Pizza Connection Trial

The Pizza Connection Trial (in full, United States v. Badalamenti et al.)[1] was a criminal trial against the Sicilian and American mafias that took place in New York City, U.S. The trial centered on a number of independently owned pizza parlor fronts used to distribute drugs, which had imported US$1.65 billion of heroin from Southwest Asia to the United States between 1975 and 1984.[2] The trial lasted from September 30, 1985, to March 2, 1987, ending with 18 convictions, with sentences handed down on June 22, 1987.[2] Lasting about 17 months, it was the longest trial in the judicial history of the United States.[3][4][5][6]

BackgroundEdit

The trial centered on a Mafia-run enterprise that involved processing heroin in Sicily from morphine purchased from Turkey and Southwest Asia, as well as cocaine from South America, for final distribution of the drugs in the United States through independently owned pizza parlor fronts as the money was laundered through several banks and brokerages in the United States and overseas.[7] The enterprise was estimated to have imported US$1.65 billion of heroin to the United States, namely the Northeast and the Midwest, between 1975 and 1984.[2][7]

For about a year, the prosecution, consisting of Richard A. Martin, Louis J. Freeh, Robert Stewart, Robert B. Bucknam and Andrew C. McCarthy, gathered hundreds of witnesses, wiretaps, and thousands of documents, which cost several million dollars to complete.[5] Arrests of conspirators were coordinated in the United States, Italy, Switzerland and Spain on April 8, 1984, following the capture of Gaetano Badalamenti and his son Vito Badalamenti together with Pietro Alfano in Madrid, Spain;[2][8] on November 15, they were extradited to the United States.[9] Badalamenti was formerly on the Sicilian Mafia Commission.[10][11] A day later, the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested nearly 30 people in New York City, seizing weapons and drugs.[7]

 
Turncoat witness Tommaso Buscetta (in sunglasses) is led into court at the "Maxi Trial", circa 1986.

One of these witnesses was Sicilian Mafia pentito Tommaso Buscetta, who had already revealed information to Italian magistrate Giovanni Falcone to prepare for the Maxi Trial, was extradited in December 1984 to the United States where he received a new identity from the government, American citizenship and placement in the Witness Protection Program in exchange for new revelations against the American Mafia in the Pizza Connection Trial.[12][13][3][14]

Another witness was Sicilian Mafia pentito Salvatore Contorno, who followed the example of Buscetta, and began collaborating in October 1984, and also testified at the Maxi Trial.[15][16][17]

Former undercover FBI agent Joseph D. Pistone, who infiltrated the Bonanno crime family between 1976 and 1981 using the alias "Donnie Brasco", also testified at the trial.[18]

TrialEdit

DefendantsEdit

Out of those arrested, 22 Sicilian-born defendants stood in the trial that began on September 30, 1985:[19][2][7]

  • Gaetano Badalamenti
  • Salvatore Catalano
  • Joseph Lamberti
  • Salvatore Mazzurco
  • Salvatore Lamberti
  • Giovanni Ligammari
  • Baldassare Amato
  • Vincenzo Randazzo
  • Pietro Alfano
  • Emmanuele Palazzolo
  • Samuel Evola
  • Vito Badalamenti
  • Giuseppe Trupiano
  • Giuseppe Vitale
  • Lorenzo DeVardo
  • Giovanni Cangialosi
  • Salvatore Salamone
  • Salvatore Greco
  • Frank Castronovo
  • Gaetano Mazzara
  • Francesco Polizzi
  • Filippo Casamento

DevelopmentsEdit

Buscetta provided no direct connection between the defendants and drugs.[20] Contorno testified that defendant Frank Castronovo, cousin of Carlo Castronovo in Sicily, used pizza parlors as fronts in the United States.[20] Contorno also testified that he had a meeting in 1980 in Bagheria about heroin and had seen Castronovo there with three other defendants—Salvatore Catalano, Gaetano Mazzara, and Salvatore Greco.[20] Pistone testified that saying he was told that a Bonanno faction headed by Dominick Napolitano had formed an alliance with a Sicilian faction, which involved Salvatore Catalano.[18]

