IN THIS ISSUE|
· "The Chin" returns to "The Big Apple"
· Gigante’s First Trial – Revisited (Part 1)
· Short Takes
· This Week in Mob History
· Trials and Tribulations
"The Chin" returns to "The Big Apple"
I don’t know what you’re talking about," muttered Vincent "the Chin" Gigante to Judge I. Leo Glasser in a Brooklyn Federal Courtroom on February 7. The "Oddfather," now 74 years old, re-enacted what federal prosecutors call the "crazy act" and shuffled into the courthouse looking dazed and confused.
Gigante’s defense attorney, Gary Greenwald, claimed his client was "not in a position to enter a guilty plea or not guilty plea at this time because of his state of mind."
Prosecutors claim Gigante’s court demeanor is in stark contrast to videotape made of him at the federal prison hospital in Fort Worth, Texas. The feds claim those tapes reveal "a physically vigorous man in animated conversation" with family and members of the prison staff.
Gigante was in New York to be arraigned on charges of running the Genovese Crime Family from his prison cell using his son Andrew, who was also indicted, as a liaison between mob leader and mob.
Attorney Greenwald claimed Gigante is suffering from heart problems and dementia. "The bottom line is we’re talking about a frail looking man who is sick, who is physically sick and we believe mentally sick." Greenwald’s claims were backed up by Dr. Bernard Wechsler, a noted cardiologist who was part of the defense team during the 1997 trial, in which the convicted Gigante was given 12 years.
Wechsler explained Gigante’s metamorphous from a slobbering, wheelchair bound wreck during his court appearance in 1997 to his more lucid showing in court ten days ago by saying "He’s not drugged anymore. He’s not on Thorazine, he’s not on Valium."
Here’s betting that Greenwald made sure Gigante was lucid when he announced his fee to his "mentally sick" mob client.
Vincent "the Chin" Gigante’s recent arraignment on February 7 hearkens AmericanMafia.com to revisit the old gangster’s first trial which took place over 40 years ago.
Late on the night of May 2, 1957 gangland’s most famous non-hit took place. New York City crime boss Frank Costello was returning to his Central Park West apartment, the Majestic, when he was followed into the lobby by Vincent L. Gigante, a hulking 29 year-old hood.
"This is for you, Frank," shouted Gigante, an ex-boxer who had racked up a less-than-stellar criminal career, which began with an arrest for receiving stolen property in March 1945.
Nicknamed "the Chin," Gigante’s early warning of an impending death shot caused Costello to turn around to see who was addressing him. As he turned Gigante fired and the bullet ended up only creasing Costello’s scalp. Gigante, either confident that his marksmanship had achieved the desired result or because he was scared, quickly turned and exited the apartment lobby passing doorman Norval Keith, whom he had brushed past on the way in.
During the ensuing investigation Costello claimed he didn’t know who shot him and refused to cooperate with investigators. Costello, known as "The Prime Minister of the Underworld," was embarrassed that police had searched his pockets and found gambling receipt information from the Tropicana casino in Las Vegas. When he refused to answer questions regarding the confiscated note before the grand jury he was jailed for 30 days.
Meanwhile, based on a description provided by the doorman, police began looking for Gigante. On June 14 the New York Police Department released a "stop card," a memorandum exchanged between police departments and other law enforcement agencies to notify them if Gigante appeared in their jurisdiction. On July 17, the police revealed publicly for the first time that they were looking for Gigante to question him about the shooting.
Police Deputy Commissioner Walter Arm downplayed the department’s interest in locating Gigante stating he "is one of the men we would like to talk to and is only another lead we have been checking. At this time we don’t know how good, how bad, how hot or how cold Gigante is."
