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

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Massino returns to stand to testify against Basciano

After making a star turn from the witness box of a Mafia murder trial last month, a former mob boss returned to the stand on Wednesday to testify again against the same man, this time in the trial’s death penalty phase.
And the mob boss, Joseph C. Massino, came ready to tell the jury about a proposition to kill a federal prosecutor. The idea arose in 2004 during a brief exchange in a holding cell in Brooklyn, Mr. Massino testified in Federal District Court in Brooklyn. One of his longtime deputies, Vincent Basciano, was angry because he believed the prosecutor, Greg Andres, had just given Mr. Basciano’s wife a subpoena or was about to do so.
Mr. Basciano pleaded for permission to murder Mr. Andres as he left an Upper East Side restaurant, Mr. Massino, then the boss of the Bonnano crime family, testified. “Let me think about it,” he said had replied.
Last week, the jury found Mr. Basciano guilty of plotting to murder a fellow mobster. The current phase of the trial is for the jury to decide whether Mr. Basciano should be executed or be sentenced to life in prison without parole. He is already serving a life sentence for murder and racketeering.
Federal prosecutors on Wednesday presented the exchange about Mr. Andres as evidence of Mr. Basciano’s violent nature and depravity. But defense lawyers argued that Mr. Massino had exaggerated the seriousness of an offhand remark to improve his own legal situation, and suggested that Mr. Massino may himself have been angry with the prosecutor.
Mr. Massino testified that he thought Mr. Andres had brought about 100 prosecutions against members of the Bonnano family. And at the time of the holding-cell talk, Mr. Andres was preparing to prosecute Mr. Massino on murder charges.
“He pretty much destroyed the Bonnano family,” Mr. Massino said on the stand.
Mr. Massino reported the conversation about the prosecutor to the authorities and agreed to wear a recording device. Transcripts show that in later conversations, Mr. Massino questioned the wisdom of killing a prosecutor. Mr. Basciano appeared to agree, saying “forget it” every time Mr. Massino noted his reservations. Mr. Massino attributed that to Mr. Basciano’s respecting his seniority.
Under questioning on Wednesday, Mr. Massino agreed that he had expressed irritation with Mr. Andres in 2004 during a meeting with co-defendants and their lawyers. He said he had known Mr. Andres regularly ate at Campagnola, a restaurant on First Avenue, because three defense lawyers said they had seen him there.
One of those lawyers, Thomas Lee, pleaded guilty to racketeering charges in 2005 and acknowledged he had carried mob messages to Mr. Massino while he was in custody.
Contacted at his office, Murray Richman, another lawyer named by Mr. Massino, said he had mentioned to Mr. Lee having seen Mr. Andres at the restaurant but had not told Mr. Lee’s client. The third lawyer, David Breitbart, did not respond to a request for comment.
Under cross-examination by a defense lawyer, George R. Goltzer, Mr. Massino acknowledged he had been upset during one trial when evidence revealing that he had had an extramarital affair was introduced while his wife was in the courtroom. Mr. Massino said he considered it “a cheap shot” by Mr. Andres, but testified he had never wanted anyone to harm him.
Mr. Massino went on to say he had decided to wear a wire while having follow-up conversations with Mr. Basciano partly to prove his own reliability. He acknowledged he had failed two lie detector tests after he approached the authorities about the first conversation.
When he spoke with Mr. Basciano in the holding cell, Mr. Massino said, he was facing the death penalty.
Mr. Goltzer asked him, “You knew at that point that if you could convince the prosecutors that he wanted to kill a prosecutor, you could find a way out of the death penalty?”
“I didn’t look at it that way,” Mr. Massino answered.



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