BOSTON -- Three men who were accused of using baseball great Ted Williams' championship rings to extort money from his son were found innocent by a federal jury Wednesday.
Acquitted on charges of extortion and selling stolen property were Philip Castinetti, 41, of Revere; Daniel P. Dunn, 25, of East Falmouth, and Gary Raso, 34, of Wakefield.
Castinetti, who owns the Sportsworld memorabilia shop in Everett, was visibly relieved after the verdict was read.
"It's been torture for everybody. It never had to happen that way," he said.
The three defendants were arrested Dec. 4 by the FBI in a sting operation when they met with Williams' son, John-Henry Williams, who said he was interested in getting the rings back.
But the jury apparently doubted John-Henry Williams' story that the rings had been stolen, and instead believed the defendants, who said they believed they had obtained the rings legitimately.
John-Henry Williams could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The saga began in the basement of former Maine state Trooper Rodney Nichols. He said his longtime friend, John-Henry Williams, stored the rings there along with other belongings.
Frustrated that the possessions were taking up space, Nichols' father told John-Henry Williams he planned to sell them at a yard sale. While sorting through the items, he found the rings.
One ring honored the 1986 Boston Red Sox American League Championship. The other one was a 1946 Red Sox commemorative American League championship ring.
Rodney Nichols, who has been charged separately, said he told John-Henry Williams about the rings but Williams never asked for them back. He then offered the rings to a New Hampshire man named John Barron to settle a $33,000 gambling debt. Barron in turn said he asked Raso to have the rings appraised. Raso went to Castinetti, who immediately called John-Henry Williams.
"He told me he needed to get those rings," Castinetti said. "He never said they were stolen."
Williams met with Castinetti at the Meridian Hotel, told him the rings were stolen, and paid $90,000 to get them back. Then the FBI swooped in and arrested Castinetti.
The jury heard a taped phone conversation between Williams, Raso and Dunn in which they negotiated a price for the rings, but Williams never said he thought the rings were stolen. The defendants told Wiliams if he didn't pay $90,000 they would sell the rings at auction.
The defendants' lawyers said nobody tried to hide the auction: The rings even had been photographed for a television show.
Castinetti said there was just one reason the case went to trial: "Ted Williams, the name, that's it."
His lawyer Anthony Cardinale said, "I think (the FBI) should have taken a different approach and done some checking on their star witness. The jury didn't believe and accept John-Henry Williams' story about the ring."
John-Henry Williams, who is 29 and manages the marketing of Ted Williams' name, has been criticized by sports memorabilia dealers and others for questionable business dealings and for dragging his father to autograph signings.