The 'On The Waterfront' TrialsPart One: The First Trial Begins in Brooklyn Federal Court
By James Ridgway de Szigethy
Marlon Brando's place in Thespian history is assured by his Oscar-winning performances in two films dealing with the American Mafia; 1954's ON THE WATERFRONT and 1972's THE GODFATHER. In ON THE WATERFRONT, Brando portrayed a boxer who "coulda been a Contender!" had he not accepted Mafia bribes to take a dive in an important fight. This movie was one of the most shocking of its decade, exposing to America the pervasive corruption by the Mafia of Labor Unions, in this case the International Longshoremen's Union. ON THE WATERFRONT was based on the rampant corruption of Local 1814 of the ILU, and now, a half-century later, the Feds in Brooklyn are going after the ILU in not one but two Mafia trials this year. Under indictment are members of the Gotti family of the Gambino Mafia Family and the Gigante family of the Genovese Mafia Family, the two most powerful of the American Mafia.
According to Tim Dirks of Greatest Films, which is regarded as one of the best sources of film reviews, information, and history on-line, (www.filmsite.org), ON THE WATERFRONT began as a series of exposés entitled ‘Crime on the Waterfront’ written by Pulitzer prize winner Malcolm Johnson of the New York Sun. This sensational series in 1949 helped set the stage for the televised hearings in 1951 led by U. S. Senator Estes Kefauver that investigated the Mafia and its control of the American Labor movement. With the attention of the American people focused on this growing problem of the victimization of working people by their Unions, Hollywood Director Elia Kazan, along with writer Budd Schulberg then developed the screenplay based on Johnson’s series that was turned into the acclaimed motion picture.
Over two generations later, the Feds in Brooklyn are now going after Local 1814 and the ILU in two trials that will likely capture the attention of both the American public and Hollywood. The first trial, which has just begun with the Jury selection process, is scheduled to feature an international movie star as a Prosecution Witness, action film star Steven Seagal. Indicted last Summer were Frank "Red" Scollo, President of Local 1814 of the ILU, Peter Gotti and Richard Gotti, two brothers of the late Gambino Family Godfather John Gotti, Gotti’s nephew Richard Gotti, Hollywood film Producer Julius Nasso, his brother Vincent Nasso, Gambino Captain Anthony "Sonny" Ciccone, and 10 others on charges including racketeering, extortion, loan sharking, money laundering, misuse of Union Health Care Plan funds, a kickback scheme regarding the Participants in the Union’s Prescription Drug Plan, and the operation of illegal gambling operations. The 68 Count indictment was the result of a joint investigation by the U. S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn, the New York State Attorney General’s Office, the FBI, the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, the U. S. Department of Labor, the District Attorney’s Office of Richmond County, and the NYPD.
The second ‘On the Waterfront’ trial will feature another alleged ‘actor,’ Genovese Family Godfather Vinnie "The Chin" Gigante, who is accused of Obstruction of Justice by "acting crazy" for many years as a means of avoiding prosecution by the Feds. Federal Prosecutors will play a tape of Gigante phoning his son Andrew on 9/11 from the Federal prison in Texas where Gigante was sent after his 1997 racketeering conviction. Like all Americans, Gigante was horrified by the terrorist attacks and was concerned about the safety of his children. When the "Oddfather" learned that all of his children were safe, Gigante’s concerns turned to the children of other Americans. On the tape, Gigante asks his son if there were any children killed in the attacks and Andrew replies that there were in fact children on the hijacked planes. "I will pray for them!" Gigante replies.
The tape of this conversation shows that Gigante, despite being a convicted leader of a criminal enterprise, is nevertheless a patriotic American who is religious and concerned about the welfare of children. The tape also, the Feds will claim, will prove that Gigante is not mentally ill, but rather ‘crazy like a fox,’ who fooled mental health professionals for years by pretending to be crazy to avoid prosecution.
The theme of Mafia figures and mental illness has in recent years, in cases of ‘Art imitating Life,’ been explored by the popular HBO series THE SOPRANOS, as well as the Robert DiNero Hollywood films "Analyze This!" and the current sequel "Analyze That!"
Indicted along with "Chin" are his son Andrew Gigante, an ILU Labor leader, Ernest Muscarella, the alleged Acting Boss of the Genovese Family, Captain "Chuckie" Tuzzo, "Mickey" Ragusa, "Barney" Bellomo, Thomas Cafaro, and "Patty" Falcetti. Charges include racketeering, misuse of Union Pension and Welfare Benefit funds, a "pump and dump" stock fraud scheme involving a Gold mining operation, and the extortion of businesses in New York, New Jersey, and Florida through the Mafia’s control of the International Longshoremen’s Union. Falcetti is also accused of bribing officers of Local 32 B/J of the Service Employees International Union.
The Justice Department indictment in the "Red" Scollo case details the troubled history of the Local Union that was the inspiration for the movie ON THE WATERFRONT. In 1979 Anthony Scotto and Anthony Anastasio, the President and Vice-President of Local 1814 ILU were convicted of racketeering acts involving the Union and the Gambino Family. A decade later the Feds brought a civil racketeering case against "Red" Scollo, "Sonny" Ciccone, and other Associates of the Gambino Family and Local 1814 ILU. As a result of this case, Scollo and Ciccone were prohibited from associating with members of organized crime. This Decree laid the groundwork for the legal justification for the investigation that led to the indictments last year.
In the Federal indictments, Hollywood Film Producer Julius Nasso and his Associates are accused of a scheme to extort hundreds of thousands of dollars from Steven Seagal. Seagal testified before the Grand Jury in regards to the alleged extortion just a couple of months after Nasso, a former Producer of his movies, filed a $60 lawsuit against Seagal, alleging Seagal backed out of a deal to produce 4 more motion pictures with him.
