Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Crime boss 'Vinny Gorgeous' refuses to answer judge on whether he'll testify in sentencing hearing
Yes or no, Vinny Gorgeous - will you testify?
That's the simple question that led to a 40-minute standoff Tuesday between crime boss Vincent Basciano and a federal judge in a hearing that will determine whether he'll be executed.
Federal prosecutors, defense lawyers and courtroom spectators sat in silence while Basciano repeatedly ignored Judge Nicholas Garaufis' demands.
"Do you have a single, noncompound sentence answer...Just a 'yes' or 'no?'" Garaufis asked.
Instead, Basciano, convicted last week of ordering a mobster's murder, launched into a bizarre rant claiming that feds had withheld evidence about a purported "hit list" he scribbled in prison.
On the list was the judge's name, a prosecutor, and three cooperating witnesses.
Basciano claims the list was a Santeria spell intended to protect him from enemies.
Defense lawyers, who had just rested their case in the penalty phase of the trial, appeared to distance themselves from Basciano's 11th-hour demands for evidence, urging him to comply.
"I know Miss (prosecutor Taryn) Merkl would relish the fact of cross-examining me," Basciano bellowed. "It's ludicrous and I'll say it in front of the media, I'll say it to the attorney general, I can't properly defend myself!"
The jury convicted Basciano last week in Brooklyn Federal Court of capital murder for ordering the killing of mob associate Randolph Pizzolo.
They will begin deliberating Wednesday whether he should be sentenced to death or life in prison.
Finally the judge's 4 p.m. deadline passed with Basciano's lips still zipped. Garaufis ruled that he had waived his right to take the stand. Basciano winked at his family as he left the courtroom.
Basciano refused to allow his ex-wife or four sons to testify that his life has value - instead he called a hair colorist from his beauty salon "Hello Gorgeous" where his mistress also worked.
Damarys Mojica tearfully recounted that Basciano loaned her money after her mentally ill son attempted suicide and was admitted to a private hospital in Westchester.
"Vinny saved my son's life," she cried.
Outside court, Mojica refused to say how much Basciano gave her and whether the loan was repaid. "It doesn't matter," she snapped. "He shouldn't die."
Her husband, refusing to give his name, said the loan was "a couple thousand."