The key witness against four mobsters on trial in Manhattan admitted Wednesday that he set up a close pal to get whacked — not realizing the dead man’s brother was sitting in the courtroom ready to vent his rage.
The defense lawyer for reputed wiseguy Vito Badamo — who along with his cohorts is on trial for loansharking, drug dealing and illegal gambling — questioned capo-turned-canary James “Louie” Tartaglione, 78, for his seeming lack of remorse over his role in several hits.
“You said you didn’t apologize for people whose murder you participated in like Russell Mauro,” the lawyer reminded him of his testimony earlier in the day.
“Well his brother is in this courtroom,” attorney Joseph Donatelli said as he turned to point to a man in the gallery.
The brother of Russell Mauro leaving court.
“You want to explain why you killed him?” pressed the lawyer.
From his seat, Mauro’s brother shouted out in front of jurors, “Why? You piece of s–t!”
“Calm down! Calm down!” Justice Mark Dwyer warned the man.
The seething brother, who declined to give his name, replied, “Judge, I waited 20 years to find out why.”
In earlier testimony, Michael Alber, the lawyer for Nicholas “Nicky Mouth” Santora, questioned Tartaglione about his role in luring Mauro to his social club in 1991, where he knew his longtime
pal would be murdered by another mobster. “You said, ‘Hello?’”
“Yes,” answered the FBI informant.
“You walked him in so someone could shoot him and you helped clean up the blood?”
“Yes,” Tartaglione admitted coolly.
Alber also asked the aging ex-wiseguy whether he helped underboss Salvatore Vitale clean up after an infamous hit on three mob captains.
“I walked in with Sal and he said, ‘Do me a favor, help me remove the shells on the floor,” Tartaglione testified about the scene of the 1981 “Three Capos murder” at the 20/20 Night Club in
The mobster-turned-snitch continued, “There were three bodies. The last body was being tied up and canvased, it was already wrapped. We put it in the trunk, and I took it to Woodhaven
At one point, the lawyer asked Tartaglione whether he ever said sorry to any of his victims’ families.
“Did I apologize?’’ he asked, looking puzzled. “As a person involved with a crime, if I were to approach a family and say ‘I apologize’ wouldn’t I be indicting myself?”
The defense’s strategy on cross-examination was to undermine Tartaglione’s credibility by highlighting his role in numerous murders.
Although Tartaglione is the case’s star witness, he conceded that he has no direct knowledge of the crimes for which the state has charged defendants Santora, Badamo, Ernest Aiello and Anthony “Skinny” Santoro.
Tartaglione said he has been cooperating with the feds since 2003 to “save myself.”
Santora inspired the character played by the late Bruno Kirby in the 1997 film “Donnie Brasco.”