IN THIS ISSUE|
· Traficant Trial – Body, Mind and Soul
· "Long John" Martorano - Revisited 2
· Short Takes
· This Week in Mob History
· Trials and Tribulations
Traficant Trial – Body, Mind and Soul
Barring some unforeseen action the trial of Mahoning Valley Congressman James A. Traficant, Jr. will commence today. It will be a classic match up of good vs. evil pitting the talents of the white-hatted Assistant US Attorney Craig S. Morford against the manipulative and charismatic Traficant. It will also be a battle of body, mind and soul.
Body! While hardly a prerequisite in a criminal court case it does make for an interesting match up and may give some insight as to how the two will approach the case. The six-foot three congressman is a former high school football legend in the Valley and went on to a successful career as a quarterback at the University of Pittsburgh. Like his long touchdown passes the congressman will be tossing around a lot of bullshit trying to win over the jury. The lean six-foot four Morford, while not muscular looking like Traficant, still looks like he can play small forward in any league. Like he does with his indictments watch for Morford to keep taking it inside to the congressman.
Mind! The congressman’s case is based solely on his ability to win over the jury, something he was successful at during his first trial. The jury selection is critical to his case. At his 1983 trial he was able to get the judge to include people from Mahoning and Trumbull Counties in the jury pool and Traficant, then Mahoning County sheriff, had a coupe that surprised even the judge. A Traficant sympathizer, who happened to be the city council president of Girard, a suburb of Youngstown in the Mahoning Valley, was the jury foreman. At Traficant’s second trial, a US Tax Court case in 1986 in which Morford represented the IRS, there was no jury. Traficant failed miserably even though he was up against the same testimony and evidence he faced in his first trial. In July 2001 Traficant served notice at a discovery hearing that he wanted to be present for every single step of the jury selection process. There’s no secret to his strategy.
Morford, described by Traficant, as being part of a team of "undefeated" and the "finest group of US Attorneys in America," has done his homework. He patiently piled up the indictments to bring down a corrupt political structure and Mafia faction that has plagued this area of the country for over 80 years. Traficant may brag that he is 1 and 0 against the government and that he’s the only individual to ever beat a RICO charge, but he’s 0 and 1 against Morford.
Soul! This is an easy one. Traficant doesn’t have one. Traficant has used his charm and talents to hoodwink the people of the Mahoning Valley for years into thinking he gives a damn about anything or anyone other than himself. He used his position as a representative of this country to cast stones at people knowing he could get away with it on the floor of Congress. He makes false accusations promising to back them up with affidavits that never materialize. In 2000 on a nationally televised news channel he told the country that US Attorney General Janet Reno was a lesbian and had an affair with a mobbed up hooker. The proof he promised was a good as all the promises he made his constituents - empty. He is considered a joke in Washington DC, but the joke transcends back to a financially strapped and devastated district with empty promises due to the fact that nobody wants to work with him. In the congressman’s eyes everyone who opposes him is a liar and a puppet of a corrupt government. A government that provides Traficant with a job and a lifestyle. Looking at the list of witnesses that will testify for the government it’s a roll call that includes many people that Traficant once called his friends. They are friends no longer, just liars out to save their own skins. In the two previous trials Traficant has ripped both judges – Ann Aldrich and John Williams – calling them names, like hanging judge, and claiming that they were out to get him. He filed motions to get them removed all in an effort to upset the flow of the trail. In Federal Judge Leslie Brooks Wells he has met his match.
Morford on the other hand has dedicated his life to the pursuit of justice in this country. Despite his successful efforts to clean the slime out of the Valley he has been called every foul name in the book by Traficant, who despite looking him in the eye and boasting "I want you" has done everything possible to have him removed from the case.
Here’s to hoping – no here’s to praying – that come the end of this trial Morford will be 2 and 0 against Traficant and the Valley will finally be rid of the parasite that has helped hold it down for the past 20 years.
