Legendary New York gangster, 93-year-old John Sonny Franzese, the alleged underboss of the Colombo crime family, has been sentenced to eight years in prison – essentially a life term – for extortion.
Franzese was also ordered to pay $116,000 in restitution, a spokesman for Brooklyn federal court said.
The New York Post newspaper reported that
Franzese was convicted of extorting money from two Manhattan strip clubs, Hustler and Penthouse, as well as a pizzeria on Long Island.
He actually got a break from the Judge, who elected not to impose the maximum 15 years in prison he could have applied.
In fact, Federal Judge Brian Cogan expressed some reservations about sending such an elderly defendant to jail. However, one of the prosecutors in the trial, assistant U.S. Attorney Cristina Posa, countered that Franzese has never held an honest job for a day in his life. He's essentially lived as a parasite off the hard work of others by shaking them down.
She further added that “he is largely responsible for the glamorization of the Mafia over the past century. For him to die now as a criminal in jail is not an inappropriate response to the lifestyle he lived.
Franzese, whose long life has spanned virtually the entire history of the formation, rise and decline of the American Mafia, is perhaps the last of the so-called “old school” mobsters who observed the rules of the mob, adhered to the oath of omerta, and repeatedly served prison sentences for a wide variety of crimes.
He might even be considered a kind of “mob royalty” having enjoyed once the acquaintance of such entertainment luminaries as Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Rocky Marciano and Jimmy Roselli.
With his hearing aid and no teeth, and confined to a wheelchair battling various illnesses, including chronic kidney disease and heart ailments, he hardly looked the part of a fearsome mob enforcer.
However, Franzese was a notorious killer.
While he was never convicted of murder, Franzese is reputed to have participated in at least sixty gangland killings.
Franzese was discharged from the military during World War II for having displayed “homicidal tendencies.”
In 1945, Franzese's first wife divorced him, claiming that he habitually threatened to disfigure her with a knife.
Franzese was such a hard-core Mafiosi that three years ago when he learned that his son John Jr., was an FBI informant, he seriously considered murdering him, according to FBI agent Vincent D'Agostino.
He told [the informant] that there would come a time to call his son and [Franzese] gestured with his forefinger and thumb…indicating that they would kill him, D'Agostino said.
Junior, who was spared, testified against his father last year, convicting the old man of racketeering and extortion charges.
Another son, Michael, became famous for renouncing the mob and becoming a born-again Christian.
However, one son pleaded with the court to spare the aged convict.
As a family man, my father is gentle and loving to all of us, son Carmine Franzese wrote to the judge. At this late stage of his life, the grand- and great-grandchildren have been positively affected by his presence. They love and miss him as we all do and pray for fair consideration on your part.
Defense attorney Richard Lind said he plans to appeal the sentencing.