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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

First official boss of a NY crime family cooperates with FBI

Joseph Massino, longtime boss of the NY Bonanno crime family, testified on Tuesday against his predecessor Vincent Basciano in a murder trial in which Basciano is accused of ordering the killing of Randolph Pizzolo. Massino himself has previously been convicted of eight murders and is facing two consecutive life sentences -- he has been cooperating with the government since his convictions in 2004. He told the jury that while he has not expressly been promised a sentence reduction in exchange for his testimony, he's "hoping to see a light at the end of the tunnel." The defendant Basciano has also been previously convicted of murder and racketeering and is already facing a life sentence for those offenses. NYT story here: A Mafia Boss Breaks a Code in Telling All.

Over the years, the FBI's handling of its high level mafia informants has been a major force shaping the law and culture of informant use. The Boston FBI's mishandling of its murderous informants Stephen Flemmi and Whitey Bulger led the U.S. Department of Justice to impose strict new guidelines (see link to Attorney General Guidelines at left), while the need to protect mob informants led to the creation of the federal witness protection program WITSEC in the 1960s. See Peter Earley & Gerald Shur, WITSEC: Inside the Federal Witness Protection Program (Bantam Books, 2002).