Detectives were keeping a constant watch on Gigante’s Bleecker Street home in Greenwich Village, where he lived with his wife Olympia and four children. On August 12 they stopped a car containing Gigante’s brothers – Mario and Ralph. Mario, who was driving, admitted his driver’s license had been suspended. When one of the detectives attempted to search him, Mario slugged him and he was immediately subdued by three other detectives and arrested. A search of the automobile revealed a hatchet and a baseball bat. Mario Gigante was arrested and charged with felonious assault, carrying a concealed weapon, driving without a license and vagrancy. Ralph was charged with vagrancy.
A week later, on August 19, 1957, Vincent Gigante walked into the West 54th Street Station with his lawyer, David M. Markowitz, and surrendered to police. The newspapers reported that Gigante was, "Chewing gum and giving every sign of jauntiness, he was smiling broadly when he was booked." One New York Times photograph had Gigante looking directly into the camera with a wide grin on his face. This is in contrast the reaction of most mobsters who when arrested hid their faces, looked away or placed coats over their heads.
At the station Gigante remained silent while his lawyer told officials that he had brought his client in because, "Mr. Gigante had learned he was wanted for questioning in the attack on Costello." The attorney left and a parade of six witnesses, including Costello, were brought to the station to view Gigante. Ten hours after entering the station Gigante was booked on a charge of attempted murder.
The following day Gigante was arraigned before Magistrate Reuben Levy. Assistant District Attorney Irving Lang asked the judge that bail be set at $150,000. Gigante’s attorney Markowitz balked at this claiming, "There is nothing here more than an assault – an attempted assault. We are prepared for an immediate hearing and are opposed to any adjournment. Just because a person is in the public eye doesn’t make it an attempted murder. They must convince Your Honor that this was an attempted murder."
When Lang asked for a two-week adjournment, Markowitz demanded that a hearing be held within 48 hours. As for the $150,000 bail, which Markowitz considered ridiculous, the lawyer stated he would rather see no bail set than one which was "completely out of line." Judge Levy granted the lawyer’s request, no bail was offered and Gigante was marched back to his jail cell.
On August 21 New York State Supreme Court Justice George Tilzer reviewed the bail request. Tilzer obviously agreed with Prosecutor Lang. He determined that, "Gigante has shown an open defiance of law and order. This is a serious matter. If this case came before me without a [bail] recommendation I would have set bail for in excess of $150,000." That same day, it was announced the case would go before a New York County grand jury with Costello and others testifying.
It was also announced that day that charges of carrying a concealed weapon and vagrancy were dismissed against Mario Gigante. The charge of felonious assault was reduced to disorderly conduct. For attacking a New York City police detective Mario was fined $25.
The New York County grand jury listened to one hour of witness testimony before voting a "true bill" the following day that resulted in Gigante being indicted for attempted murder in the first degree. The indictment read in part:
"Vincent L. Gigante willfully, feloniously, and with deliberate and premeditated desire to effect the death of Frank Costello attempted to kill Frank Costello by shooting him with a pistol."
Gigante was formally arraigned for the attempted murder of Costello on August 24. The New York Times reported, "Gigante, a former small-time boxer and a laborer, appeared unconcerned with the proceedings, smiled to reporters and waived to relatives in the courtroom."
The following month Gigante had a new lawyer. Maurice Edelbaum was able to get a General Sessions judge to reduce the bail to $100,000. Relatives and friends of Gigante came up with the money. Gigante’s parents, Yolanda and Salvatore, paid a $3,000 bondsman’s fee and brother Pat and friends "placed … bankbooks and stock totaling a cash value of $117,000, with the bondsman." With family and friends posting the bond Edelbaum claimed this proved that "sinister forces" were not behind Gigante.
On September 18 Gigante walked out of jail a free man and was promptly re-arrested on a "scofflaw" charge for not paying ten traffic tickets. After being fined the full amount – $50 for each ticket – Gigante coughed up another $500 and was again released. His attorney told the judge his client "did not recall having received any of the tickets, but since he owned the vehicle involved "he would gladly pay."
Next Week: Gigante goes to trial and Costello testifies.
