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Westies plead innocent to revenge murder

By BARBARA GOLDBERG

NEW YORK -- Two reputed members of the Westies, a violent Irish gang whose reign of terror gripped New York's Hell's Kitchen for almost 70 years, were arraigned Thursday for the revenge murder of a construction worker.

Kevin Kelly and Kenneth Shannon, both 33, were turned over to federal authorities and held without bail on a racketeering indictment accusing them of murder, extortion and drug dealing.

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Kelly and Shannon were due back in state Supreme Court in Manhattan on Sept. 19.

They pleaded innocent to murder charges in state court just four days after they turned themselves in to federal authorites following nearly two years on the run. They are last two defendants accused as members of the Westies, a West Side gang founded during the 1920s, to face federal charges.

In February, reputed Westies boss James Coonan and six gang members were found guilty of running a 20-year racketeering scheme that involved eight murders, two attempted murders, one conspiracy to murder, one assault with a deadly weapon and three kidnappings.

In state court, both Kelly and Shannon are accused of murdering Michael Holly, 31, an ironworker who was suspected of killing the brother of reputed Westie William Bokun. Holly was gunned down outside the Javits Convention Center on April 25, 1985.

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Kelly also is charged with the Feb. 11, 1984, murder of Vincent Leone, a recording secretary with Local 1909 of the International Longshoremen's Association.

Authorities described Leone as a loan shark and Gambino crime family member who tried to cheat the Westies and the Gambinos out of $30,000 in sports betting proceeds.

The indictment also accuses Kelly of the attempted murder of John O'Connor, business agent and vice president of Local 608 of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners.

Authorities say the reputed Westie shot O'Connor in the buttocks outside the West Side union headquarters on May 7, 1986, as a favor to reputed Gambino Godfather John Gotti.

The shooting came after O'Connor and colleagues destroyed a restaurant site reported owned by the Gambino crime family because the owners refused to pay off the union.

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