By John Montone
NEW YORK (1010 WINS) — Where have all the wise guys gone?
Mob stories used to be a staple of my work week. Some reputed soldier or associate was always missing only to be found months later in a compactor or landfill unable to tell anyone how he got there. And there were Mafia trials galore with prosecutors concocting complicated RICO cases.
In Newark in the 80’s, the U.S. Attorney went after 21 alleged members of the Luchese family. The defense lawyer for one of them told me to listen closely to his opening statement. No wonder, he told the jury, “You give me 22-minutes and I’ll give you reasonable doubt.” Another defense attorney jumped to his feet when a prosecutor referred to his client as, “Bocce.” The lawyer claimed no one had ever called this respected businessman that.
During a break I overheard a young mob wannabe complain about the shabby treatment “Bocce” was getting from the government.
I was at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn when Sammy “The Bull” Gravano ratted out John Gotti. When the trial ended so did “The Teflon Don’s” winning streak. Within a minute of Gotti’s conviction I was on the air announcing, “He is Teflon no more. The charges stuck.”
But I never got closer to the mob than I did at the heroin trafficking trial of Gotti’s brother Gene and his co- defendant, John Carneglia. The feds had made Carneglia out to be a hit man who they believed dissolved bodies in acid before burying them. But they were never able to prove it.
Still the U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn seemed pretty confident of a conviction in this case until one of the jurors suddenly announced his chances for a long life might be compromised if he continued to deliberate. The judge was incensed at the apparent jury tampering and issued a strongly worded message to the defendants that he knew what they were up to.
This being 1989 I ran out of the courtroom, grabbed a pay phone and got on the air.
I jazzed it up a bit. I might have called Gotti and Carneglia reputed thugs and said they might have seen their last sunrise outside the walls of prison. And just as I was wrapping up, I looked up and there was Carneglia — all eight-feet, 500 or so pounds of him. He didn’t look quite that imposing seated at the defense table. When I said, “John Montone 1010 WINS,” I sounded like I had been castrated.
“How ya doin’,” said Mr. Carneglia. He offered me his hand and said he was a fan. And for a guy who was probably taking his last few breaths as a free man, he was so curious as to my well-being.
“Now Mr. Montone, I notice that every 22-minutes you have to leave your seat and get to the phone and when you get up some stinkin’ reporter (yes, I was a stinkin’ reporter, too but I didn’t think it was necessary to remind him), takes your seat.”
And that’s when he introduced me to the “guys,” one of whom I guess was named Salvatore because he said, “Sallie, you sit next to Mr. Montone and make sure no one takes his seat when he leaves every 22-minutes.”
And so it was that when I got up to run for the phone and another reporter ran to take my open seat, Sallie turned and glared at him and the stinkin’ reporter turned around and headed back to the standing room section.
When it was announced that the jury had reached a verdict my new buddy, Sallie, put his arms around my shoulder and said, “I get so nervous when the verdict’s coming in.”
And when the verdict was announced and Sallie’s “friends” were found guilty, he put his head on my shoulder and stifled a sob.
John Montone 1010 WINS News,