When alleged mob boss Frank Cali was brutally gunned down in Staten Island last March, people automatically assumed that it was a Mafia-related killing by a young upstart eager to advance in the Gambino crime family, or a harbinger of a coming Mafia war. That narrative was significantly complicated, however, when details emerged that Anthony Comello, the 24-year-old man accused of murdering Cali, was alleged to not have had any Mafia ties at all, but did have a relationship with Cali’s niece, of which the Mob boss apparently did not approve. Court documents filed today shed further light on Comello’s motive: that Comello may have been driven to kill Cali by his belief in QAnon, a wide-ranging conspiracy theory that alleges the existence of a deep-state conspiracy targeting President Donald Trump.
According to new court documents, Comello’s lawyer, Robert C. Gottlieb, alleges that Comello had no intention of murdering Cali when he arrived at his home in the Staten Island neighborhood of Todt Hill. Instead, he planned to arrest him, as evidenced by the fact that police found handcuffs in his car after he was taken into custody. Comello had fallen deep into the rabbit hole of internet forums speculating about the existence of a left-wing deep state conspiracy. “Mr. Comello became certain that he was enjoying the protection of President Trump himself, and that he had the president’s full support,” Mr. Gottlieb wrote. Gottlieb is hoping that this argument will convince the court that his client is not guilty by reason of mental defect, and that the court will decline to prosecute him on murder charges.
A conspiracy theory stemming from the anonymous message board forums 4chan, QAnon alludes to “Q,” an anonymous poster claiming to be a high-ranking government official with security clearance who has knowledge of a deep-state conspiracy against President Trump. Q has alleged, among other things, that Democratic establishment figures such as Hillary Clinton, John Podesta, and Barack Obama are members of a child sex trafficking ring, and that the Robert Mueller investigation into Trump’s alleged collusion with Russia is actually a front for investigating the ring. QAnon believers look forward to the “Storm,” or the day when Trump exposes those colluding against him and throws them in Guantanamo Bay, and frequently analyze Trump’s rallies and speeches for hints, or “breadcrumbs,” referring to the Storm. (There is no evidence to support any of these allegations.)
According to Gottlieb, Comello became deeply obsessed with QAnon-related message boards shortly after Trump was elected, and became convinced that he was a vigilante working on Trump’s behalf. Earlier this year, he arrived at Gracie Mansion to hold suspected deep state member Mayor Bill DeBlasio under citizen’s arrest; he also approached U.S. federal marshals to ask them for their assistance in arresting two Democratic officials that are frequently associated with QAnon, Reps. Maxine Waters and Adam Schiff. (The federal marshals declined.) “Mr. Comello’s support for ‘QAnon’ went beyond mere participation in a radical political organization,” Mr. Gottlieb wrote. “It evolved into a delusional obsession.”
This is not the first time QAnon believers have been linked to violence. Last year, Reddit banned a QAnon subreddit after it had been deluged with violent threats from supporters; earlier this year, a 22-year-old man accused of attempting to burn down a pizzeria associated with Pizzagate, a related far-right conspiracy theory, was found to have reposted a QAnon video hours before the incident.