Updated news on the Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Lucchese and Colombo Organized Crime Families of New York City.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Mob Trial Hard to Forget

There are trials you don’t forget, especially if they have sex, violence, organized gangsters and great lawyers. The trial of a North Jersey wiseguy reputed to be Joe Pesci’s model for his role in “Goodfellas,’’ was one of them.
I didn’t know it then, but Robert “Cabert’’ Bisaccia, was a mobster on the rise when he was hanging out “down the shore’’ in 1974, moving from motel to motel and looking for prey.
He found it when a Seaside Park doctor went looking for somebody to collect money from a contractor he loaned money. The contractor owed the doctor money. So Dr. Gerald F. Wolfe asked Anthony “Platehead” Verone of Bay Avenue in Toms River, if he knew someone who would put the pressure on the contractor.
Verone contacted Bisaccia, a Gambino family associate with a criminal record dating back to 1958. Instead of using his muscle on the contractor, Bisaccia made Wolfe his mark, or so the doctor testified during Bisaccia’s 1978 trial for extortion, banging the doctor around with a gun, and shooting out the back window of his brand new Mercedes Benz when the doctor fled.
The doctor said Bisaccia sent his girlfriend, Cecelia Kulak, an Eatontown schoolteacher, to him as a patient. Who propositioned who was disputed during the trial. Suffice to say they wound up in a motel room and what happened next was photographed. Then Bisaccia put the arm on Wolfe for $60,000, threatening to distribute the pictures all over the area if he did not pay that sum.
Scared to death of the muscular Bisaccia and a companion later cleared at the 1978 trial, Wolfe went to the cops. Detective Dion Felti of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, who tapped Wolfe’s telephone, wired him for the delivery of $1,000 in marked bills to Bisaccia, and arrested Bisaccia with the money in his pocket.
Bisaccia claimed he lived on Hommis Street in Belleville, but police said he was moving from motel to motel in the Seaside Heights area that summer, hanging out with James “Jimmy the Brush’’ Fyfe, described by police as a mob enforcer.
It was in Belleville where Bisaccia, called Bobby Anthony by some, got the nickname Cabert. He was a wicked fast-pitch softball hurler. Hence K, the symbol for a strikeout, blended with Bert, for the last part of his first name.
Robert Buccino, chief of detective in Union County and an organized crime expert, said Pesci based his Goodfellas role on the increasingly violent Bisaccia.
In 1974 there were already mob songbirds pointing to Bisaccia as the guy who ordered the murder of a Bloomfield bookie, and the beating of a black man in a Newark diner to convince the owner to keep paying for mob protection.
Ironically, Verone, who steered Bisaccia to Wolfe, was on trial at about the same time Bisaccia finally faced a jury. Verone was convicted in January 1978 of threatening to kill a Seaside Park bookie if he did not pay him a $400 gambling debt.
It would be more than three years after his arrest before Bisaccia would stand trial for the shakedown of Dr. Wolfe. Representing the state was Kevin Kelly, an assistant Ocean County Prosecutor and one of the best trial lawyers I ever saw.
He faced his old boss, Thomas Ford. They had worked together in the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office. If Kelly was intimidated, he did not show it. Young, handsome, self-assured, with a North Jersey edge, it quickly became apparent he knew his way around a courtroom.
Ford tried to put Wolfe, the cops, anybody by Bisaccia, on trial. Parry and thrust, the trial went on for days.
Kulak testified for the defense, denying Wolfe’s story. Kelly would later tell the jury she came dressed like a nun, her hair up in a bun, dress down to her feet. And just when he got ready to cross-examine the Eatontown school teacher, she got sick. So sick she never came back to Superior Court Judge Mark Addison’s courtroom in Toms River.
The witnesses heard, the lawyers made their arguments to the jury.
What became vintage Kelly passed his lips: “There has been a conscious effort on the part of certain witnesses to present testimony to deceive you.’’
Ford countered that Wolfe’s story was made up, and that no one saw or heard anything at the motel where Bisaccia was accused of beating and threatening the doctor and shooting out the back window of his car.
The jurors believed the doctor and the evidence supporting the shakedown. At 9:19 p.m. Feb. 1, 1978 Bisaccia, 42, was convicted of extortion, attempting to use a gun against Wolfe and maliciously damaging the window of his car.
It did little, police say, to diminish Bisaccia’s standing with the mob.
The State Commission of Investigation reported in 1988, a year after Bisaccia met John Gotti at a nightclub in Seaside Heights, he was involved in loansharking, labor racketeering, drug distribution and gambling for the Gambino mob in North Jersey. He quickly became a Gotti favorite, and a capo in the Gambino family, police said.
After a raucous, yearlong trial in 1993, Bisaccia and five others were convicted of racketeering, murder and other crimes. He served time in state prison and federal prisons in Pennsylvania and Virginia before being transferred to the prison hospital in Butler, N.C., where he died of cancer in December of 2008.
Kelly kept prosecuting. He is best known for prosecuting Toms River businessman Robert O. Marshall for the contract killing of his wife, Marie, in 1984, a case that was the basis for “Blind Faith’’ a book by Joe McGinniss.



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