia family and confessed his role in ordering the deaths of Biondillo and Gains, was expected to receive a prison sentence of only about 12 years as part of a plea deal that also allows him to retain all of his financial assets.
Strollo was reported to be somewhere in the federal Witness Protection Program in January of 2005, one year after he was sentenced to 152 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the federal Racketeering and Corrupt Organizations Act and one count of tax evasion and filing a false tax return.