On one side, prosecutors say he's a violent Bonanno mob enforcer caught on wiretap threatening people with hatchets and bullets.
His close ones, however, describe a good-hearted, incredibly funny man with a soft side and bit of a loose tongue -- or, how he more aptly puts it, a rough and tough cream puff. Anthony "Skinny" Santoro, 52, of Great Kills, has been portrayed with these conflicting — yet fascinating — personalities during his nearly three-month trial in state Supreme Court in Manhattan.
So, who's the real "Skinny?"
"He's not the guy made out in the papers," said one of Santoro's relatives who wished to remain anonymous. "He's a good man with a good heart. He doesn't have a bad bone in his body.
"I hope to have him home very soon."
Santoro and his three co-defendants -- Vito Badamo, 53, Nicholas Santora, 73, and Ernest Aiello, 36 -- are anxiously awaiting a verdict, with jury deliberations set to resume on Monday. The quartet is accused of enterprise corruption, including loansharking, gambling and drug dealing after authorities say they busted a nine-man Bonanno crew in July 2013.
THE SAGA BEGINS
Almost three years ago, Santoro was sipping his coffee on a summer morning when the cops came knocking at his residence. He quietly and respectfully placed his hands in front so he could be handcuffed and taken into custody, according to a source close to the defendant.
From that day, the family feels, he was denied bail for a non-violent crime and railroaded for being Italian.
"They were targeted because they're Italians," the relative added. "I really believe that. Nobody got hurt. Nobody was killed. That mafia doesn't exist anymore.
"This should've been resolved three years ago. They gave him a bad deal. They stomped all over his rights."
Prosecutors say Santoro was a key player in the Bonanno family's gambling operation, allegedly setting the prices for drugs and deciding on opening and freezing gambling accounts.
The bulk of the state's case against him is the information intercepted from a series of wiretap calls, which implicate him using mob slang referring to illegal drug and gambling activities.
The first time Santoro got to hear those wiretapped recordings against him was during the trial, a source with knowledge of the case said.
In the most salacious call, Santoro says, "I'm gonna split his f------ head open with a hatchet, to be honest with you."
"Biz, I'll put two holes in his f------ forehead, I'll double tap his forehead right now. I will go right now put two holes in his head. He'll be one dead young punk. I'll leave him in the street right now. I'll shoot him right now, right this minute. I'll take a shower and shave just to go shoot him."
The police raid that netted cash, marijuana and seven firearms from his girlfriend's Tanglewood Drive home only added to the Hollywood mobster stereotype.
Except nobody got "whacked."
"He's got a big mouth and he yells a lot, but he doesn't mean anything by it," the family member said. "He's all talk. Look, he's a gambler, but he didn't do the other things they said he did."
Santoro's lawyer, Adam Konta, argued his client was a broke hustler, and not a violent gangster. He also believes it was unfair Santoro was denied bail, despite the state's lack of evidence that he was a flight risk or a danger to society.
"A lot of men in this situation would have broken down, but not 'Skinny,' " Konta said in a statement to the Advance. "He has remained focused on the jury seeing this case for what it is – an unsuccessful attempt to make him a member of the Bonanno crime family.
"Throughout this lengthy trial, he has kept his head up and can always be counted on for a smile or a joke – not because he isn't taking the case seriously, but because he is a positive person who is trying to make the best out of an unnecessarily long and stressful situation."
PENDING FEDERAL CASE
Even if Santoro is found not guilty in the Manhattan case, the Staten Island man is still likely going to prison in connection with a federal gambling case in Connecticut.
In 2013, before his arrest in this current case, Santoro pleaded guilty to operating an illegal gambling business as part of a local Bonanno crime crew in Connecticut, and was sentenced to eight months in prison, said attorney Tim Parlatore, who represents Santoro in the federal case.
The betting lasted more than 30 days and netted a gross revenue of $2,000 a day, court records show. But Santoro, court documents say, actually lost money on the bets.
Santoro's sense of humor shines through during a witty exchange with the judge during his plea hearing, where he jokingly asks her if she wants to make a bet, according to court transcripts:
Judge: Do you know the amount of money wagered by the person you referred?
Santoro: No. I wouldn't have any idea of that. I don't even know how much money I got in my pocket right now, to be honest with you.
Judge: Why don't you know that?
Santoro: I don't pay attention to that.
Santoro: Do you know how much money you have in your purse, your honor?
Judge: Roughly, yes.
Judge: Not exactly.
Santoro: Oh, okay.
Judge: Do you have some sense of how much money you have in your pocket?
Santoro: Yeah, I have, your honor.
Judge: How much money do you think you have?
Santoro: I don't know, a few hundred, I guess.
Judge: A few hundred?Santoro: You want to bet? I'm only kidding. I'm only kidding.
A bit later in the transcripts, Santoro amusingly warns the judge not to place bets with his co-defendants busted in the Connecticut case.
"Oh, God. You're a card," the judge replied to his friendly suggestion.
"He's the funniest client I've ever had," said Parlatore, who has known Santoro for years. "He's just naturally funny."
BIGGEST GAMBLE YET
After refusing to make a plea deal, Santoro is betting the jury will find him innocent.
If convicted, he could face up to 25 years in prison.
After months of testimony, the jury deliberated for two days before a week-long adjournment.
The panel was charged with the different elements constituting enterprise corruption, grand larceny in the second degree and first-degree criminal usury.
Santoro is also charged with criminal possession of a weapon and criminal sale of a firerarm.
The case, the defense claims, hinges on venue.
The defense argues Manhattan was not the proper jurisdiction for the trial considering most of the alleged criminal acts happened in other boroughs, including Brooklyn and Staten Island.
During their brief discussions, the panel had several questions about venue, including if they had to be unanimous in making that determination. The judge instructed them that they needed to be in agreement.
"It's been a long, long couple of months; the waiting and the waiting has been hard for the families," the family member said. "It's been more than enough already."