VerdictsEdit

Over the course of the trial, Gaetano Mazzara was murdered and Pietro Alfano was seriously wounded,[21] and on March 2, 1987, two of the 22 men pleaded guilty to lesser currency violations,[7][5][6] while the remaining 18 of the 19 defendants were convicted of running an international ring that distributed tons of drugs.[5][6] Vito Badalamenti was the only defendant acquitted.[22][23] Sentences were handed down on by judge Pierre Leval on June 22, 1987.[21] Five of the defendants were sentenced to 45 years in prison, while the 13 other defendants faced maximum sentences between 15 to 40 years in prison for their convictions on charges of participating in the drug conspiracy.[21] Gaetano Badalamenti was sentenced to 45 years in prison and fined $125,000, and since he was extradited from Spain with the provision that he serve no more more than 30 years, he was ordered to be released after 30 years should he live that long.[23][21] Salvatore Catalano was also was sentenced to 45 years in prison but fined $1.15 million and ordered to pay $1 million in restitution; Salvatore Mazzurco was sentenced to 35 years in prison and fined $50,000 and ordered to pay $500,000 in restitution; Salvatore Lamberti was sentenced to 20 years in prison and fined $50,000 and ordered to pay $500,000 in restitution; and Giuseppe Lamberti was sentenced to 35 years in prison and fined $150,000 and ordered to pay $500,000 in restitution.[21]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "United States v. Badalamenti, 614 F. Supp. 194 (S.D.N.Y. 1985)". Justia Law. Archived from the original on 2017-07-17. Retrieved 2020-04-20.
  2. ^ a b c d e Gaetano Badalamenti, 80; Led Pizza Connection Ring, The New York Times (Obituary), May 3, 2004
  3. ^ a b "LA FINE DI ' PIZZA CONNECTION' - la Repubblica.it". Archivio - la Repubblica.it. Archived from the original on 2019-08-11. Retrieved 2020-04-20.
  4. ^ Blumenthal, Ralph (July 28, 1998). "Acquitted in 'Pizza Connection' Trial, Man Remains in Prison". New York Times. Archived from the original on February 15, 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-30.
  5. ^ a b c d Lubasch, Arnold H. (March 3, 1987). "17 Found Guilty in 'Pizza' Trial of a Drug Ring". Archived from the original on April 9, 2020. Retrieved April 20, 2020 – via NYTimes.com.
  6. ^ a b c Hornblower, Margot (March 3, 1987). "18 GUILTY IN 'PIZZA CONNECTION' TRIAL" – via www.washingtonpost.com.
  7. ^ a b c d e "The Pizza Connection". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Archived from the original on 2019-12-17. Retrieved 2020-04-20.
  8. ^ "GAETANO BADALAMENTI SI RIFIUTA DI RISPONDERE AL MAGISTRATO - la Repubblica.it". Archivio - la Repubblica.it. Archived from the original on 2019-11-01. Retrieved 2020-04-20.
  9. ^ http://www.uonna.it/impastato-cronologia.htm Archived 2017-04-13 at the Wayback Machine impastato-cronologia le vicende del processo
  10. ^ Dickie, Cosa Nostra, p. 337-38
  11. ^ Sterling, Octopus, p. 112
  12. ^ "BUSCETTA: ' ONORE AL GRANDE EX NEMICO' - la Repubblica.it". Archivio - la Repubblica.it (in Italian). Archived from the original on 2019-09-23. Retrieved 2020-04-20.
  13. ^ "CITTADINANZA AMERICANA AL PENTITO BUSCETTA - la Repubblica.it". Archivio - la Repubblica.it (in Italian). Archived from the original on 2019-06-04. Retrieved 2020-04-20.
  14. ^ "VECCHI E NUOVI PEZZI DA NOVANTA - la Repubblica.it". Archivio - la Repubblica.it (in Italian). Archived from the original on 2019-09-23. Retrieved 2020-04-20.
  15. ^ Stille, Excellent Cadavers, p. 147
  16. ^ Stille, Excellent Cadavers, pp. 130-32
  17. ^ Dickie, Cosa Nostra, p. 290
  18. ^ a b "AGENT TELLS ABOUT TENSION IN BONANNO GROUP". nytimes.com. February 9, 1986. Archived from the original on April 17, 2019. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
  19. ^ "United States v. Badalamenti, 626 F. Supp. 658 (S.D.N.Y. 1986)". Justia Law. Archived from the original on 2017-07-16. Retrieved 2020-04-20.
  20. ^ a b c Lubasch, Arnold H. (January 3, 1986). "Witness Tells of Invitation to Join 'Pizza Connection'". Archived from the original on May 24, 2015. Retrieved April 20, 2020 – via NYTimes.com.
  21. ^ a b c d e "Five of the top defendants in the 'pizza connection'..." UPI.
  22. ^ Acquitted in 'Pizza Connection' Trial, Man Remains in Prison Archived 2009-02-15 at the Wayback Machine, The New York Times, July 28, 1988
  23. ^ a b "'PIZZA CONNECTION' BADALAMENTI CONDANNATO A 45 ANNI - la Repubblica.it". Archivio - la Repubblica.it. Archived from the original on 2019-11-01. Retrieved 2020-04-20.

BibliographyEdit