Mob Lawyer Who Bested Sammy The Bull And Rudy Giuliani In Court Dies At Age 89

With thanks to the "mobologist," who shared his insight about the following, among many other things too numerous to list here right now....

Jay Goldberg, a welterweight boxer-turned-lawyer who defended a roster of high-profile figures, including a bevy of powerful wiseguys—and who delivered the first decisive courtroom defeat to mob-busting US Attorney Rudy Giuliani—died on December 5 at his home in Bridgehampton, New York. He was 89.

Jay Goldberg
Defense lawyer Jay Goldberg.

Goldberg, who (in)famously quipped, “I’m fairly certain that I never represented an innocent mobster,” defended high-profile as well as lesser-known wiseguys. A highlight of his career as a mob lawyer had to be when he delivered such a masterful cross-examination of Salvatore (Sammy the Bull) Gravano, he won unqualified praise from the influential National Law Journal, which described his courtroom questioning of the former Gambino underboss as “Goldberg’s methodical destruction of Mr. Gravano" that showed he "was not telling even the same story, no less the truth..."

Goldberg joined the mobsters, crooners, and celebrities who regularly frequented Manhattan's Copacabana nightclub in its glory days (his aunt reportedly was acquainted with the owner). A 6-foot-2, 140-pound “killer” in the courtroom, Goldberg's roster of wiseguy clients included Matthew Joseph (Matty the Horse) Ianniello, the longtime Genovese family powerhouse who minted a fortune by rigging construction bids, skimming union dues, and extorting payoffs from bar owners, smut peddlers, and strippers back in the days when Times Square was Times Square and not the Disneyland that it is today.

The Courtroom Is My Theater: My Lifelong Representation of Famous Politicians, Industrialists, Entertainers, “Men of Honor,” and More, Goldberg's 2018 memoir, offers numerous anecdotes about colorful figures including wiseguys like Joe (Scarface) Agone and Vincent (Jimmy Blue Eyes) Alo. 

After graduating magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, Goldberg made his bones working for noted District Attorney Frank S. Hogan in New York. At Hogan’s recommendation, Robert F. Kennedy appointed Goldberg Acting U.S Attorney for the Northwest District of Indiana, then a crime-ridden, Mafia-controlled area. 

A former President of the Criminal Bar Association called Goldberg “one of the foremost litigators of this or any generation.”

Former Chief of the Criminal Division of the United States Attorney’s Office, SDNY Frederick Hafetz told Goldberg, “I consider you to have the best killer trial skill I have ever seen in my 47 years of practice and I have worked with the best…”  

In May 1986, Goldberg got Ianniello acquitted in a racketeering case that was "the first setback for the highly publicized offensive against organized crime by the United States Attorney in Manhattan, Rudolph W. Giuliani." as the New York Times reported at the time. 

Ianniello and five co-defendants, all of whom also were acquitted, faced Federal racketeering charges involving mob influence in the private garbage-collection industry in the New York metropolitan area. Prosecutors depicted Ianniello and longtime associate Benjamin Cohen as the principals behind an ongoing effort to control garbage collection in the New York metropolitan area, specifically from the Consolidated Edison Company. The six were charged with racketeering, mail fraud, and extortion.

Goldberg told the jury the case was ''a contrived, manufactured and unfair prosecution.''

''The proof will show that Consolidated Edison got value - its garbage was faithfully picked up,'' Goldberg said. ''It got its money's worth.''

The case lasted just over a month, with Chief Judge Constance Baker Motley of Federal District Court in Manhattan presiding.

Giuliani dismissed the significance of the acquittal, noting the case was only one of many under way or headed for trial.

''This will not in any way affect our overall offensive in racketeering cases,'' he said after the jurors had delivered their verdicts. At the time, Giuliani also was heading the then ongoing Southern District prosecution of the Pizza Connection Case, the Commission Case, and a major racketeering case against Colombo wiseguys, including reputed boss Carmine (The Snake) Persico. (Rudy had much better luck with those three.)

Giuseppe (Joey) Gambino
Giuseppe (Joey) Gambino.

