A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled that the judge who sentenced alleged Bonanno family gangster Vincent Asaro for a car arson could consider at sentencing his role in the legendary $6 million 1978 Lufthansa heist, even though Asaro was acquitted on charges of participating.
Asaro was found not guilty in 2015 of being part of the famous “Goodfellas” stickup. But in 2017, Brooklyn federal Judge Allyne Ross gave that charge weight in imposing 8 years in prison after Asaro admitted ordering the torching of another motorist’s car after a road rage incident.
“An acquittal does not necessarily mean a jury found the defendant innocent; rather it indicates there exists reasonable doubt as to his guilt,” said the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in its ruling approving Ross’s sentence.
“The court found Asaro’s long history of violent behavior to be proven by … overwhelming evidence based on Asaro’s 2015 RICO trial at which the government presented evidence of crimes alleged to have been committed by Asaro during a period of over 40 years,” the Second Circuit said.
Asaro, now 84, was accused in the 2015 racketeering trial of a criminal history that spanned nearly a half-century, including murder, arson, extortion and gambling. Prosecutors said he was deeply involved in planning the Lufthansa heist.
Two years after his acquittal, he was charged again in a less sweeping case. Prosecutors alleged that after his car was cut off, he took down the license plate and had two associates — one of them the grandson of former Gambino family boss John Gotti — burn it in front of the other driver’s home.
Ross had presided over the 2015 racketeering case before later sentencing Asaro, and the court said she wasn’t bound by the jury’s verdict.
“Those earlier offenses nevertheless informed the court’s assessment of the danger Asaro posed to the community, in light of his “lifelong history of violent crime,” and spoke to the level of specific deterrence needed,” the Second Circuit said.
Asaro is scheduled to be released in May of 2022.