An undated copy of a surveillance photo of Vincent Basciano...

An undated copy of a surveillance photo of Vincent Basciano was released by the U.S. Attorney's Office in New York. Credit: AP

Former crime boss Joseph Massino unexpectedly testified Wednesday that he failed two FBI lie detector tests while trying to become a government witness -- an admission defense attorneys are likely to use to attack his credibility as they try to save crime captain Vincent Basciano from the death penalty.

Massino, 68, described his test failings while Basciano's attorneys cross-examined him in a special proceeding, in which prosecutors are trying to convince a federal jury in Brooklyn that Basciano -- convicted this month of the murder of a mob associate -- deserves to die.

Massino was the boss of the Bonanno family from 1991 to about 2004, when he was convicted of seven racketeering murders. He testified as a cooperating witness during the Basciano trial, the first official mob boss ever to do so.

Massino's failure of the FBI lie detector tests in December 2004, when he was trying to persuade the government to make him a cooperating witness, has been reported for years. But it wasn't supposed to come up in the Basciano case, the court ruled.

Under questioning by Basciano's attorney, George Goltzer, however, Massino blurted out that he felt he had to prove himself to the FBI after failing the test. Massino agreed to wear a wire and tape Basciano in a jail holding cell discussing an alleged plot to kill federal prosecutor Greg Andres, Massino testified.

Although Basciano, 51, wasn't charged in the Andres murder solicitation, prosecutors are using it to argue that Basciano should be executed.

During questioning by prosecutor Taryn Merkel, Massino said Basciano had asked his permission to kill nine people, mostly suspected informants or their families. None of them was harmed, Massino said.

Basciano's attorneys want to convince the jury it is unfair to give him the death penalty when Massino, with multiple murders on his record, has been spared.

Massino, who is living in a witness security facility while serving a life sentence, admitted he hoped his cooperation would get out of prison before he died.

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