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

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Execution Is Sought for Mobster in Death Plot

As the death penalty phase began on Tuesday in the trial of a convicted murderer and former mob boss, even the prosecutor acknowledged that capital punishment was not appropriate in most cases.
But in the case of this man, Vincent Basciano, it was appropriate, the prosecutor, Jack Dennehy, told a jury in Federal District Court in Brooklyn.
Condemning a man to death is not something taken lightly in New York; it has been more than 50 years since a federal defendant was executed in the state, and nearly as long since a state case led to an execution.
But Mr. Basciano led a “cold-blooded and remorseless life,” Mr. Dennehy said. Prison walls, he added, would be no obstacle to further misdeeds.
Mr. Basciano, who was known in Mafia circles as Vinny Gorgeous, relished determining whether others lived or died, the prosecutor said.
Last week, the jury convicted Mr. Basciano, who is already serving a life sentence for murder and racketeering, of plotting to murder a fellow mobster, Randolph Pizzolo. If the jury decides against execution, Mr. Basciano will receive an additional sentence of life in a federal prison without possibility of parole.
“Randoph Pizzolo didn’t deserve to be executed, he didn’t deserve a bullet in the brain, he didn’t deserve to be left in the gutter,” Mr. Dennehy said, adding that the killing came as a result of Mr. Basciano’s “rage and desire to be a hoodlum” and his “murderous rise to power.”
A few moments later, one of Mr. Basciano’s lawyers, Richard Jasper, argued that his client’s life should be spared in part because several mobsters were also culpable in the death of Mr. Pizzolo but were not facing the death penalty. And he suggested that the victim was far from blameless.
“Randolph Pizzolo,” Mr. Jasper said, “willingly participated in dangerous and illegal activities, a circumstance that contributed to his death.”
Mr. Basciano’s conviction last week was achieved with the help of a former leader of the Bonanno family, Joseph C. Massino, who testified for the government. Mr. Massino, who is serving two consecutive life sentences for eight murders, was the first official boss of a New York crime family to cooperate with federal authorities.
One of the first witnesses to testify on behalf of the government was Dominick Cicale, a former high-ranking member of the Bonanno family and a former associate of Mr. Basciano.
Mr. Cicale testified that Mr. Basciano had spoken with him many times over the years about desires to kill others: the Mafia figure Salvatore Vitale, because he might become a government informant; Dominick Martino, because he fought with a senior mobster; Mr. Cicale’s fiancĂ©e, Lynette Ayuso, because she might have told Mr. Basciano’s wife about an affair he was having. Mr. Cicale testified that Mr. Basciano even discussed the idea of bursting into a restaurant to kill a federal prosecutor, Greg Andres, who, he believed, had been rude to Mr. Massino.
Those murders were never carried out, Mr. Cicale said. But he testified that he had helped Mr. Basciano kill Mr. Pizzolo.
A prosecutor, Nicole M. Argentieri, asked why Mr. Pizzolo had been killed.
“Because Vincent Basciano couldn’t tolerate Randolph Pizzolo any more,” Mr. Cicale replied.
Later, a defense lawyer, George R. Goltzer, asked Mr. Cicale if he, too, was facing the death penalty for that murder.
“I decided to become a government informant,” Mr. Cicale said. “So, no, they took the death penalty away.”
The last time a federal defendant was executed in New York State was in 1954, when Gerhard A. Puff, who had been convicted of murdering an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, was put to death. Last year, an appeals court reversed a death penalty verdict in the case of Ronell Wilson, who was convicted of executing a police officer on Staten Island in 2003.



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