Mafia Commission Trial

The Mafia Commission Trial (in full, United States v. Anthony Salerno, et al)[1] was a criminal trial in New York City, United States, that lasted from February 25, 1985, until November 19, 1986. Using evidence obtained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 11 organized crime figures, including the heads of New York's so-called "Five Families," were indicted by United States Attorney Rudolph Giuliani under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) on charges including extortion, labor racketeering, and murder. Eight of them were convicted under RICO, and most of them were sentenced to 100 years in prison on January 13, 1987, the maximum possible sentence under that law.

The case struck a blow against "The Commission," a ruling committee consisting of the New York Five Families bosses that meet to resolve disputes or discuss criminal activities. Time magazine called the trial the "Case of Cases" and possibly "the most significant assault on the infrastructure of organized crime since the high command of the Chicago Mafia was swept away in 1943," and quoted Giuliani's stated intention: "Our approach... is to wipe out the five families."[2]

BackgroundEdit

In 1983, the Federal Bureau of Investigation recorded several wire tapped conversations of Ralph Scopo extorting money from contractors.[3] Scopo was the president of the Cement and Concrete Workers District Council of the Laborers' International Union of North America from 1977 to April 1985.[3] During this time, Scopo used his position to extort money from cement contractors in New York in return for large construction contracts and labor peace. Contracts between $2 million and $15 million were reserved for a club of contractors called the "Concrete Club", which were selected by The Commission.[4] In return, the contractors gave a two percent kickback of the contract value to The Commission.[4][5]

Gennaro Langella supervised various labor rackets for the Colombo crime family, including their stake in "Concrete Club", and exerted control over various labor unions, including Cement and Concrete Workers District Council, Local 6A.[6] Anthony Salerno also had hidden controlling interests in S & A Concrete Co. and Transit-Mix Concrete Corp.[7]

In the early 1980s, Anthony Corallo unwittingly provided the government with evidence that would all but end his career. Over the years, Corallo and Salvatore Avellino established a stranglehold on the waste hauling business on Long Island. To gather evidence against Avellino, members of the New York State Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF) used undercover informant Robert Kubecka, the owner of a Suffolk County, New York garbage hauling business. Since the 1970s, Kubecka had refused to participate with the mob control of the waste hauling business and had suffered extensive harassment as a result. In 1982, Kubecka agreed to wear a surveillance device during meetings with the mobsters. Although Kubecka was unable to get close to Avellino himself, the information Kubecka gathered eventually persuaded a judge to allow a wire tap on Avellino's home phone in Nissequogue, New York. The home phone tap was also disappointing to the agents; however, it did reveal that Avellino was driving Corallo around all day in Avellino's car.[8]

In 1983, members of the New York State Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF) installed an electronic surveillance device inside the dashboard on Avellino's Jaguar while he and his wife were at a dinner dance. Agents then listened to many conversations between Corallo, Avellino, and other mobsters as they drove around the city.[9] From these recorded conversations, OCTF learned the Commission's internal structure, history, and relations with other crime families. These conversations were shared with federal prosecutors and provided them with invaluable evidence against Corallo and other family bosses in the Mafia Commission Trial.[8][10]

TrialEdit

DefendantsEdit

The indictments and arrests on February 25, 1985, included nine defendants:[11]

as well as their subordinates,

Added shortly after:[12]

DevelopmentsEdit

On February 25, 1985, nine New York Mafia leaders were indicted for narcotics trafficking, loansharking, gambling, labor racketeering and extortion against construction companies.[11] On July 1, 1985, the original nine men, with the addition of two more New York Mafia leaders, pleaded not guilty to a second set of racketeering charges as part of the trial. Prosecutors aimed to strike at all the crime families at once using their involvement in the Commission.[12] On December 2, 1985, Dellacroce died of cancer.[14] Castellano was later murdered on December 16, 1985.[15]

According to Colombo hitman and FBI informant Gregory Scarpa, Persico and Gambino boss John Gotti backed a plan to kill the lead prosecutor, and future New York mayor, Rudy Giuliani in late 1986, but it was rejected by the rest of the Commission.[16]

In the early 1980s, the Bonanno family were kicked off the Commission due to the Donnie Brasco infiltration, and although Rastelli was one of the men initially indicted, this removal from the Commission actually allowed Rastelli to be removed from the Commission Trial as he was later indicted on separate labor racketeering charges. Having previously lost their seat on the Commission, the Bonannos suffered less exposure than the other families in this case.[17][18]

When the lawyers for the accused mafiosi reviewed the evidence, they realized their clients' chances at trial were slim. However, when they sounded out possible plea bargain terms, Giuliani demanded that the defendants plead guilty to the stiffest charges in the indictment, which carried sentences that would have all but assured they would die in prison.[19] The seven defense lawyers, as well as Persico's legal adviser (Persico was acting as his own lawyer) then decided to admit that the Mafia and the Commission existed, but argue that membership in the Mafia or being a boss were not in and of themselves evidence of criminal activity. The mafiosi initially balked, believing that it would amount to a violation of the code of omertà. However, the lawyers impressed upon their clients that they could not credibly deny the existence of the Mafia in the face of their own recorded references to it. Ultimately, the mafiosi agreed to this strategy as long as they did not have to personally admit the Mafia existed.[20]

