William Cutolo Jr., the son of slain Colombo underboss William "Wild Bill" Cutolo, won sweet revenge by informing against those he believed had murdered his dad. Recently, he won something rarer for a turncoat who also screws the feds: a big break at sentencing.
Days after his father was killed in 1999, Cutolo began cooperating with the FBI and federal prosecutors. He wore a wire and helped the FBI and federal prosecutors build a murder case against the family's two top mobsters, Alphonse Persico and John "Jackie" DeRoss, for Wild Bill's death.
At the same time, however, Cutolo continued committing crimes. He lied to the feds about them and other previous criminal activity he had engaged in, including the shooting of a rival in the back, according to court records. His actions were so outrageous — he even offered to commit perjury for the feds — that the government breached his cooperation agreement and refused to back his efforts for leniency at his sentencing.
A few weeks ago, however, at a secret proceeding in Brooklyn, Cutolo, 35, escaped virtually unscathed for all his criminal misdeeds, Gang Land has learned.
The record of the case is sealed, but sources say that on July 20, a Brooklyn federal judge, Raymond Dearie, gave Cutolo four years probation and ordered him to pay $15,000 in restitution to a stockbroker whom Cutolo had threatened and extorted six years ago.
It was not a total free ride, but considering that the sentencing guidelines — as computed by the federal probation department and unchallenged by his lawyer — called for Cutolo to receive up to three years in prison, he had to be thrilled about the outcome.
During the proceeding, sources said, Cutolo was contrite, said he was a changed man, and expressed a desire to remain at liberty and become a good role model for his children.
His lawyer, Michael Gold, conceded his client's failings but argued strongly for leniency for Cutolo, stressing his importance in making cases against Persico, DeRoss, and more than a dozen others who have pleaded guilty to a variety of racketeering charges, sources said.
Assistant U.S.Attorney Katya Jestin, who in a letter to the court detailed Cutolo's many crimes and misdeeds during his three-year relationship with the government, as well as the assistance he gave the feds, took no position at the sentencing, sources said.
After weighing everything before him, Judge Dearie imposed the lenient sentence, apparently deciding that the government had gotten its money's worth from Cutolo before the feds breached his agreement in 2002.
Noting that the proceeding was sealed, neither Mr. Gold nor Ms. Jestin would discuss the sentencing or explain why it was under seal. Judge Dearie is on vacation and unavailable to deal with a request to unseal the matter until next week, his courtroom deputy told Gang Land.
One federal official said, "We would have preferred him to do some time, but we're not going to lose too much sleep over this."
Meanwhile, Ms. Jestin and co-prosecutors Thomas Seigel and Deborah Mayer have lined up eight other mobsters and associates from four crime families to point damning fingers at Persico, DeRoss, and DeRoss's nephew, Carmine "Skippy" DeRoss, at their racketeering trial next month.
Persico, 52, and DeRoss, 69, are charged with Wild Bill's murder. Along with Skippy DeRoss, 38, the gangsters also are charged with the attempted murder in 2001 of capo Joseph "Joe Campy" Campanella, who will testify for the government.
Two turncoat wiseguys who have taken the stand against mob scion John "Junior" Gotti in his continuing saga involving the shooting of Curtis Sliwa — Gambino capo Michael "Mikey Scars" DeLeonardo and DeCavalcante capo Anthony Rotondo — are slated to appear as well.
Also on tap is Chris Paciello, a one-time pal of both Cutolo and Persico who cut his gangster teeth with a murderous Bonanno crew from Bath Beach, Brooklyn. He later gravitated to the Colombos in the Sunshine State, where he became a Miami Beach club owner and frequent pal of Madonna and other starlets, including Sofia Vergara.
One-time Genovese associate Michael "Cookie" D'Urso and three past Colombo associates — Giovanni "John the Barber" Floridia, Silvio "Crazy Sal" Salome, and Vito Salerno — round out the list of former underworld cohorts set to testify at trial, which should take about six weeks.
Persico, who had sought to represent himself for parts of the trial — cross-examining five of the stool pigeons — won't be able to unless he represents himself for the entire trial, like his jailed-for-life father, Carmine, did 20 years ago in the historic Commission case.
It's all or nothing, a Brooklyn federal judge, Sterling Johnson, wrote. The judge ruled that a "hybrid representation" would likely confuse the jury about Persico's changing roles as defendant, advocate, or witness, and denied his application to serve as "pro se co-counsel" with attorneys Dale Smith and Sarita Kedia.
The issue is not dead yet, though.
Since Persico has an absolute right to represent himself, he could act as his own lawyer for the entire trial if he makes that decision before jury selection begins, Judge Johnson wrote.
Just when Junior Gotti began making some legal noise about testifying in his own defense, a Manhattan federal judge, Shira Scheindlin, shot down a key reason the Junior Don was considering the option: money-laundering charges that the feds added to the case in March.
In the process, the judge got cute about it. On the first page of her 52-page ruling, she credited a famous line from a poignant, funny, Dr. Seuss classic, "Horton Hatches the Egg," to make the point that the words of Gotti's 1999 plea agreement clearly prohibited the new charges. The document, she wrote, "meant what it said and said what it meant."
In the book, Horton, an elephant, promises Mayzie, a bird, that he will sit on her egg while she takes a break that ends up lasting for several harrowing months. Throughout his long ordeal sitting atop a tree, Horton repeats over and over, "I meant what I said and I said what I meant: An elephant's faithful one hundred percent."
Curious whether Judge Scheindlin, recognized as an independent-minded maverick, had recalled the words from her childhood — she was born in 1946, six years after the book was written — or whether her clever use of the goofy but heroic mammal's words was otherwise inspired, Gang Land called the judge's chambers to find out.
Sadly, we've had better luck with wiseguys still practicing the vow of omerta.
After receiving assurances that Gang Land had no desire to discuss the Gotti case but wanted to speak with the judge briefly about Theodore Geisel, the author of the Dr. Seuss book that she had cited in her opinion, a snippy male voice replied: "Dr. Seuss? She's not an expert on Dr. Seuss. Sorry, I got to go," and hung up.
Perhaps Gang Land should have mentioned the stated moral of "Horton Hatches the Egg" to the ill-humored, perhaps overworked, and stressed-out voice: "Be responsible, even when it's difficult."
This column and other news of organized crime will appear later today at ganglandnews.com.