Family divisions are resurfacing in the run-up to Friday's scheduled sentencing of mob legend John "Sonny" Franzese, the former Colombo family underboss from Roslyn who was Long Island's most infamous gangster during his heyday in the 1960s.
Onetime celebrity thug Franzese, 93, who has spent most of his adult life in prison, was convicted of racketeering last year based on testimony from his son John Franzese Jr., while his estranged wife Cristina Capobianco Franzese, 75, issued public broadsides condemning the pain his mob life had caused his son and family.
But in letters submitted more recently to U.S. District Court Judge Brian Cogan, she seems to have softened a bit. She urged a non-prison sentence and offered to care for her nonagenarian mate of 52 years - who, by her count, spent 32 of them in prison on a bank robbery conviction and a series of five parole violations.
"It hurts me to see him in prison at this age," she said in a handwritten note from Nov. 5, released Thursday. "I would want to see him home. I would be responsible for him and his actions. In all this tragedy, we are in love."
Another part of the family, however, dissents. While out of jail most recently, Franzese stayed with a daughter from a different relationship, and granddaughter Maria Scorsone urged Cogan to let him continue to develop bonds with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
She also appeared to blame Christina - his "sociopathic wife" - for some of Sonny's past problems, saying, "He was a man who was happier in jail than at home, because in jail he found more peace and support."
Franzese was convicted in July of racketeering, loan-sharking and extortion, including schemes to shake down a Long Island pizzeria and two strip clubs in Manhattan. He used a wheelchair and required frequent bathroom breaks at trial.
"Mr. Franzese does not have much time before the ultimate judge will pass sentence for the last time," said his physician, Dr. Louis Barricelli, in a letter to Cogan.
Prosecutors are urging Cogan to give Franzese about 15 years, arguing that he admitted on tape he was responsible for several murders and describing him as a "depraved person" with "no prospect of rehabilitation."