Salvation Army for former mob boss Skinny Joey?

Skinny Joey is almost a free man.

Imprisoned since his 1999 arrest at the Jersey Shore, former Philadelphia mob boss Joseph Merlino was released yesterday from FCI Terre Haute, a medium-security facility in southern Indiana. He will now spend some time at a halfway house near West Palm Beach, Fla., before freedom is his.

His attorney in the 2001 trial in which he was convicted on racketeering charges — but cleared of murder — said Merlino, 49, called from the car when he started the 1,100-mile voyage to his new halfway-house home.

“His spirits are high,” said Edwin Jacobs, noting that while there’s no federal parole, good behavior and working behind bars contributed to his former client’s release despite a 14-year sentence.

Philadelphia attorney Chris Warren, who petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 to prohibit prosecutors from refiling charges in a case where the jury said charges for allegedly ordering the Newark, N.J., hit on Joseph Sodano were “not proven,” didn’t get a call.

“I only get brought in when there are legal problems,” Warren said, adding that he’d heard Merlino will work with the Salvation Army in Florida.

The federal Bureau of Prisons lists Sept. 7 as the release date for Merlino, aka inmate number 41130-066. The Inquirer reported a source indicated Merlino has no plans to return to Philadelphia upon release.

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