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

Monday, November 9, 2015

Defense lawyer for Bonanno captain blasts government and turncoats

‘Goodfellas’ turncoats are despicable liars, attorney says
Painting them as “despicable … liars” just looking for government paydays, an attorney for accused “Goodfellas” mobster Vincent Asaro urged jurors to dismiss the testimony of a handful of veteran mob canaries during her closing argument Monday in Brooklyn federal court.

“These are despicable people,” lawyer Elizabeth Macedonio said of the cooperating witnesses the government used against the Bonanno capo on the stand over the last three weeks to implicate him in the infamous 1978 Lufthansa cargo heist and the murder of a suspected mob canary.

“They are accomplished liars,” she said.

The gray-haired gangster, 80, faces life in prison if convicted in the murder and the more than $6 million Kennedy Airport heist, which was immortalized in Martin Scorsese’s 1990 film “Goodfellas.”
Vincent Asaro

Seeking to undo the government’s depiction of Asaro as a ferocious hoodlum who thrived as a Cosa Nostra menace for decades, Macedonio presented him as a benign and increasingly pathetic codger who ended up all but broke.

“Hardly the powerful organized crime figure the government alleges him to be,” Macedonio said. “Rather, Mr. Asaro rode around all day with Gaspare Valenti fantasizing. Fantasizing about a way to make money.”

Macedonio concentrated her spite on Valenti, the government’s linchpin witness. The lifelong mob bench warmer, a younger cousin of Asaro, was suddenly thrust into the spotlight at trial and calmly and effectively buried his relative on the stand.

The attorney painted Valenti as a loathsome Mafia layabout who had no problem lying in any circumstance as long as it refreshed his wallet.

“Gaspare Valenti is an experienced liar,” she said. “He is a person who is able to lie to everyone around him. Even his own family.”

Tired of the oppressive Mafia lifestyle, Valenti opted to turn into a rat in 2008 and began wearing a wire to ensnare his cousin in incriminating banter.

He told jurors earlier in the trial that he and Asaro were direct participants in the iconic Kennedy Airport robbery, where a team of Mafia crooks made off with $6 million in cash and jewels.

Valenti also testified that he took part in the exhumation of Asaro’s alleged murder victim, Paul Katz.

The feds claim that Katz ran a Queens warehouse that served as a holding area for items stolen by legendary Lucchese associate and purported Lufthansa mastermind Jimmy “The Gent” Burke.

After it was raided by agents, Burke suspected that Katz had run his mouth to law enforcement and killed him with a dog chain with Asaro, Valenti said.

Hoping to undercut the cousin’s damaging turn on the stand, Macedonio repeatedly reminded jurors that his spews were subsidized by the government.

The turncoat acknowledged on the stand that he has been receiving $3,000 a month from prosecutors since he began his cooperation.

“The government has become a pension plan for organized crime figures,” she zinged. “Every one of these cooperators are on the streets. They negotiate sweetheart deals and reap the rewards.”
Vincent Asaro (foreground) and his cousin Gaspare Valenti in an undated photo.

Macedonio heaped disbelief on Valenti’s recollections about the Lufthansa heist and Asaro’s involvement in it.

He testified that Asaro was parked in a car about a mile from the airport with Burke as the robbery took place. Macedonio argued that it made no sense for the men to be stationed away from the scene with no way to communicate with the heist squad as the score unfolded.

“Really?” the lawyer asked incredulously.

She also minimized the snippets of recorded chatter that the government has elevated as direct evidence of Asaro’s involvement in the heist.

In a 2011 conversation, Valenti and Asaro lamented that the Lufthansa score loot wasn’t properly dispersed, according to prosecutors.

“We got f—– all around,” Asaro said. “Got f—– all round. That f—— Jimmy, he kept everything.”

The feds asserted that Asaro was referring to Jimmy Burke and the $6 million caper. But Macedonio said that the comment was too vague to serve as direct evidence of her client’s involvement.

She also scoffed at the government’s assertion that Asaro and his fellow Lufthansa plotters opened up a supper club named Afters that was meant to refer to “after Lufthansa” soon after the heist. Macedonio said that such a maneuver would have been ludicrously incriminating. “That just doesn’t make any sense,” she said.

Valenti, who has already pleaded guilty to a range of crimes, faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced. But Macedonio said that he has yet to serve a day behind bars and is hoping to keep it that way through his assistance to the government in their pursuit of Asaro.

Seeking to soften the jury’s image of her client, Macedonio mocked the government’s presentation of dozens of surveillance pictures captured over several decades.

The black and white images primarily showed him fraternizing with burly associates in front of drab, indeterminate Ozone Park storefronts.

“They were like the paparazzi,” she said of the government’s scrutiny of Asaro. “They never went away. It went on for decades.”

“Not once did they catch him doing something illegal. There is Mr. Asaro walking down the street with a coffee pot in his hand,” she said while a photo was shown to jurors. “Yep, they got him!”

“Sometimes the government gets it wrong,” Macedonio said toward the end of her two-hour summation.

“He is a man who marches to the beat of his own drum,” she said of Asaro. “He always has, he always will. But that doesn’t make him guilty.”

Prosecutors will now have the opportunity to rebut her points before the jury begins deliberations.



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