An aging mobster who stayed in the shadows for decades under the Mafia’s strict code of silence was acquitted yesterday of charges he helped plan the legendary 1978 Lufthansa heist retold in the hit film “Goodfellas,” the Associated Press reports. A federal jury reached the surprising verdict after hearing testimony that portrayed Vincent Asaro, 80, as a throwback to an era when New York’s five organized crime families were a secret society that committed brazen crimes and settled scores with bloodshed. It was a stunning defeat for federal prosecutors in a Brooklyn courthouse where the U.S. has won convictions of major mob figures like Gambino family head John Gotti and Genovese crime boss Vincent Gigante.
Asaro, whose father and grandfather were members of the Bonanno crime family, “was born into that life and he fully embraced it,” said prosecutor Alicyn Cooley. His devotion to the Bonannos “was as permanent as the ‘death before dishonor’ tattoo on his arm,” she added. Asaro believes jurors cleared him because the prosecution’s case was “overkill.” “She must’ve put 30 agents on the stand, all lies,” he said of the prosecutor. The defense accused prosecutors of relying on shady paid cooperators, including Asaro cousin Gaspare Valenti. They argued that witnesses framed Asaro to escape lengthy prison terms of their own. “These are despicable people,” said defense lawyer Elizabeth Macedonio. “They are accomplished liars.”