MANHATTAN (CN) – Unimpressed with a defense attorney’s claims of McCarthyism, a federal judge on Thursday sentenced acting mob capo Anthony “Tony D” Palumbo to the maximum 10 years in prison for conspiring to murder a Russian hit man as part of a scheme to extort gas companies in the early 1990s.
Although that conspiracy did not end in a murder, prosecutors say Palumbo was involved in another one that killed fellow mobster Angelo Sangiuolo.
Sangiuolo’s sister stood in the courtroom at the prosecutor’s request, but she declined to testify or speak to the press.
Palumbo, a 62-year-old man with gray hair and a slight, raspy voice, denies having any role in Sangiuolo’s death.
A sentencing memo, however, describes the evidence against him as “quite strong, surpassing a preponderance of the evidence.” Palumbo has been immunized from the charge as part of his plea agreement.
His attorney downplayed the admitted conspiracy count as an “inchoate” plan that never hatched – and was plotted 19 years ago.
Palumbo sought leniency by noting that a New Jersey state court already had slapped him with a 46-month sentence that he served from 1998 to 2003, for another crime related to the racketeering scheme. He also denies that he is a family capo, short for caporegime, which translates roughly to captain.
Palumbo’s attorney, Steven Frankel, insisted that his client has cleaned up since then. Frankel spoke at length about Palumbo’s relationship with his 90-year-old mother, his recent engagement, his one-bedroom apartment and even his exercise habits.
But prosecutor Avi Weitzman pointed out that the defense attorney carefully avoided saying three words – Genovese Crime Family. Palumbo, as a soldier and acting capo in La Casa Nostra, operated crews in Brooklyn, New York and New Jersey, the government claims.
Weitzman also said that, far from turning the page on his criminal past, the FBI caught Palumbo associating with high-ranking mob soldiers, whose names the prosecutor fired off in rapid succession.
Frankel, in turn, compared the FBI’s rigorous monitoring of Palumbo’s mob ties with late Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist witch hunts.
“The fact that he’s a communist and, therefore, he must be doing something,” said Frankel. “It’s not fair, Judge. You go to jail. You pay the price.”
Palumbo apologized to his family members, seated in two rows of benches at the hearing. He continued to say that his mob days were “behind” him, but added that he has now learned that “you never finish.”
Weitzman said that Palumbo’s denials were an expected part of La Casa Nostra’s “code of silence.”
U.S. District Judge Richard Holwell said that, whatever else Palumbo may have done, the conspiracy to which that he admitted warrants a heavy sentence as “an individual paying for his prior wrongs.”
Frankel asked Holwell to let Palumbo turn himself in a week later to celebrate his mother’s 91st birthday, or until Mother’s Day this Sunday, or even the end of the day.
Holwell – a soft-spoken and even-tempered judge of few, forceful words – refused. “No, right now,” he said.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara lauded the mob soldier’s heavy sentence.
“Anthony Palumbo’s decades long crime spree has finally come to an end,” Bharara said in a written statement. “He is going to prison which is exactly where he belongs.”