With Jury Still Out, 4 Bonannos Remain on Hook

"Skinny" Santoro

After days of deliberations--including a week-long break--the four Bonanno crime family mobsters on trial in Manhattan Supreme Court must be dreadfully tired, as well as filled with pins and needles.

It's not that bad, however. Apparently, Anthony "Skinny" Santoro is providing some much-needed comic relief, intended or not.

The jury last week asked the judge for advice on how to avoid a hung jury. Apparently, they requested help settling disputes. Justice Mark Dwyer practically begged on bent knee that they continue to deliberate. He pointedly reminded them of their duty as jurors. "I'm bound by law to hold you for a reasonable time to reach a verdict. I know this is a complex count you're considering." Dwyer also noted that, considering how complicated the case is, they hadn't been deliberating all that long at all.

We noticed some newspaper reports seem to tout "Skinny" of Great Kills, as the lead defendant, while the rest are co-defendants -- including Nicholas Santora, 73 who'd been presented as the crew's boss by prosecutors; Vito Badamo, 53; and Ernest Aiello, 36.

The four are on trial for enterprise corruption, including loansharking, gambling and drug dealing. The crew, which originally had nine members and associates, were arrested in July 2013.

Last week the jurors asked to re-visit several pieces of evidence, including all the photos from the trial and vouchers from executed search warrants. They also requested to hear calls involving Badamo, Santoro, and Nicholas Bernhard, one of the other five co-defendants who already copped to a plea and is not on trial.

The panel also sought a wiretapped recording of a call between Badamo and Santora, as well as phone books and vouchers from Santora's home search.

James "Louie" Tartaglione's entire testimony also was sought. Tartaglione was the state's key witness. A former Bonanno capo who flipped and wore a wire on Bonanno crime family members with whom he could meet before the FBI reeled him back in, Tartaglione testified that he knew Santora and Badamo from their time in the Bonanno family.

Anthony Santoro, Vito Badano and Ernest Aiello.

The jurors deliberated for two days before a week-long break and returned last Monday, when they requested to reexamine some evidence regarding the crew's alleged illegal gambling site, allaction247.com, which Santoro allegedly ran, as well as the vouchers for the search warrant executed at Santoro's Tanglewood Drive residence.

The state claims Santora, allegedly nicknamed "Captain Crunch" as well as "Mouth" and "Cigars" and god-knows-what-else, is the crime family's ringleader in charge of the various rackets, including the gambling site, illegal sales of prescription drugs oxycodone, Cialis and Viagra.

But Santoro seems to be the one everyone's been focusing on.

As the SI Advance noted:

On one side, prosecutors say he's a violent Bonanno mob enforcer caught on wiretap threatening people with hatchets and bullets.
His close ones, however, describe a good-hearted, incredibly funny man with a soft side and bit of a loose tongue -- or, how he more aptly puts it, a rough and tough cream puff.
Santoro, 52, of Great Kills, has been portrayed with these conflicting — yet fascinating — personalities during his nearly three-month trial in state Supreme Court in Manhattan.
So, who's the real "Skinny?"

"He's not the guy made out in the papers," said a Santoro relative who wished to remain anonymous. "He's a good man with a good heart. He doesn't have a bad bone in his body.

Almost three years ago, Santoro was sipping his coffee on a summer morning when the cops came knocking at his residence. He quietly and respectfully placed his hands in front so he could be handcuffed and taken into custody, according to a source close to the defendant.
From that day, the family feels, he was denied bail for a non-violent crime and railroaded for being Italian.

"They were targeted because they're Italians," the relative added. "I really believe that. Nobody got hurt. Nobody was killed. That mafia doesn't exist anymore.

"This should've been resolved three years ago. They gave him a bad deal. They stomped all over his rights."

Prosecutors say Santoro was key player to the crime family crew's gambling operation, allegedly charged with setting drug prices and deciding on which gambling accounts to open or freeze.

Information recorded during several calls are the primary evidence against him. The Feds allege his own words implicate him in that his dialog is heavily sprinkled with mob slang terms known to allegedly refer to illegal drug and gambling.

In what's been dubbed his most lewd call, Santoro said:

"I'm gonna split his f------ head open with a hatchet, to be honest with you." 
"Biz, I'll put two holes in his f------ forehead, I'll double tap his forehead right now. I will go right now put two holes in his head. He'll be one dead young punk. I'll leave him in the street right now. I'll shoot him right now, right this minute. I'll take a shower and shave just to go shoot him."

The crew's haul of cash, marijuana and (seven) firearms was stashed at his girlfriend's Tanglewood Drive home, where law enforcement agents seized them.

A likely key reason gumming up the debating in the jury room has to do with the fact that there's no murders in the indictment.

It['s Prison Anyway for Santoro
Were Santoro found not guilty in Manhattan case, he's still going to serve prison time due to a federal gambling case in  Connecticut.

In 2013, before his arrest in this case, Santoro pleaded guilty to operating an illegal gambling business in Connecticut with other Bonanno gangsters. In that case he was sentenced to eight months in prison.

As the SI Advanced noted:

Santoro's sense of humor shines through during a witty exchange with the judge during his plea hearing, where he jokingly asks her if she wants to make a bet, according to court transcripts: 
Judge: Do you know the amount of money wagered by the person you referred? 
Santoro: No. I wouldn't have any idea of that. I don't even know how much money I got in my pocket right now, to be honest with you. 
Judge: Why don't you know that? 
Santoro: I don't pay attention to that. 
Santoro: Do you know how much money you have in your purse, your honor? 
Judge: Roughly, yes. 
Santoro: Exactly? 
Judge: Not exactly. 
Santoro: Oh, okay. 
Judge: Do you have some sense of how much money you have in your pocket? 
Santoro: Yeah, I have, your honor. 
Judge: How much money do you think you have? 
Santoro: I don't know, a few hundred, I guess. 
Judge: A few hundred? 
Santoro: You want to bet? I'm only kidding. I'm only kidding. 
A bit later in the transcripts, Santoro amusingly warns the judge not to place bets with his co-defendants busted in the Connecticut case. 
"Oh, God. You're a card," the judge replied to his friendly suggestion. 
"He's the funniest client I've ever had," said his attorney, who has known Santoro for years. "He's just naturally funny."

After refusing to cop to a plea deal in Manhattan, Santoro is placing a lot of chips on an acquittal.

If convicted, his eight months could have about 20 years tacked on.