Las Vegas – Last week the Nevada Supreme Court blocked a lower court’s order that allowed for overdue payments to be seized from the cash cage of the Horseshoe casino. The past due owed to Fremont Street Experience, a real estate concern where the casino is located, totals almost $2 million. Lawyers for Binion’s Horseshoe claim that if the Clark County sheriff seizes the money the casino’s bankroll would drop below the state mandated minimum and put in jeopardy the Horseshoe’s ability to stay open. Meanwhile, last month a coin wholesale company in Orange County, California announced that Teddy Binion’s massive silver dollar collection, which it purchased, will go on sale to the public. The collection, containing over 100,000 coins, of which half are uncirculated, should bring in several million dollars. One coin, an 1878 piece minted in San Francisco, recently sold for $7,900.
New York – The 17-year marriage of Victoria Gotti and Carmine Agnello officially came to an end, but the financial battle rages on. The meager $17,500 that Victoria gets each month in child support won’t do according to Gotti’s lawyer Stephen Gassman. "We’re going to ask for a substantial increase," Gassman told a reporter. It was reported that friends of Victoria said her father was pleased that the divorce was final. There was no comment available from Agnello’s paramour, Debbie DiCarlo. The girlfriend, who had Carmine’s face tattooed above her hindquarters, is an ex-bookkeeper and is sure to keep tabs on what might be left of Agnello’s cash when he walks in nine years.
Philadelphia – Raymond "Long John" Martorano was buried last weekend after a memorial service at the Pennsylvania Burial Company on South Broad Street in Philadelphia. Forty family members and friends attended the service, which was by invitation only. The family decided to have private services after 3,000 people showed up for the funeral of Raymond W. Martorano, "Long John’s" grandson, who was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2001. While two brothers have been identified by investigators as suspects in the killing, authorities have yet to make an arrest.
Youngstown – I wanted to share a humorous story from the Traficant trial, which is going on in the federal courthouse in Cleveland. One of the many things that the congressman has groused about is a taped conversation of his late chief of staff, Charles O’Nesti. One of the FBI agents, that was present during which O’Nesti had admitted kicking back money to Traficant, admitted he brought the terminally ill man a fruit basket – paid for out of his own pocket. Traficant has made several references in the past and during the trial to this fruit basket.
I noticed that during opening statements that Traficant had his right index finger bandaged. Having read J. R. de Szigethy’s article last week, and knowing that J. R. thinks the congressman personally did away with Charles Carabbia, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to ask the congressman, "What happened to your trigger finger?"
"Aw, why did you have to put it that way," he groaned.
I smiled and said, "Okay, what happened to your index finger?"
Traficant began to tell me how he cut it on a table saw. He claimed with everything on his mind lately he had been distracted. As he was telling me this story, we were walking near two FBI agents, whom Traficant had just gotten Judge Leslie Brooks Wells to evict from the courtroom.
Noticing the pair, Traficant said to me, loud enough for the agents to hear, that he had cut his finger while "making a fruit basket for the FBI
February 18, 1953 – Charlie Williams, according to our Tampa man Scott Deitche, was a numbers kingpin who "was gunned down while coming out of a barbershop" on 16th Street in Ybor City. Williams was an alleged associate and partner of Santo Trafficante, Jr., and controlled gambling and bolito in the St. Petersburg area.
February 18, 1973 – Frank Costello was known as the "Prime Minister of the Underworld," due to his desire to settle disputes by negotiation rather than by the gun. Costello took over what eventually became the Genovese Family in 1935 and was either boss or acting boss for the next 22 years. Known as a political fixer and a gambler Costello retired from the family after relinquishing control to Vito Genovese in 1957. Costello died in Doctors Hospital in New York City of a heart attack. At the time he was in discussions with writer Peter Maas about doing a book about his life.
