A jailed former Mafia boss who once ordered a payback killing in the infamous ‘Donnie Brasco’ case has become the highest-ranking member of the city's five Italian organised crime families to break their vow of silence and testify against one of their own.
Joseph Massino took the witness stand at the Brooklyn trial of Vincent ‘Vinny Gorgeous’ Basciano, who served as one of his captains in the Bonanno crime family.
Prosecutors say that Massino secretly recorded Basciano admitting he ordered a hit on an associate who ran foul of the Bonannos. Basciano denies the charges.
Moments after being sworn in, Massino pointed across the courtroom and identified Basciano — “the guy sitting in the grey suit” — as the crime family's former acting boss. The defendant stared back at the government's star witness, steadily chewing gum.
In clipped tones, Massino gave the anonymous jury a colourful tutorial on the Mafia. By co-operating, he explained, he was violating a sacred oath. It was understood, he said, that “once a bullet leaves that gun, you never talk about it”.
Asked about his duties as boss, he replied, “Murder. Making captains. Breaking captains” — slang for promoting and demoting capos. He said he also had to assess talent.
Massino is serving two consecutive life terms for eight murders. He said he hoped “one day maybe I'll see a little light at the end of the tunnel”.