To many observers of this case, the bizarre events that have transpired since these indictments were handed down would rival any plot line in a typical Steven Seagal motion picture. Just weeks after the Federal charges, two reporters, Anita Busch of the Los Angeles Times and Ned Zeman of Vanity Fair Magazine lodged complaints with law enforcement officials that they were being threatened by persons unknown as they pursued their investigations of Seagal and his association with members of the American Mafia. Zeman then published a scathing indictment of Seagal in Vanity Fair with the help of Seagal’s ‘nemesis,’ investigative reporter John Connally, a retired NYPD Detective who has written extensively about Seagal in SPY and PENTHOUSE Magazines. In the Vanity Fair article Zeman and Connally detailed allegations that Seagal mistreated women and derided him for his public claims that he has worked for the Central Intelligence Agency and the fact that his waistline has expanded in recent years while his hairline has receded.
Seagal has offered no public corroboration of his alleged work for the CIA, but it should be noted that Seagal counts as his closest advisor one of the U. S. Intelligence Community’s most prized assets in the campaign against Communist China, the Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibet’s Bhuddist population, a religion that Seagal is an active practitioner of. The Vanity Fair article also noted that Seagal, unlike his former business partner Julius Nasso, has not been charged with any crime. Seagal previously filed a Defamation lawsuit against Connally, which was later dropped.
However, the Vanity Fair article alleges that Seagal sought to replace Julius Nasso as the Producer of his future movies with Danny Provenzano, a great-nephew of the late Teamsters Union Boss "Tony Pro" Provenzano, who has been identified by the FBI as one of the corrupt Union Officers responsible for the abduction and murder of former Teamsters Union President Jimmy Hoffa. After the Vanity Fair article was published, Danny Provenzano went on national television to make the contradictory statements that there was no such thing as the ‘Italian Mafia’ while at the same time promoting the new Hollywood motion picture he wrote, directed, and starred in, ‘THIS THING OF OURS,’ a film about the new generation of Mafia Associates. ‘This Thing of Ours’ is an English translation of the Italian ‘La Cosa Nostra,’ a reference invoked by members of the Mafia when speaking with acknowledged members of their own Mafia Families. Danny Provenzano recently pleaded guilty to Federal racketeering charges as an Associate of the Genovese Mafia Family.
In October, an employee of a private investigator allegedly hired by Steven Seagal was arrested in Los Angeles, charged with threatening L. A. Times Reporter Anita Busch. Alexander Proctor was charged after Busch reported to the authorities that someone smashed her car windshield and placed a dead fish and a rose upon it with a note stating: "Stop." The Judge in this case, citing Proctor’s previous convictions on drug and burglary charges, denied Proctor Bail.
Proctor was an employee of ‘Private Investigator to the Stars’ Anthony Pellicano. While investigating the crimes committed by Proctor, authorities found during a search of Pellicano’s office illegal C-4 plastic explosives and other weapons. Pellicano was charged in November and released on $400,000 Bond.
Seagal’s attorney Martin Pollner has denied Seagal was involved in a scheme with Pellicano or Proctor to intimidate reporters Busch and Zeman, telling the Media that the allegations against Seagal are part of "an ongoing conspiracy to intimidate and discredit Mr. Seagal and reads like a bad screenplay!" Proctor has changed his story more than once as to whom he was working for in the intimidation of Anita Busch. In December, Brooklyn Federal Judge Frederic Block, who is handling the Nasso case, blasted the criminal attorney for Julius Nasso for issuing phony subpoenas to potential witnesses in the case as a clear means of intimidation. "I am telling you now that all of this is to stop immediately!" the New York Post quoted Judge Block in his lecture to Nasso’s attorney.
As Jury selection began, criminal attorney Gerald Shargel asked Judge Block to release his client Peter Gotti on Bail because his mental state has allegedly deteriorated during the past few months as a result of being held in Solitary Confinement. Shargel has previously represented John "Junior" Gotti, his father John Gotti, and many other Mafia Associates. Shargel also successfully defended former Congressman James Traficant’s private investigator Juval Aviv on Federal fraud charges. Aviv gained notoriety in 1989 when Traficant used his claims that the CIA was responsible for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. Those claims have now been disproved, a Libyan terrorist has been convicted for the bombing, and Traficant himself is in a Federal prison, having been convicted on Federal racketeering charges last year.
As the current ‘On the Waterfront’ trial gets underway a new development has been reported by the acclaimed website THE SMOKING GUN; just a couple weeks ago, Steven Seagal filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court alleging he is the victim of a plot by members of the German Mafia to extort money from him. The lawsuit concerns a house in Berlin which Seagal rented in 2001 while filming his latest motion picture HALF PAST DEAD. Seagal claims German Mobsters tried to extort money from him by falsely claiming his film crew damaged the property. By his own account, Seagal has now run afoul of organized crime figures in four countries; Japan, the United States, Canada, and now, Germany.
Should Seagal testify in the ‘On the Waterfront Trial’ and come across as a credible Prosecution Witness, and, should Julius Nasso and his alleged accomplices be convicted, Seagal could then write a screenplay about this Court case and turn it into a motion picture, presumably starring himself as himself. It would be, after all, the story of a tough-guy movie star, whom, with the help of his spiritual advisor, the Dalai Lama, takes on the Mob – and wins!
Stay tuned to this one!
J. R. de Szigethy
TO BE CONTINUED
James Ridgway de Szigethy can be reached at JAMESDE@prodigy.net.
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