February 18, 1979 – Richard Eaton was in the process of ripping off Irish mobster James Burke during the time "Jimmy the Gent" was involved in a murder spree, eliminating his cohorts involved in the Lufthansa heist. Burke’s revenge left Eaton’s frozen body lying bound and gagged on the floor of an abandoned tractor-trailer in an area of Brooklyn known as the "Pit." Children playing in a garbage filled lot discovered the corpse. Henry Hill’s testimony regarding this murder put the already incarcerated Burke away for life. See my story at http://www.crimelibrary.com/gangsters3/lufthansa/
February 19, 1942 – Frank "the Dasher" Abbandando and Harry "Happy" Maione, two killers from the infamous Murder, Inc. gang, went to their deaths in Sing Sing’s electric chair for the murder of Whitey Rudnick. Abe "Kid Twist" Reles testified against the two during their 1941 trial.
February 20, 1930 – Carlo T. Piranio, according to Organized Crime: 25 Years After Valachi, was the leader of the Dallas, Texas LCN family. He died of natural causes and was succeeded by his brother Joseph T. Piranio.
February 20, 1938 – Ciro Terranova was known as the "Artichoke King" and at one time was considered one of the most prominent mob leaders in New York City. His fortunes changed after the Castellammarese War and the once mighty gangster passed away at the relatively young age of 49, paralyzed and penniless. See my column http://www.americanmafia.com/Allan_May_10-11-99.html
February 21, 1916 – Frank Lombardi backed the wrong horse in the February 1916 election for the Democratic alderman’s nomination between James P. Bowler and Anthony D’Andrea. Lombardi, a Bowler supporter and a political leader in the 19th Ward, was killed in a Taylor Street saloon. Lombardi was behind the bar serving drinks at the time. His 18 year-old daughter, Annie, told authorities that her father was murdered, "because he had dared to head a determined fight against D’Andrea, who had lorded it over a fear stricken ward." See my column http://www.americanmafia.com/Allan_May_9-25-00.html
February 21, 1922 – Jacob B. Mackler was a lawyer for the Hogan Gang in St. Louis during a time when they were at war with the Egan Rats Gang. After surviving one murder attempt, Mackler was not as fortunate the second time around when fifteen shots were fired into his automobile on Twelfth Street killing him instantly. See my story http://www.americanmafia.com/Cities/St_Louis.html
February 21, 1956 – Jake "Greasy Thumb" Guzik was a long-time pimp and whoremaster in Chicago who rose to the highest levels of the Capone organization and was considered the financial brains behind the Chicago Outfit. The closeness in the relationship between Al Capone and Guzik could be seen after Guzik had his face bloodied by a small-time hood named Joseph Howard. Capone responded by killing Howard personally. Guzik died of a heart attack in one of his favorite haunts, St. Hubert’s English Grill at the age of 69.
February 22, 1985 – Dominick A. "Mickey Diamond" DeVito, according to George Anastasia, was the one-time mentor of Nicholas Caramandi. In the 1960s DeVito had a dispute with Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo. When Scarfo became boss in the early 1980s he got even on the old grudge. DeVito’s was shot in the head and his body was found stuffed in the trunk of his car on February 25, three days after his girlfriend reported him missing.
February 22, 1997 – Joseph "Joey Doves" Aiuppa began his career in the Chicago Outfit as the head of a goon squad in Cicero. By the 1970s he had risen to the number two position behind Anthony Accardo and was considered the acting boss of the Outfit. Aiuppa was convicted of skimming money from Las Vegas casino and died in prison at the age of 89.
February 23, 1935 – Frank Rio was a onetime bodyguard for Al Capone and considered a possible successor to the boss before his life ended from premature heart disease at the age of 35.
February 23, 1956 – Jack Dragna was the longest reigning boss of the Los Angeles Mafia ruling the family from 1932 until his death. Under Dragna the gang earned the nickname the "Mickey Mouse Mafia" due to ineffective leadership. Dragna was found dead in a hotel room. He died of natural causes.
February 24, 1945 – Nathan "Nate" Weisenberg was called the "King of the Slots" of Northeastern Ohio. Weisenberg may have been a figurehead in that position though, answering to members of the Mayfield Road Mob. It had been a long day for Weisenberg. He had been called to his slot machine warehouse just after 1:00 am that morning after a break-in. Weisenberg was on his way home and was shot to death in his car just before midnight. James Licavoli was the prime suspect in the murder but was never charged.
