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Genovese boss Gigante ends insanity charade

Pleads guilty to obstruction of justice

From Phil Hirschkorn
CNN New York Bureau

Vincent "The Chin" Gigante, center, is led from his Manhattan apartment in this 1997 photo.

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Mafia boss Vincent "The Chin" Gigante, head of one of New York's infamous five organized crime families, entered a guilty plea Monday to obstruction of justice charges for repeatedly delaying trial proceedings with false claims of mental illness.

In a day-long court session, seven co-defendants, including Gigante's son, also entered guilty pleas to various charges.

Gigante, 75, who is already serving 12 years for labor racketeering and murder conspiracy convictions, was additionally charged 14 months ago with running the Genovese crime family from inside a federal prison in Texas.

U.S. District Court Judge Leo Glasser, who had declared Gigante mentally and physically competent to stand trial, accepted the plea and tacked on three additional years to his sentence, plus three years probation, pursuant to an agreement with federal prosecutors in Brooklyn.

Before his conviction in 1997, Gigante was famous for mumbling to himself while walking the streets of Manhattan's Greenwich Village in a bathrobe and for sitting in court in a wheelchair with a prolonged dazed expression.

Originally indicted in 1990, Gigante avoided standing trial for seven years, pretending that he was mentally ill and thus incapable of leading a powerful crime family.

"Today the jig is up," said U.S. Attorney Roslynn R. Mauskopf. "Those of us in law enforcement always knew this was an act."

Gigante first conjured up his mental incompetence claims after he came under investigation for bribing police in the late 1960s.

"Although mental health experts have literally been fooled by Gigante for decades, there is no further debate," Mauskopf said.

This time, prosecutors said they possessed wiretap audio tapes that revealed Gigante discussing his purported health problems from behind bars as he also relayed orders to his 46-year-old son, Andrew.

Defense attorney Benjamin Brafmen said a "very frail and sick" Gigante wanted to avoid the "ordeal" of a months-long trial.

Last year's indictment alleged Gigante and his family had infiltrated the International Longshoreman's Association, the dock workers' union, and extorted payments from shipping and container companies operating at piers in New York, New Jersey, and Miami.

Andrew Gigante pleaded guilty to extortion and faces a sentence of two years in prison and a $2 million fine. The plea agreement also calls for him to be barred for life from the pier business.

Five other Genovese associates pleaded guilty to extortion and face similar punishment.

Two former Genovese captains who were acting bosses pleaded guilty to racketeering and face longer prison terms.

A one-time club boxer, the elder Gigante earned his nickname for having a hard jaw.

The FBI says the Genovese family has been decimated in the past two years, with more than 100 of its members indicted, including Gigante, the acting boss, and the family's ruling committee.

The other New York crime families are the Gambinos; the Bonannos; the Colombos; and the Lucheses.

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