Allan May's book MOB STORIES
IN THIS ISSUE|
· "Only in Boston"
· Gregory DePalma – Revisited (Part One)
· Gregory J. DePalma – The Early Years
· Short Takes
"Only in Boston"
AmericanMafia.com was disgusted to learn that Senior US District Judge Edward F. Harrington has requested a lenient sentence for disgraced former FBI agent "Dishonest John" Connolly. The letter, sent to US District Judge Joseph L. Tauro, was on official court stationary.
Our first reaction at AM.com was to wonder what Connolly had on Harrington – like perhaps nude pictures of the judge in a compromising position with Will McDonough – to cause him to write such a request which was called "a gross violation of the federal judiciary codes of conduct," by Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz.
Before becoming a judge, Harrington was a former federal prosecutor. He handled several cases that Connolly worked on. During Connolly’s trial this past May, Harrington was subpoenaed to testify on Connolly’s behalf.
In his letter to Judge Tauro, Harrington wrote:
"I respectfully ask that, in deciding on Mr. Connolly’s appropriate punishment, you consider the contribution he made to the government’s campaign against organized crime, as well as the risks and complexities inherent in the duties he was asked to undertake in carrying out the policy of the United States government."
Harrington’s request was a slap in the face to two groups. The first, was to all the honest and dedicated FBI agents, past and present, who have carried out their jobs and put their lives on the line without looking to enhance their financial lot in life in the manner in which the greedy Connolly did. The second group the judge insulted was all of the victims of Connolly’s greed and deceit. Has the judge written any letters to these people or their families or does he just consider them to be expendable, collateral damage caused by the "complexities inherent in the duties" of "Dishonest John" carrying out his job.
In February Harrington was called before the House Committee on Government Reform, chaired by Indiana Congressman Dan Burton. The committee was told at that time by former investigators from California that Harrington and H. Paul Rico had "ruined" their death penalty case against Joseph "Joe the Animal" Barboza for a murder he committed in 1971, and "showed little interest in evidence that Barboza killed three others while under the government’s watch." Harrington was called as a witness for Barboza during his trial in Sonoma County.
Harrington’s testimony before the committee came on the most hallowed of all mob holidays, St. Valentine’s Day. Dan Burton all but called the judge and former prosecutor a liar after Harrington told the committee he forgot evidence that might have saved Joe Salvati from 30 years in prison. Burton took exception to Harrington’s demeanor and snapped, "For you to say you didn’t remember just stretches my imagination. That should have stuck in your mind like a hot iron. How many times did you go to defend these crudballs?"
Boston newspapers were quick to criticize the judge and sought legal opinions regarding possible violations. On August 2 the Globe printed the following from an interview with New York University School of Law professor Stephen Gillers:
"It test the limits of the rules for the judge voluntarily, and without having been asked by the defense, to go out of his way on behalf of the convicted defendant. Judges enjoy enormous prestige by virtue of their office, and they’re not supposed to use that prestige for the benefit of litigants, civil or criminal. Even if he only reiterated what he said in his testimony, he’s injecting himself in the sentencing process and asserting an interest in the result that can undermine the public’s confidence in the sentencing judge’s objectivity."
When contacted for a comment for the August 2 Globe article, Connolly’s attorney Tracy Miner, stated there was "absolutely nothing inappropriate" about Harrington’s actions.
On August 3 the Herald printed the following:
"According to the Code of Conduct for federal judges, written by the Judicial Conference of the United States Courts in Washington DC, judges must be careful not to exploit the power of their position and, as such, should not volunteer information to sentencing judges unless they are formally requested to do so."
Harrington was taking a beating in the media and this time when the Herald sought an opinion from Tracy Miner, calls were not returned.
Also not returning calls was Judge Harrington. His clerk told reporters that the good judge was on vacation for a month and would not return until after Labor Day. Wherever he is let’s hope he’s with Will McDonough and that the two of them stay there. Forever!
