The Boys from New Jersey: How the Mob Beat the Feds

ISBN 10: 0688092594 / ISBN 13: 9780688092597
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Synopsis: Of all the extraordinary stories to emerge about the war on organized crime, none is quite so bizarre as the U.S. government's 1988 prosecution of the notorious Lucchese crime family, the mob that claimed to "own" New Jersey. Federal authorities called it the most ambitious legal attack ever mounted against underworld figures--a sixty-five-page indictment capping a ten-year investigation that would take out an entire organization, from godfather to street soldier, in one knockout blow. The two-year proceeding became the longest Mafia trial in American history--but it took the jury less than two days to render its verdict: not guilty. On all counts. It was a devastating blow for the government. How did this happen? Robert Rudolph, the only reporter to cover the story from start to finish, answers that question in a book that turns courtroom drama into a rollicking theater of the absurd. At its center are defendants like Jackie "Fat Jack" DiNorscio, the career criminal representing himself, who began the trial by announcing, "I'm a comedian, not a gangster," and then proceeded to turn the legal system on its ear; mob boss Anthony Accetturo, a man of almost unlimited luck, who once avoided prosecution by claiming to have Alzheimer's disease, only to experience a miraculous "cure" when he slipped and fell in the shower after the case against him was dropped; and the philosophy-spouting underboss, Michael Taccetta, who brazenly debated his FBI nemesis on the morals of the underworld and how they applied to the teachings of Socrates and Machiavelli. And there are lawyers, like Vincent "Grady" O'Malley, who'd never lost a case until quarter-backing a government offensive that aimed too high and took too long; and Michael Critchley, who led a Mission Impossible-style defense team that succeeded in putting the government itself on trial. Here is the full story behind what should have been the government's shining hour, and how it turned into one of the most embarrassing.

From Kirkus Reviews: Absorbing story of how the FBI developed a new mode of attack on the New Jersey crime family--and then failed to make its case in court. Rudolph covers organized crime for Newark's Star-Ledger. Once the FBI had admitted, during the mid-70's, that there was such a thing as the mafia, it began insinuating undercover agents into crime families, especially--in the mid-80's--into the Lucchese family, which had a lock on New Jersey rackets such as loan- sharking, gambling, fraud, extortion, and drug-dealing. Masterminded by FBI agent Dennis Marchalonis, the government operation was carried on with such enormous secrecy--it had been decided to make a case against an entire crime family and wipe it out all at once, a historic decision--that FBI agents might find themselves under surveillance by two or three other legal agencies. When the secret task force finally had its evidence--gathered from wiretaps, informants, and agents--it rounded up the entire Lucchese family, then headed by Anthony (``Tumac'') Accetturo and Michael (``Mad Dog'') Taccetta, and brought indictments against 21 defendants. The government had a strong case and assembled a terrific team of prosecutors, led by hot-tempered, aggressive V. Gray O'Malley, who had never lost a case. The defense had a huge, strong, smartly chosen team as well. The flaw in the federal case was its size and the nearly two years it took to prosecute before a jury so wearied by picayune detail and evidence wandering off on endless tangents--with the jury's families under intense scrutiny all the while--that long before the 21 cases went to the jury, the jury had decided not to convict--in part, says Rudolph, to spite the government for having put it through such an ordeal. Richly served up and dotted with absurd moments as the fat cats go free and the feds eat their shoes. (Eight pages of b&w photographs.) -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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