SCRANTON — The second man charged with the murder of Frank Bonacci of Dunmore claims he was an innocent bystander to the crime.
That was one of the theories laid out at Neil Pal’s trial.
The courtroom was full for the first day of Pal’s trial, just like it was when his co-defendant Jason Dominick stood trial last month.
Neil Pal, 23, is charged with first and third degree murder as an accomplice. Even though prosecutors don’t believe Pal was the shooter, he still faces the same potential penalty for allegedly helping Dominick.
But Pal’s attorneys say that’s not how it happened.
Pal has just graduated from the University of Scranton and was preparing for law school last July. Life was good, his attorney said, he had no reason to murder Frank Bonacci. In fact, they were good friends.
Pal’s defense laid out a theory similar to his co-defendant Jason Dominick. Both insist they are innocent bystanders to Bonacci’s murder.
Pal’s defense attorney said, “stupid college kids, dumb mistake driving Jason Dominick to Step Falls for a fight. He didn’t know Frank Bonacci would get a bullet in the back of his head.”
Jason Dominick was convicted of third degree murder in his own trial last month.
Prosecutors have labeled Dominick as the shooter.
Neil Pal is facing first and third degree murder charges as an accomplice.
The prosecution needs to prove that Pal helped Dominick carry out the murder and cover it up.
Testimony started with Frank Bonacci’s mother Robin, who told jurors about the last time she saw her son. Then she testified about the last time she saw Neil Pal before his arrest: at Frank’s viewing. She asked Pal what happened to Frank. He told her he didn’t know.
Jurors also heard from Maribeth Castaldi, an old friend of Neil Pal’s. She testified that she picked up Pal and Dominick on the highway right after Bonacci was shot. She said she never suspected the two had just come from killing someone. Prosecutors say that’s proof the murder was planned.
In his opening statement Lackawanna County First Assistant District Attorney Gene Talerico said, “she sees nothing on either one of them that would make her think they had just seen a horrific, unexpected event. They are just how they always are.”