Victor Garo, the long time attorney for Joseph Salvati when interviewed by the Globe asked, "Tell me what was really accomplished [referring to the praise directed at Connolly by Harrington]. They decimated the Italian Mafia and created the Irish Mafia – with an added bonus that it was protected by the FBI."
Alan Dershowitz summed it up best. "It’s always bad for a judge to request another judge to be lenient, but in this case it raises the possibility that this judge may be protecting himself. This really comes under the category of ‘Only in Boston.’ He’s playing by the rules in Boston, not by the rules of the federal judiciary."
On August 5 the Boston Globe reported that Harrington, citing public criticism, had changed his mind. In a second letter to Judge Tauro, Harrington wrote, "Given the present controversy surrounding my letter, I ask that my letter be withdrawn and not be considered in any way. I sincerely apologize to the court for any inconvenience or distraction my letter has caused."
When advised of the retraction Professor Dershowitz said that some of the ethical impact was mitigated, but "You can’t unring a bell once rung."
There he stood smiling in one of the Mafia’s most celebrated photographs. Gregory DePalma had a reason to be smiling. He was skimming hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Westchester Premier Theatre in suburban New York, and his biggest meal ticket, entertainer Frank Sinatra, was standing next to him with his arm draped around his shoulder.
Today DePalma is one of four men in the photograph, taken in 1976, who is still breathing. Paul Castellano, who stood on the other side of DePalma in the picture, was murdered in December 1985 outside Sparks Steak House in Manhattan; Sinatra, Carlo Gambino, Tony Marson and James "Jimmy the Weasel" Fratianno all died of natural causes. The three other mobsters still alive are Joseph Gambino, Richie Fusco and Salvatore Spatola.
DePalma, according to his lawyer, is barely alive. Suffering from cancer, DePalma has been on trial in a Brooklyn Federal Courthouse in a case that if he loses will destroy any chance of him ever being a free man again.
One of the earliest mentions of a Gregory DePalma is in the 1963 classic Revolt in the Mafia, which discusses the Gallo/Profaci War of the early 1960s. The author, Raymond V. Martin, was the former Assistant Chief Inspector in charge of Brooklyn South detectives. He discusses DePalma briefly:
"From a pro-Gallo source in Manhattan I heard that Sally D. [Salvatore D’Ambrosia] was collecting an arsenal to defend a Sheepshead Bay tavern which he frequented and allegedly owned. Rifles and revolvers obtained by him were supposedly cached in the Sheepshead Bay apartment of Gregory DePalma."
When DePalma’s apartment was raided, police recovered three rifles along with ammunition.
DePalma’s claim to fame came in the mid-1970s when he helped open the infamous Westchester Premier Theater outside New York City. DePalma and Richard "Ritchie Nerves" Fusco, a Colombo associate, worked together. According to Jimmy Fratianno and Ovid Demaris in The Last Mafioso, in 1973 the two men "started a landfill operation on sixteen acres of swampland in Tarrytown. They got a stockbroker, Eliot Weisman, to front the deal. The idea was to fill this swamp with garbage and trash and then build a beautiful theater for live performances right on top of it…"
Fratianno described DePalma’s background as "that of a fence, specializing in jewelry, and as a shylock. He had a hidden interest in Fudgies, a bar-restaurant-discotheque in Yonkers."
DePalma and Fusco’s names never appeared on the prospectus that was filed with the SEC. In gaining finances for the project entertainers Alan King, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme were listed as major stockholders, but their investment was minimal. DePalma and Fusco got a variety of backers to perform some questionable financial maneuverings to get the operation off the ground for the March 1975 grand opening, at which singer Diana Ross performed.
Once the theater was in operation, DePalma and associates began "skimming the shit out of the joint." Fratianno explains by relating a story he was told from investor Tommy Marson.
"They’re skimming from the cash concessions, two restaurants in the place, bars, parking, T-shirts and souvenirs, selling comped tickets, selling their own tickets, and selling tickets for sixty-one permanent seats and a hundred and thirty-six folding chairs that are not on the theater’s seating chart."
