HELENA — A Montana State Prison inmate who died last week had a criminal record that included bank robberies and bombings in New England in the 1970s, a murder in an Arkansas prison in the 1980s and attempted murder and kidnapping in Montana.
Prison officials say Joseph Aceto died May 20 at the prison infirmary after an extended illness. He was 61.
Aceto was in prison after being convicted of shooting at Rocky Hoerner at his Columbia Falls art gallery and kidnapping his former girlfriend, Eileen Holmquist, in May 2000.
But his criminal record stretches across the country.
Officers had Aceto under surveillance after the May 11, 1976 bombing of the Maine Central Power Co. offices in Augusta, Maine. The native of Portland, Maine, was arrested on July 4, 1976 after his car crashed, ending a police chase. Officers found sticks of dynamite in his car.
Aceto pleaded guilty to a federal explosives transportation charge for a series of bombings and bank robberies in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts in 1975 and 1976 and testified against his co-conspirators, whom he met in prison. He said they took part in bank robberies in Maine and received donations that helped finance the bombings, including a National Guard truck in Boston, an airplane at Boston’s Logan International Airport and a courthouse in Newburyport, Massachusetts.
After spending less than three years in prison he was released under the witness protection program with the new last name of Balino. His co-conspirators received 10-year sentences.
However, Aceto, or Balino, didn’t stay out of trouble.
Aceto was arrested in Arkansas after a series of burglaries and robberies and returned to prison. Court records in Lincoln County, Arkansas, show he and a fellow inmate were charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing death of fellow inmate Johnny Mack Oliver. He was sentenced to 25 years, but court records show he was released from prison in July 1997 and into the custody of federal authorities.
The conviction for the Columbia Falls shooting and kidnapping resulted in a 220-year prison sentence after the judge noted he had 21 previous felony convictions.
Another five years were added to Aceto’s sentence after he pleaded guilty to assault on a peace officer. Prosecutors said he jumped on the backs of two prison guards in October 2008 and punched them in the head as they tried to break up a fight among inmates.
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