Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Canaries Get Tweet Salvation

Friends of ours: Junior Gotti, Bonanno Crime Family, Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano, Patrick DeFilippo, Vito DeFilippo, Gambino Crime Family, Salvatore LoCascio, Genovese Crime Family, Joseph Ida, John Gotti, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo

Today's rats escape sleepin' with fishes

The stampede of Mafia turncoats joining Team U.S.A. is radically changing the way gangsters try to beat the rap. Faced with damning testimony from high-ranking rats, wiseguys are wising up to the fact that it's futile to deny they're in the mob.

It was once a violation punishable by death to publicly acknowledge one's membership in a crime family. But John A. (Junior) Gotti has done it. So too has a gaggle of gangsters in the hope the wiseguys can neutralize the government's weapons.

"He's in the Bonanno family," declared defense lawyer Barry Levin last week at the trial of Vincent (Vinny Gorgeous) Basciano, once the clan's acting boss. "We don't care. So if you spend three weeks listening to the Bonanno family, you've heard it here. You can take a nap."

Levin's strategy so infuriated prosecutors they asked the judge to instruct the jury that it was out of bounds. The lawyer for Basciano's co-defendant Patrick DeFilippo was also up front with jurors about his client's mob lineage. "His father Vito was a member ... and it was as natural for him at that time a long time ago to join as it was, say, for me to become a lawyer," said attorney Richard Levitt.

Recently, lawyers for Gambino capo Salvatore LoCascio and Genovese soldier Joseph Ida admitted their clients were made men, but insisted each had decided to quit the Mafia.

It's a long way from the bold denials John Gotti's mouthpiece Bruce Cutler was making in 1990 when he said: "There is absolutely no evidence of what prosecutors call an Italian-American Mafia in America."

Mafia historian Thomas Reppetto recalled that Chicago gangster Joey (The Clown) Lombardo even took out an ad in a newspaper in 1992 to proclaim he wasn't in the Mafia anymore. Lombardo was indicted last year on a raft of charges.

For years wiseguys and their lawyers nervously tiptoed around naming the criminal enterprise when pleading guilty to racketeering. Has omerta - the Mafia's code of silence - been revised? "Apparently so," said former federal prosecutor Edward MacDonald. "There's no point in contesting membership anymore. The evidence is so overwhelming. You might as well concede the obvious."

Thanks to John Marzulli

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