Feature Articles

September 2003

The 'On The Waterfront' Trials

Part Four: Steven Seagal Vindicated/ Gravano Murder Plot Revealed

By James Ridgway de Szigethy

     In the space of a week the ongoing �On the Waterfront� trials have seen the vindication of action star Steven Seagal as the victim of a Mafia extortion scheme while Peter Gotti was hit with new charges that he conspired to murder former Gambino Family Underboss Sammy �The Bull� Gravano. The Federal Prosecutions this year of 17 Associates of the Gambino and Genovese Mafia families were centered on the Mafia�s infiltration of the Unions that represent those who work the docks along the Eastern Seaboard. Such Mafia stranglehold on this industry was first detailed a half-century ago in the Oscar-winning motion picture �On the Waterfront�, which featured a boxer portrayed by Marlon Brando who "coulda been a Contender!" had he not accepted Mafia bribes to take a dive in an important fight. After many years of inaction, the Feds finally brought indictments against the Godfathers of 2 of New York�s 5 Mafia families for their control of the Waterfront , securing convictions in the first two trials against Gambino Family acting Boss Peter Gotti and Genovese Boss Vincent "Chin" Gigante.

     The third �On the Waterfront� trial was averted when film Producer Julius Nasso pleaded guilty for his role in attempting to extort money from Seagal with the help of Waterfront Associates of the Gambino Family. Nasso, who helped bring to the screen the Seagal flicks �Marked for Death,� �Out for Justice,� �Under Siege 2,� and �Fire Down Below,� will spend a year in prison and pay a fine under a plea bargain offered by the U. S. Attorney�s Office in Brooklyn.

     Nasso had previously filed a multi-million dollar civil lawsuit seeking damages against Seagal for his alleged backing out of a deal to produce 4 more movies. Nasso�s business partnership purportedly began to sour after Seagal began to re-examine his movie career goals after announcing his belief that he is the reincarnation of an ancient Buddhist deity. Seagal himself filed a lawsuit earlier this year alleging he was the intended victim of a plot by members of the German Mafia to extort money from him, a suit that was uncovered by the acclaimed website THE SMOKING GUN. Seagal had previously filed a lawsuit against former NYPD Detective John Connolly in regards to sensational claims Connolly published a decade ago regarding Seagal and American Mafia figures in the now-defunct Spy Magazine. That lawsuit was later dropped.

     The guilty plea by Nasso spared Seagal the potential embarrassment of cross-examination in the Nasso trial had Seagal once again taken the stand as a Prosecution Witness. Such embarrassment could have come from a new witness revealed by the New York Post a week before Nasso�s plea who could have damaged Seagal�s credibility. The Post revealed the identity of a former CIA operative who had been one of the sources for John Connolly�s stories about Seagal. The retired spook had claimed Seagal once asked him to assassinate one of his perceived enemies, presumably one Seagal made in his early years while studying the martial arts in Japan, where Seagal claims he crossed paths with the Yakuza, the Japanese Mafia. The retired spy was also prepared to testify in Court if necessary that Seagal sought his help in thwarting what Seagal claimed was a conspiracy by the Drug Enforcement Administration to frame him on fabricated charges. Seagal also allegedly concocted a plan to photograph a GQ Magazine reporter in a compromising position with another man in apparent retaliation for that reporter�s unfavorable story about Seagal, a plot even more implausible given that the reporter was reported to be heterosexual. The former CIA Officer also alleged that Seagal�s claims to have himself once worked for the CIA � claims Seagal once made on national television � were not true.

     Seagal does, however, have a close association with a religious figure who is considered an asset to the U. S. Intelligence community, the Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of the people of Tibet who continue to fight back against the occupation of their homeland by the Communist Chinese. Seagal�s embrace of the people of Tibet and their religion reflects his lifelong interest in helping oppressed people; prior to becoming a Buddhist, Seagal was active in promoting the concerns of American Indians and frequently appeared in public dressed in Native American attire, most notably in the State of California.

     In addition to Connolly and the GQ writer, two other reporters who have written unfavorably about Seagal have come under siege; last year 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 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� Connolly. The Vanity Fair article alleged that Seagal sought to replace Julius Nasso as the Producer of his movies with Danny Provenzano, a great-nephew of the late Teamsters Union Boss "Tony Pro" Provenzano, who has been identified by the FBI as responsible for the abduction and murder of former Teamsters Union President Jimmy Hoffa. The article also claimed an association between Seagal and "Sonny" Franzese, a high-ranking figure in the Colombo Mafia Family.

     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 American 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 American Mafia Associates. Danny Provenzano has since pleaded guilty to Federal racketeering charges as an Associate of the Genovese Mafia Family. The charges included attempted extortion of a business partner � the exact charges Julius Nasso pleaded guilty to.

