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Carmine Persico, imprisoned head of the Colombo crime family, died at age 85

NEW YORK (AP) – The head of the criminal family Colombo, Carmine "the Serpent" Persico , died at the age of 85.

Persico died Thursday at Duke University Medical Center, according to his lawyer, Benson Weintraub. He had been serving what was effectively a life sentence in a federal prison in Butner, North Carolina.

Persico was one of the eight defendants convicted in a 1986 trial called the "Commission Trial" that was overseen by then-United States Attorney Rudolph Giuliani. At that time, it was the biggest legal assault against the heads of the five mafia families. Persico was convicted of racketeering and murder and sentenced to a century behind bars.

Persico, son of a stenographer at a law firm and a stay-at-home mother, was a high school dropout who was part of a local gang.

His first arrest was at age 17 in the deadly beating of another young man during a hand-to-hand combat in Brooklyn's Prospect Park. When the charges were dropped, he was recruited into the world of organized crime, which worked in accounting and loan operations. At age 20, Persico was a "man made" in the family headed by Joe Colombo, and made his way into the hierarchy.

Prosecutors said Persico took over the murderous Colombo organization based in New York in 1973, two years after Colombo was paralyzed in a shootout.

The indictment in the commission's trial said that Persico and his fellow mafiosi were directing "La Cosa Nostra" in a pattern of extortion that included murder, loan loans, labor rewards and extensive extortion in the concrete industry. Because he was not charged in the murders, Persico was accused by prosecutors in the trial for being involved in the murders of two other gangsters. One was Albert Anastasia, the leader of Murder Inc. who was murdered in a barber chair in Manhattan in 1957. The other was Joseph Gallo, who was shot in Umberto's Clam House in Little Italy in 1972.

Persico acted as his own lawyer in the trial, using an aggressive style that often had prosecutors objecting, spectators laughing and the judge trying to get an order, according to a 1986 report by the Associated Press.


Persico questioned prosecution witness Fred DeChristopher, his cousin by marriage, who admitted to giving him a $ 50,000 reward.

When DeChristopher had trouble listening to his gossip, Persico exploded: "Why do you say:" Forgive me? "Are you waiting for an answer or something?"

The mobster's stay as a self-made legal expert was, ultimately, in vain.

In the judgment, the US District Judge. UU John F. Keenan suggested that Persico could have been a great man, had he chosen another call.

"Mr. Persico, you're a tragedy, "he said." You're one of the smartest people I've ever seen. "

Mugshot of Carmine Persico of the unknown year.

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