Hence, during his opening statement, Santoro's lawyer, Samuel Dawson, told the jury that there was no question that "the Mafia exists and has members," but asked, "Can you accept that just because a person is a member of the Mafia that doesn't mean he committed the crimes charged in this case?" It was the first admission in open court that the Mafia existed.[21][22]

VerdictsEdit

After six days of deliberations, the jury convicted eight defendants of racketeering on November 19, 1986,[5] with the exception of Indelicato who was convicted of murder (of Carmine Galante),[13] and were sentenced on January 13, 1987, as follows:[23][24]

Defendant Position Penalty Status Date of death
Anthony "Fat Tony" Salerno Boss, Genovese family 100 years' imprisonment and fined $240,000 Deceased July 27, 1992, MCFP Springfield[25]
Antonio "Tony Ducks" Corallo Boss, Lucchese family 100 years' imprisonment and fined $240,000 Deceased August 23, 2000, MCFP Springfield[26]
Salvatore "Tom Mix" Santoro Underboss, Lucchese family 100 years' imprisonment and fined $250,000 Deceased January 2000, in federal custody
Christopher "Christie Tick" Furnari Consigliere, Lucchese family 100 years' imprisonment and fined $240,000 Deceased; had been released on September 19, 2014 May 28, 2018[27]
Carmine "Junior" Persico Boss, Colombo family 100 years' imprisonment and fined $240,000 Deceased March 7, 2019, Duke University Medical Center[28]
Gennaro "Gerry Lang" Langella Acting boss/underboss, Colombo family 100 years' imprisonment and fined $240,000 Deceased December 15, 2013, MCFP Springfield[29]
Ralph "Ralphie" Scopo Soldier, Colombo family 100 years' imprisonment and fined $240,000 Deceased March 9, 1993, in federal custody[30]
Anthony "Bruno" Indelicato Capo, Bonanno family 40 years' imprisonment and fined $50,000 Released in 1998[31] (Later re-arrested in 2001, serving at Federal Correctional Institution, Danbury)[32][33][34] N/A

