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'But without the benefit of cooperating witnesses like the defendant, the government’s ability to prosecute the secretive and rule-bound world of organised crime would be greatly impaired.'Vitale, wearing a blue suit and silver pattered tie, twice dabbed tears from his eyes during the court proceeding - and exhaled sharply just before the judge read out the sentence.
The former paratrooper - known as Good Looking Sal' during his three decades committing countless crimes on behalf of the Bonanno family - read from a statement where he apologised to the families of his victims.
He said: 'I would say to them that I pray daily for my victims’ souls and I’m truly sorry.
I stand in front of you, your honour, ashamed of the life I used to live.
As part of his testimony, notorious gangster John Gotti was jailed for life.
Joseph Bonanno, the notorious gangster known as "Joe Bananas" who ran one of the nation's most powerful Mafia groups in the 1950s and '60s, died Saturday in Tucson. Bonanno, who retired to Arizona in 1968 and had suffered from several health problems in recent years, died of heart failure, said his attorney, Alfred "Skip" Donau. District Judge Raul Ramirez imposed the sentence and dismissed a motion for a new trial sought on grounds of jury misconduct and bias.
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He also became known to the leader of Mafia activities in New York, Joe "the Boss" Masseria.
He added: 'This cooperation does not come without a cost.'The judge noted that he was under no illusion that Vitale had become a government witness for any reason other than self-preservation, noting that he did so only when he realised that the crime family had come to see him as a liability.
The judge said: 'It is unfortunate that law enforcement must, of necessity, obtain the cooperation of felons to address the pernicious crimes committed by organised crime,' the judge said.
By all accounts, he'd become active in the Mafia during his youth in Italy, and he fled to the United States after Benito Mussolini initiated a crackdown.
Bonanno himself claimed years later that he fled because he was ardently anti-Fascist. However, the former account is more likely, since several other Castellammarese mafiosi fled to the United States around the same time. Eventually, Bonanno became involved in bootlegging activities, and soon joined a Mafia family led by another Castellammarese, Salvatore Maranzano.