Another big feather was added to Goldberg's cap in 1993 when he defended Giuseppe (Joey) Gambino, who went trial as a co-defendant of his cousin, Thomas (Tommy) Gambino, a son of Carlo Gambino, who faced charges that he engaged in racketeering in Connecticut by controlling major gambling and loan-sharking operations there for the Gambino family.

The case originated when Tommy Gambino was arrested in December 1990 at the Ravenite social club in Little Italy with Gambino boss John Gotti and his Administration: underboss Sammy the Bull Gravano and acting consiglieri Frank Locascio. The charges against Gambino in that indictment, from which he was eventually severed, were mostly identical to the charges in the superseding indictment on which he was tried in 1993. 

Joey was charged primarily for being a member of his cousin's Connecticut crew.

Both defendants faced up to 45 years in prison. At the end, Tommy Gambino was convicted, and Giuseppe was acquitted after Goldberg subjected Gravano to a withering questioning that deftly boxed in the onetime Gotti underboss, limiting his testimony mostly to yes-or-no answers, providing Gravano with no room in which to maneuver.

As noted in court filings, Gravano was cross-examined about the period of time during which John Gotti was incarcerated and he, Gravano, either alone or with two others, ran the Gambino family. The thrust of the examination by Goldberg was to establish that as the de facto head of the family, Gravano should have been aware of all of the crime family's activities.

For example:

Q. Am I correct to say that you were the closest person in this operation in the years 1988, '89, 1990 to John Gotti?

A. I would say so. I was the underboss, second in command.

Q. He made you the underboss, isn't that so?

A. Yes.

* * * * * *

Q. Now, sir, there came a point in time when John Gotti was remanded to a jail, i.e., that is, the period May 1986 to April 1987, right?

A. Yes.

Q. And then there was left to this family the business of conducting its business, correct?

A. Yes.

* * * * * *

Q. And during that period of time you were the acting street boss of this family, were you not?

*91 A. That's what I was called.

* * * * * *

Q. Is it fair to say that during this period of time you were the person who was in charge of the family, i.e., May '86 to April '87, agreed?

A. Other than John, I guess I was the last word, yes.

Q. But John Gotti was in jail; isn't that right?

A. Yes.

Q. Is it fair, then, to say, considering the people on the street, you were the man in charge of the family while Mr. Gotti was in prison, correct?

A. Yes.

* * * * * *

Salvatore Sammy the Bull Gravano
Gambino underboss at his consequential arrest in December 1990.

Q. It is part of this group's business and function to not only provide a social club, but also to make money for its members in the administration; isn't that a fair statement?
A. You got it.
Q. If I got it, then I say to you, sir, during the period of time that you ran this family, the man in charge, am I correct, when I say neither John Gotti nor any single person ever said to you that Joe Gambino or Tom Gambino was responsible, was assigned the responsibility of bringing money from Connecticut gambling and Connecticut money lending, correct, Mr. Granvano?
A. Not to me, no.
* * * * * *
Q. I am correct, am I not, that in your function as underboss, that you had frequent discussions with Mr. Gotti relative to money-making situations; isn't that a fair statement?
A. Social situations.
Q. All right. In other words, when you met with Gotti, you talked about social situations as well as business, the business of this Gambino organized crime family, La Cosa Nostra, correct?
A. Both, yes.
Q. You talked about the various ways that money is generated and made because after all that's its function in part, is it not?
A. Yes, but not necessarily the amounts of money.
* * * * * *
Q. You are a part of the administration, the family, in early '86, until you go to prison on December 11, 1990, some four years or more?
A. Yes.
Q. Correct. During that time you cannot say to this jury, as you look upon them, that John Gotti ever said that Joe Gambino was bringing in or responsible for money from Connecticut gambling and loansharking, correct?
A. Yes.
Q. I am correct?
A. Yes, you are correct.
Q. And do I take it that during the four-year period that you sat at the top of this organization, there were many times that you talked about money and the amount of money that was coming in from the various ventures of this family; isn't that so?
A. We talked about money, but not the amount of money.
Q. You talked about money, right. You talked about people?
A. Yes.
Q. You talked about people who were connected to the money. Is that right?
A. In some cases, yes.