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Vincent Gigante Trial: 1997

Mob Informants Testify About Gigante's Sanity

Prosecutors built their case on the testimony of six mob informants and a dozen law enforcement agents. The defense presented no witnesses; Gigante did not take the stand. He sat in a wheelchair during the proceedings, at times seemingly oblivious to the drama unfolding in the Brooklyn federal courtroom.

First to testify for the prosecution was Peter "Big Pete" Chiodo, a former captain of the Lucchese family. The 400-pound Chiodo, whose bulk may have helped him survive a dozen bullets fired into him during a 1991 hit, said he had heard Gigante referred to as the Genovese family boss on several occasions.

Chiodo also testified that he had angered Genovese family members once when he used Gigante's name in a conversation instead of the word "Chin." Mob bosses, he said, preferred their nicknames and Gigante was emphatic about it. Sometimes, gangsters simply referred to Gigante by stroking their chins. Anthony "Fat Tony" Salerno and former Lucchese crime family captain Al D'Arco related similar stories on the witness stand.

Ex-Gambino family underboss Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano testified in a thick, Brooklyn accent that "Chin was the boss" of the Genovese family. Gravano had confessed to 19 murders as part of a 1991 deal with the government to testify against reputed mobsters for at least two years. He had spent five years in prison.

But it was turncoat gangster Peter Savino who emerged as the government's most important witness. Savino, a Gigante assassination target, was the only prosecution witness with direct ties to the Genovese family. The 55-year-old mobster testified via closed circuit television, visible to both Gigante and jurors, from an undisclosed location. He was too ill to travel.

Sweating profusely and constantly mopping his brow with a paper towel, Savino testified for a day and a half. Obviously in pain, he frequently asked for breaks, which Judge Jack Weinstein granted. Savino told how he was the Genovese family's man in a vast network of bid-rigging and extortion schemes. He related how the crime family earned millions of dollars in kickbacks from replacement window contracts for New York city housing projects. Savino produced taped conversations to back his story.

Ironically, Gigante might not have taken it on the chin from Savino if he had been able to keep up the stalling tactics that had served him so well for nearly seven years. Only three months after his testimony, Savino died of cancer of the lungs, liver and pelvis.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1995 to PresentVincent Gigante Trial: 1997 - An Elaborate Ploy, Mob Informants Testify About Gigante's Sanity, Defense Accuses Informants Of Lying To Save Themselves