Thursday, September 06, 2007

Reputed Gambino Sentenced for Conspiracy to Commit Murder Conviction

Dominick Pizzonia shuffled into Federal District Court in Brooklyn yesterday wearing a faded and wrinkled prison uniform, his hair almost completely gray. Mr. Pizzonia, a reputed Gambino crime family captain, looked more like a middle school mop man than a hardened mobster, fragile as he entered the courtroom for sentencing after being convicted in May of conspiracy to commit murder.

Judge Jack B. Weinstein sentenced Mr. Pizzonia, 65, to 15 years in prison, a point between the 20-year maximum that prosecutors were pushing for and the 7-to-10-year term his lawyers were hoping for.

For Mr. Pizzonia, it was the latest in a long string of court proceedings that included testimony by made men, murderers and Mafia turncoats who were brought in to detail or dispute his role in the 1992 killings of Thomas and Rosemarie Uva.

The Uvas were a married couple from Ozone Park, Queens, who rode roughshod through very rough circles, robbing mobsters with an Uzi and — for a time — apparent impunity. The robberies earned them the nickname Bonnie and Clyde, as well as a bounty on their heads, according to witnesses and prosecutors. They robbed Mafia social clubs, forcing their victims to empty their pockets and drop their pants. Perhaps their gravest mistake was robbing the social club that Mr. Pizzonia managed — not once, but twice.

Prosecutors said that Mr. Pizzonia wanted the couple dead, and had given orders for anyone who found them to kill them. He even went to John A. Gotti, the boss of the Gambino family at the time, for permission for the killings, prosecutors said.

The Uvas had become marked for death by the Bonanno, Gambino and Colombo crime families.

The couple were gunned down on the morning of Dec. 24, 1992. Several bullets crashed through the windshield of their car, striking each of them in the head three times. The killings took place not far from their Queens home and Mr. Pizzonia’s social club on nearby Liberty Avenue. Mr. Pizzonia was charged with the killings, but in the end a jury found him guilty only of racketeering conspiracy for participating in planning the killings.

Joseph R. Corozzo, Mr. Pizzonia’s lawyer, pointed out the government’s disdain for Mafia members yesterday, but he cited what he said was its willingness to offer freedom or lesser charges to those who snitch on — or lie about — a bigger fish.

At trial, Mr. Corozzo cast doubt on the government’s case, picking apart the testimony of its star witnesses, who were mostly Mafia defectors, bookies and criminals, one of whom is in the federal witness protection program. The jury returned a not-guilty verdict on the more serious charges.

Prosecutors, arguing for the maximum sentence, reiterated yesterday that Mr. Pizzonia had boasted of putting an end to the Uvas. They reminded the judge that trial testimony had indicated that when another crime family tried to take credit for the killings, Mr. Gotti told the bosses of that family that it was “our Skinny Dom,” as Mr. Pizzonia is known, who killed the couple.

By yesterday afternoon, the fireworks that had preceded the day had faded. There was no commotion as the judge read Mr. Pizzonia’s sentence.

Mr. Pizzonia was seated at a large conference table in Judge Weinstein’s courtroom, directly opposite the judge. Mr. Corozzo sat to his left. The prosecution team sat to the left of Mr. Corozzo, and in the three-row gallery behind Mr. Pizzonia sat his wife and two sons and other supporters, mostly stoic old Italian men with clean-shaven faces and work-worn hands.

Before the judge rendered the sentence, he likened Mr. Pizzonia’s life to a work of cinema, a film with a split screen and a single actor portraying two roles, masterfully at times. On one side of the screen, Judge Weinstein said, you have the church member who was quiet, generous and courtly. But on the other is a hardened criminal who has been “a lifelong member of a vicious gang.”

“How much credit can be given to the worthy side?” Judge Weinstein asked. “In this case, not much.”

Thanks to Trymaine Lee

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