Editors Note:Late in the day on Friday, February 1, Federal Judge Leslie Brooks Wells postponed the trial for one day. The same day two other federal judges rejected requests from Traficant to further delay the trial. On January 30 Traficant filed a $250 million lawsuit against the government. On Friday Federal Judge Peter Economus rejected the civil lawsuit citing "several flaws." For example the suit "lacks any factual allegations" and under civil rights law the plaintiff is required to show "harm due to race or class or some other identifiable group," which the congressman failed to show.
Raymond "Long John" Martorano and his son, George "Cowboy," blamed attorney Robert F. "Bobby" Simone for the younger Martorano’s life sentence on drug charges. Agents of the Drug Enforcement Agency indicted George with ten others in Miami.
The DEA had a lot of incriminating evidence on George; in addition several of his co-defendants pled out and agreed to testify against him. Facing an uphill battle Simone convinced his client to plead guilty. Simone said he had a good track record with the judge and hoped he would get a more lenient sentence for George than the 30 years the prosecutor was seeking.
George Martorano was handed a life sentence from Federal Judge John Hannum III. Not long after this Hannum appeared as a character witness at the tax evasion trial of Bobby Simone. Raymond and George Martorano smelled a rat – to no one’s surprise it was disguised as a defense attorney. Shortly afterward two local law enforcement agents went to Simone’s office and informed him the Martoranos were going to kill him. In Simone’s self-serving biography, The Last Mouthpiece, he claims he shrugged off the threat. After Philip Leonetti, the nephew of Nicodemo Scarfo, became a government witness he claimed Simone went to "Little Nicky" and wanted Raymond Martorano killed. Simone was later found guilty of racketeering charges based partly on the testimony of Leonetti.
In 1992 an appellate panel overturned the conviction of Raymond Martorano and Albert Daidone. Martorano’s attorney F. Emmett Fitzpatrick Jr. claimed that Assistant District Attorney Barbara Christie "withheld two months of FBI surveillance reports and exculpatory evidence showing admitted killer [Wilfred] Moran lied about where he purchased the poinsettias he used" on the night of the murder.
In 1996 the appellate court made a decision that the two men could not be tried again, calling it double jeopardy. On November 12, 1999 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the appellate court decision.
When Martorano walked out of prison he was holding a wooden cross that he wore around his neck. He claimed the Pope had blessed the cross and that he was going to visit his son George in prison in Atlanta and give it to him.
"I’m going to put it on his neck so he’ll be blessed. When you believe in God, it happens," the life long mobster boasted.
Raymond Martorano stated that he was dedicating his life to getting his son out of prison and that they both would then stay clear of criminal activities and focus on their families. While George was growing old in prison he became a crime novelist and screenwriter. The Martorano family, who had lost both a father and son to long prison terms, suffered another tragedy in March 2001 when George’s son was killed in a motorcycle accident. Ironically, Raymond W. Martorano died in the arms of an FBI agent who had stopped at the accident scene to offer help.
When released from prison "Long John" Martorano told reporters he planned to visit Sicily and that he hoped to buy a home and die there. Immediate plans called for him to visit daughters in Florida and Las Vegas. It became apparent, at least from the perspective of the media, that Martorano wasn’t welcome in South Philadelphia. By November 1999 both Ralph Natale and Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino were in prison and rumors were rampant Natale was about to flip. The following are comments about Martorano’s return from unnamed law enforcement officials in an article by Kitty Caparella of the Philadelphia Daily News on November 15:
"What’s he going to take over? They’re not paying attention to him. The mob is a ridiculous paper tiger these days. All they do is shake people down."
"The Mafia was once composed of industrialists and were rulers of the underworld. Now they’re a bunch of kids downtown who are delighted to be called ‘mob leader.’ They’ve got five years to be a mob leader then go to jail."
"Probably a shootout between him and Joe Ligambi [will occur]."