The meal ticket DePalma and Fusco cashed in on was entertainer Frank Sinatra, who did a number of performances at the theater. These were set up through a mob friend of Sinatra, Louis "Louie Dome" Pacella, a member of the Genovese Family.
The money that DePalma was bringing in for the Gambino Family made him a candidate for membership. On June 24, 1977, when the New York families were allowed to initiate ten new members each, Gregory DePalma was made and assigned by Paul Castellano to the crew of Anthony "Nino" Gaggi. DePalma had tapped both men earlier for money for the theater.
Gaggi was not a fan of DePalma and figured that he had been placed in his crew so he and Castellano could watch over their investment in the theater. In Murder Machine, the best seller by Jerry Capeci and Gene Mustain, they write, "Nino thought DePalma was untrustworthy and inept: DePalma had overseen construction of the underwater parking lot. Nino also suspected that he was skimming too much profit – a little would have been understandable." Gaggi had once told his nephew Dominick Montiglio, "If Gregory DePalma calls, I’m not home. The guy is always shootin’ his mouth off all over the lot."
As would happen again 20 years later, the feds bugged DePalma’s home telephone and taped hours of conversations the mobster had. In less than two years the Westchester Premier Theater went bankrupt costing investors, including the mob, millions of dollars. When the indictments were handed down on June 6, 1978 DePalma, Fusco, Weisman, Marson, and Gaggi were charged as "secret partners" in the operation.
Capeci and Mustain relate Gaggi’s reaction:
"Nino was enraged. ‘That fuckin’ DePalma and his cocksucking big fat mouth!’ he ranted to Dominick after his arraignment and release on bail. ‘That fucker! I told him not to talk on the fucking phone! I should whack ‘im! The fucking scum bag!’"
In October 1978 their trial began. After the prosecution rested its case, "Nino" Gaggi was dropped by the judge due to lack of evidence. The trial lasted three months with jury deliberations beginning in January 1979. After 55 hours of deliberations over seven days the jury came back deadlocked 11 to 1 for conviction.
Several months later, just before a second trial was scheduled to begin, DePalma and others pleaded out. At sentencing DePalma got four and a half years.
After his release from prison, DePalma kept a low profile during John Gotti’s heyday, but rose to the rank of capo within the Gambino Family. Things began to unravel for him in the mid-1990s as law enforcement was bent on dismantling the rest of the crime family. The feds accomplished their goal. Recent articles state that from a chart showing the Gambino Crime Family management structure from 1992, 22 out of 24 mobsters are either dead or in stir.
Following the imprisonment of the Dapper Don in April 1992 the feds set as their next goal John A. "Junior" Gotti. On January 21, 1998 a massive indictment would bring down the younger Gotti along with 39 other reputed underworld figures including DePalma and his son Craig. In the indictment Greg and Craig DePalma were charged with putting out a contract on two Albanian men who, in 1995, murdered two employees at Scores, a popular topless nightclub in Manhattan.
The investigation, run by the New York State Organized Crime Task Force, began in 1993 as a small-time gambling probe. The case "mushroomed" following the placing of a wiretap on the home telephone of Greg DePalma. The information from the wiretaps revealed a gambling ring in the Bronx run by DePalma. In March 1995 the OCTF raided 14 bookmaking operations. Later that year, investigators learned that the Gambino Family was controlling Scores.
By September 1996, after "Junior" Gotti was subpoenaed by the Strike Force to answer questions on several occasions, he figured out where the authorities were getting their information. He placed a phone call to Craig DePalma, who was one of "Juniors" crewmembers when he was a capo.
"Tell [your father] John said we’ll all chip in, and for Christmas, we’re buying you a radio station. Make sure you tell him I said that," barked Junior.
Prosecutors would later claim this was a warning by the younger Gotti to Greg DePalma to keep his mouth shut.