February 24, 1995 – Ralph Mazzuca was believed murdered by Philadelphia hood Roger Vella, a one-time driver for Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino. Mazzuca allegedly broke into Vella’s home and terrorized his parents and sister over a drug dispute. Mazzuca was shot in the head and body, dumped near the Food Distribution Center in South Philadelphia and set on fire.
February 24, 1981 – Joseph DeRose, Sr. was murdered by killers looking for his son Joseph DeRose, Jr. during the Mahoning Valley’s Carabbia / Naples War. While staking out the parent’s home one of the hitmen thought he saw the younger DeRose climb into a vehicle parked in the family driveway. He moved in quickly only to find the man behind the wheel was 61 year-old Joseph DeRose, Sr. The father had apparently gone out to rearrange the automobiles in the driveway. When DeRose, Sr. looked up the surprised would-be killer panicked. Perhaps worried about being identified, the hitman fired his shotgun point-blank into the elder DeRose’s chest – mortally wounding him. The intended victim, Joe DeRose, Jr., arrived two hours later.
AmericanMafia.com attempts to keep its audience advised of ongoing legal matters in the world of organized crime. New entries and addition to existing information will appear in RED.
Due to space constraints, the complete "Trials and Tribulations" listing will only be shown on the first Monday of each month. Weekly we will show the ones that are due to occur in the next 30 days and any new additions.
February 11, 2002 – Miami – Five members of the Trafficante Family go on trial for racketeering and money laundering. The key defendant in the case, John Mamone, pled guilty on January 16. Look for others to follow. AM.com contributor Scott Deitche will keep us posted on this one when it comes up.
February 2002 – Boston – Stephen "the Rifleman" Fleming is scheduled for trial this month. The co-Winter Hill Gang leader is charged with killing ten people.
March 11, 2002 – Chicago – Michael Spano, Sr., alleged mob boss of legendary Cicero, Illinois, goes on trial for attempting to bribe a high-ranking federal official to obtain a pardon or clemency for former Chicago Outfit boss Rocco Infelice in 1998. This trial was originally scheduled for January. AM.com would like to thank Chicago Tribune reporter Matt O’Connor for the update.
January 23, 2002 – Boston – Four men found guilty of involvement in an armored car heist will be sentenced. J. M. Lawrence of the Boston Herald informs AM.com that no new sentencing date yet for the men convicted in the Merlino case. Attorneys for the men have filed a flurry of post-trial motions seeking acquittals and U.S. District Court Judge Richard G. Stearns is reviewing them. Stearns last month did throw out the men's motion to return to general population.
February 15, 2002 – New York City – John "Porky" Zancocchio, a Bonanno Family soldier will be sentenced for his October 28 guilty plea to charges of loan sharking and tax evasion. This sentencing date has been pushed back from the original January 21 date. The new date was supplied to AM.com by Federal Judge Jack Weinstein’s office.
February 26, 2002 – Miami – Gambino Family members Anthony "Tony Pep" Trentacosta and Frederick Massaro and associate Ariel Hernandez will be sentenced for their December 14, 2001 convictions. The convictions ended a four-year probe into mob influence in Southern Florida.
March 1, 2002 – New York – Dominick "Little Dom" Curra will be sentenced for trying to sell fake artwork. Curra was at one time a "personal bookie" for "Dapper Don" John Gotti. He pled guilty in mid-trial on December 14, 2001. As of January 3, 2002 Curra is a fugitive having fled to Costa Rica on December 24, 2001.
March 1, 2002 – New York – Ralph Romano will be sentenced for his November 5, 2001 conviction in the murder of John Spensieri. The sentencing was originally scheduled for January 11.
May 17, 2002 – New York– Colombo Family underboss John "Jackie" DeRoss will be sentenced for his February 6 conviction on extortion charges.
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