Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mob boss Vincent (Vinny Gorgeous) Basciano found guilty of murder, gangster faces death penalty

Former crime boss Vincent (Vinny Gorgeous) Basciano was convicted of capital murder Monday - only the second mobster to face death for a gangland rubout in 30 years.

The jury of seven men and five women will return Monday to decide whether Basciano should die by lethal injection or get life in prison for ordering the murder of mob associate Randolph Pizzolo.

Basciano turned his chair to face Judge Nicholas Garaufis, not the jury forewoman, as she read the verdict on the fourth day of deliberations in Brooklyn Federal Court.

He showed no reaction and later stood as the jury filed out of the courtroom, took a deep breath and sighed.

"I think we're all disappointed," defense lawyer Richard Jasper said outside court.

Basciano, 51, is already serving a life sentence for the shotgun murder of Bronx junkie Frank Santoro in 2001.

The flamboyant gangster was buried under the weight of testimony from six cooperating witnesses, including another former Bonanno boss, Joseph Massino, the highest-ranking New York gangster to sing for the government.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Taryn Merkl and Stephen Frank told jurors Basciano's big mouth proved he was a murderer.

Basciano - who was in jail when Pizzolo was executed Nov. 30, 2004, on a deserted street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn - told Massino in a taped jailhouse conversation he gave the order to kill Pizzolo.

"His own words are on tape telling you the murder was his idea, he selected the hit team and explaining why it had to be done," Frank said in closing arguments.

Pizzolo had committed numerous mob indiscretions and the hit was meant to send a "wakeup call" to the rest of the Bonanno crime family, already reeling from the defections of several high-ranking gangsters.

"Even though justice has been served, there isn't anything that can or will replace the lifetime sentence of emotional void my family and I serve, without my dad," Pizzolo's daughter Connie told the Daily News.

"If capital punishment is what is next for Vinny, then my father's death will not have been in vain," she said.

The feds are seeking the death penalty under the statute of murder in aid of racketeering. There is no death penalty charge in New York.

Last fall, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder reaffirmed the government's intent to seek the death penalty against Basciano after the judge had asked him to reconsider the decision.

In 1992, Bonanno soldier Thomas (Tommy Karate) Pitera was convicted of six murders and faced the death penalty, but the jury opted for life in prison.

Federal prosecutors may seek to introduce evidence in the death penalty phase that Basciano plotted from jail to kill Garaufis, Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Andres and several mob rats who were part of the earlier Santoro murder case.

They will argue that Basciano should be executed because he remains a grave danger to the outside world and prison personnel.

Defense lawyers will counter that Basciano will be totally incapacitated serving a life sentence at the supermaximum security federal penitentiary in Florence, Colo.

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