As the investigation grew, more phones were tapped and additional surveillance was carried out. On February 3, 1997 raids conducted at several businesses owned by "Junior" Gotti uncovered $300,000 in cash and a listing of "made members of New York’s five Mafia families," which prosecutors called the "Holy Grail." This revelation proved quite embarrassing to "Junior’s" old man who was slowly wasting away in Marion prison.
Problems for "Junior" got worse when it was announced that William Marshall, a member of Greg DePalma’s crew, "cut and rolled" and was feeding intimate details of the crew’s activities to the government. One of the tidbits was, "How reputed Gambino capo Greg DePalma gave Junior a stack of money-filled envelopes from other wiseguys at a Christmas party."
In September 1998 prosecutors offered Gotti a deal. The deal included Greg DePalma and his son. The elder DePalma would get ten years and Craig would receive five. At the time sources said Greg DePalma faced life in prison if he was convicted at trial. Junior, who would receive six years, nixed the deal after being advised, or ordered, to do so by both parents.
By January 1999 DePalma, who the newspapers were describing as deathly ill, decided to cut a deal whether or not Junior approved of it. On January 12 DePalma, while lying in the hospital ward of the Westchester County jail, whispered his guilty plea through an oxygen mask. DePalma’s attorney, John Mitchell, claimed his client "was suffering from lung cancer, prostate cancer and diabetes and agreed to plead guilty and face 10 years in prison in the hope of gaining some leniency for his son."
Magistrate Mark Fox took the plea inside the hospital. DePalma added to the dramatics by beginning to read his plea statement and then telling those gathered that he was too weak to go on. While admitting to conspiring to shake down Scores and engaging in gambling, loansharking and tax evasion, DePalma did not have to cooperate against Junior Gotti or admit that he was a member of the Gambino Family.
In White Plains Federal Court, an hour later, Craig DePalma entered his guilty plea. Prosecutors alleged that hours before the DePalmas made their pleas they met with Junior Gotti and his lawyer to discuss what they would and would not say. Gotti’s attorney denied the accusations.
As Junior Gotti prepared for his case, now scheduled for April 1999, more information from the wire taps on Greg DePalma’s telephone were released. Prosecutors Andrew McCarthy, Marjorie Miller and Carol Sipperly announced they would be using "hours of tapes" collected from both of the DePalmas while presenting their case.
Greg Smith of the New York Daily News wrote on the eve of the trial that, "Over and over, the DePalmas implicate Gotti by name." When the trial date came, April 6, Junior decided to be his own man and go against the wishes of his parents. He and his counsel, Sarita Kedia, agreed to a deal and later that year Junior went away.
On June 10, 1999 Judge Barrington Parker entered the Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla to sentence Greg DePalma. The ailing mobster, on the edge of death, was hooked up to an oxygen tank and had intravenous medication tubes connected to his body. The newspapers reported, "Three other beds had been removed to make room for the judge, DePalma’s relatives and lawyers, doctors, aides, clerks and reporters."
Judge Parker took pity on the woeful looking DePalma. Over the objections of prosecutors who were looking for a sentence of 10 to 13 years, the sympathetic judge imposed 70 months, just short of 6 years.
Hours later, when the judge sentenced Craig DePalma in the White Plains Federal Courthouse, Parker lowered the boom. He gave the younger DePalma the high-end of the sentencing scale and instead of getting 72 months, Craig DePalma was sentenced to 87. A stern Parker told DePalma, "You saw what your father’s life was like and you saw what that life brought upon your family, particularly the women. [Still] You …cast your lot with Gotti and associates."
Gregory DePalma was shipped off to the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners facility in Springfield, Missouri to serve his sentence and await death. He waited and waited and…
Last Monday a jury in Manhattan found DePalma and his co-defendant Sam "Fat Man" Cagnina not guilty of a murder plot to kill Bronx auto dealer Nick LaSorsa. Part Two of "Gregory DePalma – Revisited" will cover the murder conspiracy and the trial. AmericanMafia.com wants to thank Charles "Charlie the Moose" Molino for his help with this article.