Salerno had initially been billed as the boss of the Genovese family. However, shortly after the trial, Salerno's longtime right-hand man, Vincent "The Fish" Cafaro, turned informant, told the FBI that Salerno had been a front for the real boss, Vincent "The Chin" Gigante. Cafaro also revealed that the Genovese family had been keeping up this ruse since 1969.[35][36] However, according to New York Times organized crime reporter Selwyn Raab, this would not have jeopardized Salerno's conviction at the Commission Trial or his 100-year sentence. In his book, Five Families, Raab noted that Salerno had been tried and convicted for specific criminal acts, not for being the Genovese boss.[37]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Raab, p. 273
  2. ^ Stengel, Richard. Stengel, Richard (June 24, 2001). "The Passionate Prosecutor". Time. Archived from the original on December 4, 2007. Retrieved 2006-11-15. Time Magazine online, posted June 24, 2001.
  3. ^ a b "COLOMBO JURY HEARS TAPE OF '83 CONVERSATION ABOUT PAYMENTS". nytimes.com. December 21, 1985. Archived from the original on December 20, 2019. Retrieved December 20, 2019.
  4. ^ a b director, from the New York State Organized Crime Task Force ; Ronald Goldstock (1990). Corruption and racketeering in the New York City construction industry : final report to Governor Mario M. Cuomo. New York: New York University Press. p. 79. ISBN 0-8147-3034-5.
  5. ^ a b Lubasch, Arnold H (November 20, 1986). "U.S. Jury Convicts Eight as Members of Mob Commission". The New York Times. Archived from the original on August 20, 2012. Retrieved October 13, 2011.
  6. ^ "United States v. Local 6A, Cement & Concrete Workers, 663 F. Supp. 192 (S.D.N.Y. 1986)". Archived from the original on 2019-12-20. Retrieved 2019-12-20.
  7. ^ Lubasch, Anrold H. (March 22, 1986). "Reputed Mob Leader Among 15 Indicted on Racketeering Counts". New York Times. Archived from the original on January 5, 2018. Retrieved July 22, 2017.
  8. ^ a b Raab, Selwyn (2005). Five families : the rise, decline, and resurgence of America's most powerful Mafia empires (1st ed.). New York: Thomas Dunne Books. ISBN 0-312-30094-8. avellino.
  9. ^ "TWO ON MOB TRIAL TAPE SAY TO KILL DRUG SELLERS". nytimes.com. September 23, 1986. Archived from the original on December 20, 2019. Retrieved December 20, 2019.
  10. ^ Feuer, Alan (September 1, 2000). "Anthony Corallo, Mob Boss, Dies in Federal Prison at 87". New York Times. Archived from the original on 16 December 2013. Retrieved 30 November 2011.
  11. ^ a b Lubasch, Arnold H. (February 27, 1985). "U.s. Indictment Says 9 Governed New York Mafia". Archived from the original on December 19, 2019. Retrieved December 19, 2019 – via NYTimes.com.
  12. ^ a b "11 Plead Not Guilty to Ruling Organized Crime in New York". The New York Times. July 2, 1985. Archived from the original on March 30, 2014. Retrieved October 19, 2011.
  13. ^ a b "JUDGE SENTENCES 8 MAFIA LEADERS TO PRISON TERMS". nyimes.com. January 14, 1987. Archived from the original on March 6, 2016.
  14. ^ Blumenthal, Ralph (December 4, 1985). "ANIELLO DELLACROCE DIES AGE 71; REPUTED CRIME-GROUP FIGURE". New York Times. Archived from the original on 22 May 2013. Retrieved 19 December 2011.
  15. ^ "FBI fears murder of Castellano may ignite war for mob control". The Day. (New London, Connecticut). Associated Press. December 17, 1985. p. A1.
  16. ^ Sullivan, John (October 25, 2007). "Crime Bosses Considered Hit on Giuliani". The New York Times. Archived from the original on January 19, 2012. Retrieved October 19, 2011.
  17. ^ DeStefano, Anthony M. (2008). King of the godfathers (Trade paperback ed. (updated). ed.). New York: Citadel Press/Kensington Publishing. p. 15. ISBN 978-0-8065-2874-8.
  18. ^ "Fact file: Who is Joe Pistone – a.k.a. Donnie Brasco?". globalnews.ca. September 24, 2012. Archived from the original on November 12, 2019. Retrieved January 1, 2020.
  19. ^ Raab, p. 291.
  20. ^ Raab, pp. 291-292.
  21. ^ Raab, p. 292
  22. ^ Margot Hornblower (September 19, 1986). "Mafia 'Commission' Trial Begins in New York". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on February 29, 2020. Retrieved February 29, 2020.
  23. ^ Lubasch, Arnold H. (January 14, 1987). "Judge Sentences 8 Mafia Leaders to Prison Terms". The New York Times. Archived from the original on April 20, 2012. Retrieved October 13, 2011.
  24. ^ Federal Government's Use of Trusteeships Under the RICO Statute. 4. United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on Governmental Affairs. Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. 1989.
  25. ^ Dao, James (July 29, 1992). "Anthony (Fat Tony) Salerno, 80, A Top Crime Boss, Dies in Prison". New York Times. Archived from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved July 22, 2017.
  26. ^ Feuer, Alan (September 1, 2000). "Anthony Corallo, Mob Boss, Dies in Federal Prison at 87". New York Times. Archived from the original on 2 October 2013. Retrieved 4 December 2011.
  27. ^ "Christopher Furnari". Staten Island Advance. Retrieved 11 August 2018.
  28. ^ "Legendary New York Mob Boss Carmine Persico, Head of Colombo Family, Dead at Age 85". nbcnewyork.com. 7 March 2019. Archived from the original on 30 March 2019. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
  29. ^ "Gennaro Langella Obituary - Staten Island, New York". March 4, 2016. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved December 20, 2019.
  30. ^ "Man Tied to Crime Family Is Shot to Death in Queens" Archived 2017-11-08 at the Wayback Machine By GEORGE JAMES New York Times October 22, 1993
  31. ^ "Mob Soldier Faces a Return To Jail for Parole Violations". nytimes.com. July 18, 2001. Archived from the original on November 2, 2009.
  32. ^ John Marzulli (2007-08-01). "Pretty quickly, Gorgeous found guilty in '01 slay". New York Daily News. Archived from the original on 2015-03-28. Retrieved 2012-01-29.
  33. ^ "'Vinny Gorgeous' guilty of murder". UPI.com. United Press International. 2007-08-01. Archived from the original on June 8, 2011. Retrieved March 22, 2011.
  34. ^ "Four in Bonanno Family Plead Guilty in Murders" Archived 2018-02-21 at the Wayback Machine By TRYMAINE LEE New York Times August 7, 2008
  35. ^ Raab, pp. 556-557.
  36. ^ "MAJOR MAFIA LEADER TURNS INFORMER, SECRETLY RECORDING MEETINGS OF MOB" Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine By ARNOLD H. LUBASCH New York Times March 21, 1987
  37. ^ Raab, p. 309-310

Further readingEdit

  • The Five Families by Selwyn Raab
  • The Mafia Encyclopedia by Carl Sifakis
  • The Sixth Family by Adrian Humphreys and Lee Lamothe
  • The Last Godfather by Simon Crittle
  • DeStefano, Anthony. The Last Godfather: Joey Massino & the Fall of the Bonanno Crime Family. California: Citadel, 2006.
  • Pistone, Joseph D.; & Brandt, Charles (2007). Donnie Brasco: Unfinished Business, Running Press. ISBN 0-7624-2707-8.

External linksEdit

  • Magnuson, Ed. Magnuson, Ed (June 24, 2001). "Hitting the Mafia". Time. Retrieved 2006-11-15. Time.com January 24, 2001.