Sometimes you can read transcripts and get a feel for what is going on in a courtroom, and sometimes you can tell from what is going on that somebody is cooperating. Sonny Franzese was on another level. At one time, he was seated in the courtroom a wheelchair and and needed a fresh battery for his hearing aid. An FBI Agent from the C-38 Colombo Squad was about to testify.
The FBI Agent started to speak about John Franzese Jr who is a proactive source for the FBI. He agreed to wear a wire for the FBI against his father. Sonny found out that his son John was working for the FBI in October 2006. The FBI found out from another proactive source, Gaetano Fatato, who was wearing a wire when Sonny found out. Gaetano wore a wire from 2005-2007 and made 242 recordings over 1000 hours for the FBI.
Sonny was very upset and worried that John might say something about Tommy Gioeli, who was the street boss of the Colombo Family. He feared that it would make it look like he condoned what his son had done. Sonny was so upset that he went to Gaetano’s home to speak to him right after he visited his parole officer. Sonny had thought that he would be picked up but now he felt the FBI was leaving him on the street to make it look like he was also cooperating.
Sonny told Gaetano that there may be a time when he would have to call in his son in and then they would... (Sonny then made a pistol with his finger) Gaetano agreed that he would help.
Sonny had asked him a year before if he would be willing to kill if asked and he agreed.
Sonny spent a lot of time with Gaetano and one time he started talking about the old days and he told him he had taken part in possibly 60 murders. At the time, Sonny was the 92 year old acting Underboss of the Colombo Family. He had never had real job in his life. John Franzese Jr. would live to testify against his father and other Colombo figures, and told of flying around in a lear jet with tons of cash when his dad was younger.
In some ways I feel bad for Sonny because his own son John testified against him. I knew John when he was in California and lived at a drug rehab place. The guy was always a loser and was always supported by his family. Sonny’s other son Michael had been a Capo in the Colombo Family, but had successfully walked away from the life. Michael would later become a Christian speaker.
In other ways, I do not feel bad for Sonny because he lived his whole life dedicated to the Mafia. He lost two daughters, really his whole family because of the Mafia. He made a life out of shaking people down. The saying on the street was “His pockets are sewn shut,” meaning he would never go into his pocket for anyone or anything. He always used his connections or someone around him to pay for things, every meal, every tank of gas, every little thing.
The Government blamed him for glamorizing the Mafia in the media because he was spoken about in at least 15 books as a Legendary Mobster. The glamorization comes from those in Hollywood who have never held a pistol, never struck a person, yet feel the need to make up Hollywood versions of the truth. The truth is, he’s an old man who has lost his family, who committed many violent crimes against others in the same small crime world, spent over 50 years in prison, retains the respect of some, but the love of few. I once asked a former Colombo capo friend of mine, “Do you know of any happy endings in the mafia?” He thought about it for a minute, looked at me, and said, “None.” You can can glamorize Sonny all you want, but its not a happy ending or a happy life.
Sonny is 98 years old today and has a release date of 2017 when he will be 100 and still owe 3 years of parole.