NEW YORK (AP) – A Canadian mobster who took part in the spectacular slaying of three New York Mafia captains in 1981 pleaded guilty Friday to racketeering as part of a plea deal calling for him to serve just 10 years in prison.
Vito Rizzuto, reputed to be a former godfather of the Montreal Mafia, entered his plea at a U.S. federal court in Brooklyn, a day before the 26th anniversary of the slayings.
Even as he admitted guilt, it took some coaxing to get the 61-year-old to break his long silence about one of the more spectacular gangland hits of the 1980s.
Prosecutors says Rizzuto went to New York at the behest of the Bonanno crime family to help kill three captains suspected of plotting a coup.
The plea bargain required Rizzuto to admit his guilt and describe his role in the crime. But in court on Friday, Rizzuto hesitated to get specific, initially admitting only that he had engaged in racketeering.
U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis demanded more detail.
“Why should I accept a specific sentence when I don’t know what he did?” Garaufis said. “Was he the driver? Was he one of the shooters?”
Rizzuto held a hushed conference with his lawyer, then finally stood before the judge and offered the barest of detail.
“My job was to say, ‘It’s a hold up!’ So everybody would stand still,” Rizzuto said.
He said his accomplices then opened fire, killing Dominick (Big Trin) Trinchera, Philip (Philly Lucky) Giaccone and Alphonse (Sonny Red) Indelicato.
That was enough, barely, for the judge, who accepted the deal and the 10-year term.
The sentence is a light one, by today’s standards, but prosecutors said their options were limited.
Rizzuto was charged as part of a racketeering case, and under federal law at the time of the killing, faced a maximum of only 20 years if he went to trial and was found guilty. The law has subsequently been changed to allow for a life sentence, but the change does not apply to old crimes.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Andres said the age of the case, which would have made a prosecution somewhat more difficult, made the light term acceptable.
Rizzuto was one of about 100 alleged Bonanno family members snared in an investigation that crippled the organization and ultimately led its boss, Joseph Massino, to plead guilty to orchestrating a string of murders, including the 1981 social club slayings.
Massino got life in prison.
Children discovered Indelicato’s body in 1981 shortly after the killings. Investigators acting on a tip returned to the vacant lot in 2004 and dug up the remains of Giaccone and Trinchera.
Canadian Press – Published: Friday, May 04, 2007 – http://www.canada.com/topics/news/national/story.html?id=5a682c92-9a6c-43d2-8bfe-c8794e48b13a&k=29712