     Threats against reporter Anita Busch resulted in charges against Alexander Proctor, an employee of a private investigator allegedly hired by Seagal. Proctor allegedly smashed the windshield of the reporter�s car 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 Bail to Proctor. Proctor was an employee of "Private Investigator to the Stars" Anthony Pellicano. While investigating Proctor, authorities found during a search of Pellicano�s office illegal C-4 plastic explosives and other weapons. Pellicano was charged and released on $400,000 Bond. The illegal trafficking of C-4 plastic explosives is a key plot device in Seagal�s first movie that made him a star, �Above the Law.�

     Seagal�s attorney Martin Pollner has publicly 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!"

     Steven Seagal was deemed a credible witness by the jury in the first �Waterfront� trial which resulted in the conviction of Peter Gotti, his brother Richard V. and nephew Richard G. Gotti, among others. The three relatives of former Godfather John Gotti were convicted on racketeering and money laundering charges regarding their control of Local 1814 of the Longshoreman�s Union, the model for the movie �On the Waterfront.�

     Ironically, during the time this film was made, a young, promising pugilist named Vincent Gigante was compromised by the Genovese Mafia Family during the early stages of his boxing career. Eventually Gigante would rise to become Godfather of America�s most powerful organized crime syndicate, the Genovese Family. The mobbed-up former boxer then took up a new avocation � acting � and Gigante successfully evaded prosecution for decades by �acting crazy,� a performance that including wandering the streets of New York�s Little Italy in a bathrobe, mumbling to himself, and checking himself into mental hospitals just as the Feds were about to close in. Facing what would be for someone of Gigante�s age and health a life sentence if convicted in the latest �Waterfront� trial, "Chin" made what would seem to those familiar with this case a sane decision; a guilty plea to the Obstruction of Justice charge in exchange for leniency in sentencing both himself and his son Andrew, who also pleaded guilty. As part of his sentence, Andrew Gigante is banned for Life from the Waterfront.

     Currently in prison after his conviction in the first �Waterfront� trial, Peter Gotti is now facing charges that he conspired to murder the man whose testimony convicted his brother John and sent him to prison for life, Sammy �The Bull� Gravano. Peter Gotti is now charged with directing two subordinates, including Gravano�s own brother-in-law, to travel to Arizona and murder Gravano after the former Underboss brazenly challenged the Gambinos to come after him in a Vanity Fair feature. Before the murder plot could be carried out, however, Gravano and his family were arrested for running an operation that sold the designer drug Ecstasy to kids in four States. Gravano is currently being held in New Jersey awaiting trial for his role in the murder of a New York City Police Officer, a murder Gravano conveniently forgot to tell the authorities about when he accepted their deal to testify against Godfathers John Gotti and Vincent Gigante. That deal gave Gravano a prison term of just 5 years for the 19 murders he had admitted to. If convicted of murder number 20, Sammy The Bull Gravano will never again walk the streets of America.


     All 17 Defendants indicted in the �On the Waterfront� trials either pleaded guilty or were convicted in Court. The successful prosecution in the past decade of the Gambino Family has had a significant impact on the Gambinos� ability to operate organized crime rackets that peddle drugs to kids and victimize working people and their families through the Mafia�s control of corrupt Unions.

     Among the yet-unsolved crimes involving the Gambino Family are the murders of two of their Associates, Eddie Lino and Paul Morasca. Lino was one of the triggermen who assassinated Gambino Godfather Paul Castellano in 1985 outside Spark�s Steak House in Manhattan as John Gotti and Sammy Gravano looked on. A few years later Lino was gunned down in broad daylight on a major thoroughfare in Brooklyn. When the Feds later arrested Luchese Family Underboss Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso he confessed to his role in murdering over 30 people. Among the murders Casso claimed responsibility for were that of Lino, stunning Prosecutors by claiming he contracted out the hit to two decorated NYPD cops. These claims caused a sensation in New York City, but eventually Casso was detected in outright lies and fabrications and was dropped from the Witness Protection Program. No one to date has been charged in the murder of Lino, a heroin dealer and addict.

     Another unsolved murder is that of Paul Morasca, a money launderer for the Gambino Family who was found dead in his San Francisco apartment in 1982. Morasca was asphyxiated after being bound with wire in a technique used by the Japanese �Yakuza.� His associate Michael Riconisciuto, a �mad scientist� whose brilliant mind was destroyed by drug abuse, found Morasca�s body. Instead of calling the police, Riconisciuto hopped into his car and drove hundreds of miles away to report this murder to an associate. Riconisciuto would later be convicted on charges he claimed were the result of a conspiracy by the Drug Enforcement Administration to frame him. As to who murdered Morasca, one report had three suspicious men seen near his apartment the night of the murder, one of whom appeared to be an American Indian.

     Steven Seagal can now get on with his life and could conceivably write and produce a movie about his stand against organized crime figures in Japan, the United States, Canada, and Germany, the real Mafia plots against him now proven in Court, (as opposed to the alleged plots against him by the Drug Enforcement Administration), and his own performance in a Mafia trial as a reluctant Witness for the Prosecution.

Related Stories:


Part One: The First Trial Begins in Brooklyn Federal Court


Part Two: Three Members of the Gotti Family are Convicted


Part Three: �Oddfather� Vincent "Chin" Gigante Admits to �Crazy Act�

J. R. de Szigethy
New York


James Ridgway de Szigethy can be reached at

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