Colombo family legend John "Sonny" Franzese was sentenced Friday in federal court to 8 years in prison for racketeering - a term that could keep the 93-year-old ex-underboss in prison past his 100th birthday, if he lives that long.
Judge Brian Cogan, in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, imposed the sentence despite appeals from Franzese's lawyer for leniency based on a variety of ailments, including partial blindness and deafness, gout, and heart and kidney problems.
Prosecutors, on the other hand, asked for an even tougher sentence of more than 12 years, based on a criminal history that included involvement in dozens of murders and shakedowns during more than a half-century at the top level of the New York mob that made Franzese Long Island's best-known hoodlum as far back as the 1960s.
"He has never held an honest job for a day of his life," said prosecutor Christina Posa. "He has essentially lived as a parasite off the hard work of others by shaking them down. For him to die now as a criminal in jail is not an inappropriate response to the life he has lived."
During the hearing Friday, Franzese's lawyer complained that his client, who uses a wheelchair, was having a hard time hearing because his hearing aid battery had failed. When asked if he had anything to say, Franzese mumbled something to his lawyer about not getting a fair shake, but declined the opportunity to address Cogan.
In his salad days, living in suburban Roslyn, Franzese was a key mob link to New York City's nightclub and recording industries, a friend to celebrities who helped glamorize the mob culture. One of his sons, Michael, also became a major Long Island mob figure, raking in millions through a gas-tax scam.
Sonny Franzese spent most of the last four decades in prison on a bank robbery conviction and five subsequent parole violations. In the latest case, he was convicted last year of shaking down an Albertson pizzeria and two Manhattan strip clubs based on tapes made by another son, John Franzese Jr., who became a government informant.
Cogan said that Franzese's age and medical condition were powerful mitigating factors, but even taking them into account, he couldn't discount Franzese's life of crime enough to impose a sentence that would do him much good.
"I can't apply the factors in any way to get to a sentence that he is likely to survive," Cogan said.
Franzese, hunched over his cane, said nothing when the sentence was imposed or when he was wheeled out.