More than two years passed before the shooting began. When it did Martorano was left in critical condition. Martorano had returned from Sicily four days before the shooting. He was visiting his former homeland with five women family members and was looking to purchase a $92,000 home there. One article stated that Martorano promised his family they would all move to California once they came home. "We’re getting out of this terrible city," one family member claimed. On the day of the shooting investigators said Martorano was on his way to a doctor’s appointment at Pennsylvania Hospital to have his pacemaker checked.
Early speculation was that a gunman, or gunmen, fired at Martorano as he drove on Spruce Street between 7th and 8th Avenues in an area called Center City. The bullets pierced the windshield of Martorano’s 2000 Lincoln Towncar and entered his chest, abdomen and right arm. The car passed through the intersection at Spruce and 8th, jumped a curb and came to a halt after hitting a fire hydrant. A police officer reported that Martorano’s right arm was "hanging off." Ten days after the shooting some investigators believed the shooting might have taken place closer to Martorano’s home some six blocks away.
Martorano was rushed to the trauma unit at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, where he underwent several hours of surgery. The following day a second round of surgery was required, after which he was placed in a drug induced coma to allow his wounds to heal while not taxing his heart.
The Philadelphia Daily News reported Martorano "the elder statesman of the Mafia, was quietly trying to organize a crew of bookmakers to be loyal to him." Some investigators claimed no one supported Martorano in his efforts to move back into the gambling rackets. They didn’t remember him. However, his son allegedly told relatives, "Gather the men and tell them Georgie said: ‘Do nothing. No retaliation. Nothing! Stay cool and calm. Don’t do anything irrational.’" Just who the "men" were George "Cowboy" didn’t say.
Police have few clues to go on and have revealed they are getting little cooperation from the Martorano family. As of January 30 there were no reports that police were able to question Martorano. If and when they do it is unlikely he will provide any useful information.
Law enforcement sources believe Joseph Ligambi is the "number one suspect." While not naming names, George Anastasia in a Philadelphia Inquirer article on January 27 revealed, "Investigative sources said…three South Philadelphia mob associates, two brothers and an individual closely aligned with reputed mob boss Joseph Ligambi, have emerged as prime suspects."
Martorano and Ligambi both worked under Nicky Scarfo in the early 1980s before Long John went away to prison. The murderous Scarfo liked to have the hits he ordered carried out in public places. If Ligambi ordered the shooting of Martorano it would appear as though the pupil was following the teacher.
Philadelphia – Former Philadelphia consigliere Anthony "Tony Buck" Piccolo was denied release from prison after serving 7 years of a 45 year sentence. The 79 year-old ailing mobster did get the judge to reduce his sentence to 13 and a half years and he could be released by mid-2005. Both Piccolo’s wife and attorney felt it was a fair decision. Perhaps this was spurred on by what happened to Raymond Martorano after his release from prison.
February 4, 1931 – Joseph "Joe the Baker" Catania, according to Joe Valachi, paid the ultimate price for hijacking liquor trucks that belongs to Salvatore Maranzano. This was Valachi’s first contract hit. The shooters were Salvatore Shillitani, Nick Capuzzi and the infamous "Buster" from Chicago. Catania had been a successful bail bondsman whose partner was Danny Iamascia, an intimate of Dutch Schultz. Catania died the morning after the shooting in Fordham Hospital in the Bronx.
February 4, 1935 – Thomas Maloy was known as the czar of the Chicago Moving Picture Machine Operator’s union. Maloy was driving to union headquarters on Chicago’s Outer Drive near 24th Street when an automobile pulled along side containing two men, one armed with a sawed-off shotgun. After a first shot grazed Maloy a second blast hit him on the left side of the head killing him instantly. In a strange coincidence Joseph P. O’Connell, a special assistant to the United States Attorney General Homer Cummings, was with his wife just a block behind Maloy when the shooting took place. O’Connell had presented evidence to the grand jury recently which resulted in Maloy being indicted for income tax evasion.
