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Maurice Richard "Pro" Lerner (December 20, 1935 – September 5, 2013) was a Mafia hit man connected with the Patriarca crime family who was convicted of murder in 1970. His conviction was overturned due to unethical behavior by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and its chief witness.
Lerner was from Brookline, Massachusetts. He played baseball for his high school, batting .364 in his senior year. After he graduated, Lerner signed with the Washington Senators, and played professional baseball through 1963.
Lerner, Patriarca family boss Raymond Patriarca and three other members of the family, Robert Fairbrothers, John Rossi, and Rudolph Sciarra, were tried in 1970 for murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Irish Mafia mobster John "Red" Kelley, a sometime associate of the family, gave testimony as a cooperating witness linking Lerner, Patriarca and other family members to the 1968 murder of Rudolph "Rudy" Marfeo and Anthony Melei. Kelley testified he had been contracted by Lerner to help plan the hit on Marfeo and Melei, whom Lerner allegedly murdered with a shotgun. After the trial, Kelley went into the federal witness protection program.
Lerner and Patriarca were convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and were sentenced to 10 years in prison. Lerner also was convicted of two counts of murder for which he was sentenced to two life terms in addition to the ten years for conspiracy, all of the sentences to be served consecutively. The jury was unable to reach a verdict for the other defendants.
While serving time at the Rhode Island Adult Correctional Institution it is said that Lerner was a model inmate. He was known as a peacemaker, excellent player-coach of the softball team and once saved the life of a Correctional Officer..
Lerner's conviction subsequently was overturned by the Rhode Island Supreme Court in 1988. It had been established that Kelley had perjured himself at the trial, as had F.B.I. Special Agent H. Paul Rico, who had collaborated Kelley's testimony. The Court ruled, in the case Lerner v. Moran 542 A.2d 1089 (1988), that
...that Kelley's perjury, elicited by the FBI, constituted material exculpatory evidence withheld in violation of the applicant's due-process rights. We also hold that the trial justice correctly denied the applicant's motion to dismiss his indictment.
Lerner and his wife, Arrene, had a son and a daughter. He died in 2013.