Boston (1) – The sad saga of the "Two Debs" continues in Beantown. Debra Davis and Deborah Hussey had the tragic misfortune of having Stephen "the Rifleman" Flemmi, the partner of Winter Hill gangster James "Whitey" Bulger, enter their lives. It eventually resulted in both of their murders – Davis in 1981 and Hussey three years later. When their bodies were recovered from a Dorchester mob burial ground two years ago, autopsies showed the fingers and toes of each women had been hacked off to prevent identification. Both women were 26 years old. Two weeks ago family members of the young women filed a federal appeal seeking to gain at least a portion of Bulger’s $1.9 million lottery winnings, which the government has been sitting on for some time. In the appeal, attorney’s for the families wrote, "The United States government should not reap the benefits of James Bulger’s lottery winnings without a trial on the merits, when the FBI emboldened James Bulger to commit any crime with impunity, even murder of young women." J. M. Lawrence of the Boston Herald reports that US District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock "found the family’s arguments… ‘carry significant emotional force.’ But in the end, Woodlock blocked the families on procedural grounds and found the case didn’t warrant ‘exceptional circumstances’ to bend the rules." Flemmi was married to Deborah Hussey’s mother when he began seducing her as a teenager. Flemmi confessed her murder to his son William St. Croix. Kevin Weeks, a Winter Hill Gang member-turned-government-witness, was present when Flemmi strangled Davis to death. Lawsuits filed against the government in the ongoing "Disaster in Beantown" total more than $1.5 billion. However, with the holding of the $1.9 million lottery money, the government is the only one who has collected – so far.
Boston (2) – On July 29 the trial of Eric O. Schneiderhan ended in a mistrial when jurors could not arrive at a verdict after five days of deliberations. Eric, a United States Army counterintelligence officer, went on trial July 16 accused of lying before a federal grand jury that was investigating the relationship between Eric’s father, Richard, and Winter Hill mobster Stephen "the Rifleman" Flemmi. Richard Schneiderhan, a retired Massachusetts state trooper, goes on trial September 17 for obstruction of justice for informing James "Whitey" Bulger’s brothers that the FBI had placed pen registers on their telephones. The device records telephone numbers dialed on targeted phones. James P. Duggan, who represents Richard Schneiderhan, claims the government indicted the son "in a power play to force the father to accept a plea." The key to the prosecutor’s case was letters seized in the father’s home where the name "Paul" is used in correspondence from his son. The name "Paul," prosecutors claim, was the code name Richard used for Flemmi. The 38 year-old Eric Schneiderhan has been a warrant officer in the Army for the past eight years and has top-secret government clearance. He testified in his own defense and stated that he has worked on secret missions in Haiti, Ecuador and Panama. It seems to AmericanMafia.com that the government’s time, not to mention the taxpayer’s money, could be spent in a more productive manner than pursuing a case like this.
Buffalo – The first of three former Buffalo police detectives was sentenced on August 2. John A. Ferby was handed a 41-month sentence by US District Judge Richard J. Arcara. The 40-year-old Ferby, who had 18 years on the force, was convicted March 15 for theft of government funds during an FBI sting operation. Judge Arcara gave Ferby the maximum sentence possible and told him that his actions went beyond just simple greed, that they were disgraceful, inexcusable and embarrassed the Buffalo Police Department. On August 19 retired detective Robert Hill will be sentenced. He was convicted on the same charge as Ferby. The next day, former detective Darnyl Parker, the convicted "mastermind" of the theft, will be sentenced. Parker was found guilty of multiple charges and faces up to eight years in prison. He has been in jail sine December 2001 after allegedly attempting to threaten a witness. David Rodriguez, the only detective found innocent of the charges, has tried unsuccessfully to regain his job since being suspended by the department. Rodriguez is a 14-year veteran.
