There were three generations of the legendary Franzese family in Brooklyn federal court this morning. Patriarch John “Sonny” Franzese, the veteran Colombo crime family underboss who once ran a few record companies around town, was at the defense table wearing glasses and a blue prison tunic.
For our money, Sonny still looked pretty tough for a 91-year-old, although—deaf in one ear—he had to ask his court-appointed attorney, Richard Lind, what happened after he pleaded not guilty on loanshark and extortion charges. “I told him he’d been arraigned,” said Lind.
Seated in the back row was Franzese’s son Michael wearing jeans, an untucked dress shirt, and a pained expression as he watched his father. Once dubbed the Yuppie Don, Michael Franzese broke with his dad years ago when he became a songbird for the feds. He then became a born-again Christian and regularly preaches about his misbegotten youth as a wiseguy.
Next to Michael was his own son, John in white tee shirt. Grandad John was picked up in November on a parole violation—the fifth time for the unrepentant geezer gangster.
Funny thing is, according to Jerry Capeci’s Ganglandnews.com, this is the first time the elder Franzese has been in a courtroom in 50 years. The last time he was there, he was convicted in a robbery scheme, one that many people on both sides of the law still believe was a frame-up.
A bench full of FBI agents were present as well for the occasion, including Seamus McLearney, who heads the bureau’s Colombo squad, and agent Robert Lewicki who has arrested Sonny the last few times.
How did his dad look to him, Michael Franzese was asked: “Not good,” said the ex-mobster. “He’s getting old.”