The feds couldn't bring down the Mafia without the rats with whom it cuts deals.
And tonight the Discovery Channel premieres its new series Mobster Confessions which relays the firsthand accounts of former-mobsters-turned-government-informants who now are in the witness protection program.
The criminal underworld, defense lawyers and Mafia groupies may not like so-called rats but juries routinely convict mobsters based on their testimony. Juries are sophisticated enough to understand that a rat carries baggage, and they aren't looking for boy scouts and choir boys. Indeed, a flipped witness is credible precisely because he's often a slimeball. Who else would be involved with the Mafia to know where the proverbial bodies are buried? Ironically, the badder the rat the more he likely knows.
Although rats often are motivated by self-interest in their decisions to flip, the move also comes at great personal risk to themselves. After all, the family doesn't look kindly on those who betray it.
Mob apologists may bemoan the loss of omerta but ordinary folk want career criminals to betray their once-held values, and rather than condemning rats we encourage them.
The old school guys like to pretend their generation of mobsters were supposed men of honor who remained true to the code of silence. However, most of those old timers never were put in a position to betray omerta because they did not face the same clampdown from law enforcement as today's young bucks. It's easy to claim honor when it's never been tested.
For decades the mob was the fourth branch of city governments across the country, and its rackets were protected and its messes were ignored. Indeed, even on the rare occassions when indictments were brought against mobsters, the judicial system was notoriously lenient with them.
For example, in 1971 the New York State Joint Legislative Committee on Crime "conducted a study of 1,762 cases in state courts in the years 1960 through 1969 involving organized crime figures," and the results were shocking as reported by Nicholas Gage in a September 25, 1972 article ("Study Shows Courts Lenient With Mafiosi") for The New York Times:
The committee, whose chairman is Senator John H. Hughes of Syracuse, found that the rate of dismissals and acquittals for racketeers was five times that of other defendants. In New York City, 44.7 per cent of indictments against members of organized crime were dismissed by Supreme Court judges during the ten year period. Only 11.5 per cent of indictments against all defendants were dismissed, according to the study. In 193 instances where organized crime figures were actually convicted, the study showed that judges let the defendants off with suspended sentences or fines in 46 per cent of the cases.
Mobsters now face real heat since the feds stepped up its game and pushed the local authorities aside, and even the old geezers probably would rat if they were still in the game today.
The Mafia is nothing but a fraternity of violent parasites, and the public thanks those who renounce their criminal ways to help bring it down.
The first episode of Mobster Confessions spotlights Bill Cutolo Jr. who cooperated with the FBI in order to avenge the 1999 murder of his father "Wild Bill" who was an underboss in the Colombo family as reported by David Hinckley for the Daily News.