February 5, 1996 – Al Scaglione, according to Tampa mob expert Scott Deitche, ran the Italian Castle Restaurant in Lakeland, Florida. Scaglione, and his brother Nick, ran some of the largest gambling operations in the state. During investigations in 1963 and 1978 the two were named as members of the Trafficante crime family. Al Scaglione died of natural causes.
February 6, 1921 – Vito Guardalabene, according to Organized Crime: 25 Years After Valachi, was the boss of the Milwaukee La Cosa Nostra Family. After his death from natural causes his son Peter Guardalabene succeeded him.
February 6, 1931 – Caesar "Chester" LaMare made a power play to become boss of the Detroit underworld after the death of Salvatore "Sam" Catalonotte. His scheming brought about the murders of Gaspar Milazzo (Scibilia) and Sam Parina in May 1930. LaMare took to staying in his fortified home surrounded by bodyguards. So it ended up being two trusted aides, Joseph Amico and Elmer Macklin, that set him up and put two bullets in his head while LaMare relaxed at home. See Paul Kavieff’s The Violent Years for more info.
February 6, 1969 – Thomas Zummo was part of the Gaspar DiGregorio faction of the Bonanno Family during the Banana War. The 29 year-old was entering his girlfriend’s apartment in Queens around 5:00 pm when he was cut down.
February 7, 1993 – Frank Balistrieri was the leader of the Milwaukee Family for at least 30 years from the early 1960s until his death from natural causes. In 1984 Balistrieri was convicted with his two sons, both attorneys, of extortion. The elder Balistrieri received a sentence of 13 years. The following year he was convicted in a case involving Las Vegas skimming with four members of the Chicago Outfit. He was released from prison in late 1991. He was 74 when he died.
February 9, 1932 – Vincent "Mad Mick, Mad Dog" Coll, at one-time a top gunman for Dutch Schultz, became one of the most despicable characters on the streets of New York City. On July 28, 1931, in the middle of the Schultz / Coll War, Coll and his men launched a daylight attack on Schultz associate Joey Rao, which left one child dead and five other children wounded. Although acquitted in a December trial things got tough for the baby-faced Irishman. Down to his last $200, he was living in a hotel room with his new bride and was said by one reporter to have "been reduced to the lowly job of guard for a craps game." Coll was believed to have been set up by Owney Madden. Coll entered a drug store where he allegedly made a phone call to Madden who kept Coll on the line long enough for a trio of killers to arrive. When the car pulled up, three men got out. While two stood watch outside, the third walked into the drug store with a Thompson sub-machinegun telling several customers to "Keep cool now." Coll’s bodyguard, who was believed to have been in on the plot, got off his seat at the soda fountain and walked out past the two lookouts on the street, one of which was the seemingly omnipresent Bo Weinberg. Coll died in the phone booth with 15 slugs in him. See my story http://www.crimelibrary.com/gangsters/schultz/
February 10, 1977 – Frank "the Bomp" Bompensiero was a close friend and confidante of Jimmy "the Weasel" Fratianno. Looked upon as the underboss of San Diego, in the mid-1970s Bompensiero began cooperating as a confidential informant for the FBI. When the mob found out they reacted. As was his habit, Bompensiero would leave his home during the evening to walk to a payphone to place and receive important calls. Waiting for the seventy-one year old one night was Los Angeles mob gunman, Thomas Ricciardi, who murdered him. Ricciardi then jumped into a getaway car driven by Giacchino "Jack" LoCicero. See my column http://www.americanmafia.com/Allan_May_5-22-00.html
February 10, 1979 – Teresa Ferrara was the first of three women connected to the infamous Lufthansa heist that was either murdered or disappeared. She left her beauty shop in Belmore, Long Island after an anonymous telephone caller asked her to meet someone at a nearby diner. Ferrara told her niece that if she was not back in 15 minutes to come find her. She left behind her purse, money, and keys. See my story http://www.crimelibrary.com/gangsters3/lufthansa/
Due to time constraints this week I have not been able to update this section.
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