Former Bonanno crime boss Joseph Massino ended his historic appearance as a government witness Thursday by saying he hoped his cooperation gives him a chance to die outside of a prison cell.
"I am looking for a little light at the end of the tunnel," Massino, 68, said as he ended nearly five days on the witness stand in Brooklyn federal court.
Massino was called as a key witness in the murder case against his former crime captain Vincent "Vinny From The Bronx" Basciano, 50, who is accused of orchestrating the murder of mob associate Randolph Pizzolo in late 2004. He said federal prosecutors will write the court a letter to ask for a reduction in his life sentences if they are happy with his cooperation.
Earlier in the case, Massino also said he decided to cooperate in large part to help his wife, daughters and elderly mother by working out a deal where his family could keep certain real estate. He had to forfeit over $12 million in assets, including millions in cash kept in the attic of his Howard Beach home. His mother Adeline died last year.
After he was convicted in July 2004 and later sentenced to two life prison sentences for playing a part in eight murders, Massino cooperated with the FBI, the first official boss to do so in New York. He secretly taped Basciano while both were in a local federal jail in early 2005 and prosecutors are using those recordings to show that Basciano ordered Pizzolo's murder on a rain-soaked street in Greenpoint. Investigators allege that Pizzolo, 43, was slain because he shot up a Queens restaurant and was deemed out of control by Basciano and others in the crime family. Pizzolo's adult daughter, Constance, was in court Thursday for the first time since the start of the trial.
At one point Thursday, Basciano smirked, chuckled and muttered something under his breath when Massino is heard on one of the tapes telling him "I am your friend."
During his testimony, Massino indicated that while mob members risk death by committing a murder without approval or by lying to the family boss, enforcement of those rules was erratic. For instance, Massino said he had Bonanno captain Gerlando Sciascia killed in 1999 because he didn't seek approval for the slaying of another mobster's son. But Massino then said he didn't kill another Bonanno mobster who apparently lied about slaying a couple who specialized in robbing mob social clubs.
It is unclear if Massino, who is obese and suffers from diabetes, will ever testify in public again. He finished his marathon session as a witness Thursday at 12:09 p.m. Then, surrounded by four U.S. marshals, was led out of the courtroom through a back door. Neither his wife nor his daughters attended the trial.