Good Looking Sal Vitale — the mob informant whose back pages made the front page of the New York Times this morning — just proved an old rule: When they have you dead to rights, it’s always best to confess all.
Vitale, 62, who copped to 11 separate murders committed in furtherance of his gangster oath and helped put away more than 50 of his former Mafia brethren including a brother in law, was sentenced this afternoon to time served by federal judge Nicholas Garaufis in Brooklyn.
In Good Looking Sal’s case, this means that he’s already completed his sentence which amounts to the eight years he’s spent in prison since he was nabbed for a single slaying back in 2002. Oh, he’ll also have to do five years on supervised release, which is a lot like probation.
Garaufis said he agonized over the sentence while watching Vitale testify through four mob trials over his seven years of cooperation with authorities. Despite his many crimes, the judge said, “Mr. Vitale quite simply has been the most important cooperator in the modern history of law enforcement.”
Vitale dressed well for the occasion. He wore a gray tie, a black suit, a white shirt, and a humble demeanor. His gray hair was combed straight back. He looked trim and fit enough to duke it out with anyone who crossed him, except that he’s put all that nonsense behind him.
He read a short statement of remorse to the court, insisting that he wished to apologize to all those he’d hurt. “Before I was arrested, I idolized people like Joe Massino,” he said, referring to his brother in law and former boss of his Bonanno crime family who became Vitale’s top target once he teamed up with the Feds. Also on Vitale’s list of past heroes, he said, were the late John Gotti and the later Paul Castellano, a pair of ex crime bosses.
Now, Vitale said, his heroes are the prosecutors and FBI agents he’s been working with for the past seven years. “I have committed some horrible crimes. I pray for forgiveness.”
Before sentence was passed, Garaufis listened as letters from the wife and daughter of one of Vitale’s murder victims, Robert Perrino, were read. “A week before my husband disappeared, we were making plans to celebrate the birth of a grandson,” wrote Rosalie Perrino. “My grandson will never know his grandfather…this special man, his wonderful sense of humor and compassion.” Both letters asked the judge to “show no leniency” and impose a life sentence on the defendant.
Perrino was the first known fatality of the tabloid newspaper wars. He was a distribution supervisor for the New York Post at its old offices near the waterfront on South Street where he was alleged to have helped orchestrate a mob-run theft and extortion ring. Gangsters feared he might be a weak link and ordered him rubbed out in 1992. After Vitale decided to cooperate, he led agents to a Staten Island equipment yard where Perrino’s body had been planted in concrete.
It was one of those crimes, as assistant U.S. attorney Greg Andres told Garaufis before the sentencing, “that happen in the dead of night” and that without cooperators like Vitale would never be solved.