Detroit – The long awaited trial of alleged Detroit underboss, Anthony Zerilli, got off to a bang and then quickly fizzled out. After years of delays due to medical reasons the trial began on July 23. However, instead of Zerilli not showing up because of health reasons, this time it was Judge John O’Meara, who had been hospitalized with an undisclosed sickness over the weekend. Court officials declared "The trial must go on," and so it did – for two days. The case was turned over to Chief Judge Lawrence Zatkoff. After jury selection, opening arguments began on July 23. After a short article on the trial appeared on Thursday, July 25 all coverage mysteriously ceased. AM.com contacted Detroit Free Press staff writer, HongDao Nguyen, who had been covering the trial. Nguyen was kind enough to inform us that "the trial was delayed yet again because of Mr. Zerilli’s health problems, and we do not yet know when it will resume."
Las Vegas – J. Tony Serra, the attorney for Rick Tabish, filed suit in federal court earlier this month demanding documents which he claims will overturn the conviction of his client for the 1998 murder of Ted Binion. Serra, the San Francisco based lawyer, created a controversy earlier this year when he tired to have US District Judge Joseph Bonaventure removed from the case after he autographed copies of Las Vegas Sun reporter Jeff German’s Murder in Sin City book, which covered the Binion trial. Serra is looking for documents, which support a 1999 FBI affidavit submitted by local agent Gerald McIntosh. The affidavit was filed in order to "obtain permission to conduct wiretaps on a criminal organization that may have had knowledge of Binion’s death." Serra claims the information proves that there may have been other suspects in Binion’s murder. Tabish and Sandy Murphy were convicted in May 2000 of murdering Binion. While prosecutors claim the defense is on a "fishing expedition," AM.com wonders why the Justice Department has refused to cough up this information. In the meantime, the Nevada State Supreme Court is still reviewing testimony from Murphy and Tabish’s appeals hearing which took place at the end of June.
New York (1) – US District Judge Allyne Ross’ office has informed AmericanMafia.com that Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano will be sentenced for his role in an Ecstasy drug ring, which operated in Arizona and New York, on September 6, 2002.
New York (2) – Brooklyn Federal Judge Fredric Block denied newly anointed Gambino boss, Peter Gotti, bail on August 7. Block’s decision stated, "Where the government establishes that a defendant is the leader…of an organized crime family, [he] must de detained." Block’s decision upheld the ruling of a lower court on the 62 year-old Peter Gotti, who was arrested this past June on racketeering and money-laundering charges.
Youngstown – On August 5 disgraced former US Congressman James A. Traficant, Jr. was shipped off to the Federal Correctional Institution Allenwood, located in White Deer, Pennsylvania, to begin his 8-year sentence after being convicted of bribery and corruption charges last April. Traficant caused a minor media sensation – surprise! – at the Summit County Jail in Akron last Wednesday, where he was temporarily housed after his sentencing. After all these years Traficant revealed that his unruly hairdo was really a cheap toupee. While prison rules forbid inmates to retain hairpieces, the Akron authorities were kind enough to allow him to keep it on, even during the mug shot photo session. The bald infidel, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, will be "housed in a locked-down, open-style dormitory wing" at the prison. It remains to be seen if the State of Ohio will allow Traficant’s name to remain on the November ballot as an independent candidate. The Constitution states that a congressional candidate must reside in the state he hopes to represent. In addition, Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman, Traci Billingsley, said "that running a business [or profession] is prohibited under the prison rules. Also, Traficant could not do mailings or receive phone calls from constituents. The only positive point of him serving from prison is that he couldn’t rip of his constituents.
In a related matter, the geniuses at the ACLU are going to court in an attempt to force Ohio Governor Bob Taft to hold a special election to replace Traficant claiming that the nearly 600,000 residents "have not been able to participate in democracy because they have no US representative." It would cost the financially strapped Valley $800,000 to hold an election and if they started the process today it would be October before the election could be held, giving the winner less than three months in office in a district that was realigned earlier this year. The Mahoning Valley has not had competent representation in 18 years. Five more months is not going to make a difference. Traficant’s only appearance in Washington DC this year was to appear at the ethics committee hearing, and to have his ass thrown out of the House the following week. If the ACLU thinks it’s so important to hold an election then let them foot the bill.
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