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Joe Colombo Jr., Whose Controversial Arrest In 1970 Triggered Noisy Protests Against The FBI, Dead At 67

This article is published with permission of Gang Land News, which is a paid-subscription website.

Gang Land News photo

 
By Jerry Capeci
Gang Land News

Joseph Colombo Jr., whose arrest back on April 30, 1970 spurred his Mafia boss father to dramatically turn the tables on the FBI, picketing the agency’s East Side offices and staging huge civil rights rallies, died last week after a long battle with Neurological Lyme Disease. He was 67.

The charges against Colombo Jr. were always controversial: In a novel case, he was charged with conspiring to melt down $200,000 of silver U.S. coins and convert them into more valuable silver ingots. His dad, the Bensonhurst-based boss of one of the city’s five crime families, termed it harassment aimed at him.

And a jury agreed. Less than a year later, on February 26, 1971, after just four hours of deliberations, a panel of jurors in Brooklyn Federal Court acquitted the defendant, prompting tears of joy to flow down the cheeks of the elder Colombo — a daily spectator at his son’s eight day trial.

“My son was innocent,” the usually hot tempered Mafia boss said as he wiped the tears away, the New York Times reported. “I feel that we fought all the way.”

“The only good that came out of all this is the birth of the Italian American Civil Rights League,” the outspoken Mafia boss told The Daily News.

The hard-fought verdict came after a mistrial, and  months of noisy demonstrations outside FBI headquarters and a boisterous Italian American Civil Rights League rally of an estimated 50,000 people which included many elected officials at Columbus Circle. The rally, coupled with Colombo’s claims of discrimination by the FBI against Italian-Americans propelled Colombo to the cover of Time Magazine and a guest spot on the Dick Cavett show.

The huge and popular rallies initially succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations: The U.S. Department of Justice agreed to stop using the words “Mafia” and “La Cosa Nostra” in its organized crime cases.

An even bigger coup was achieved when Colombo Sr. prevailed upon producer Al Ruddy to also delete the word “Mafia” from The Godfather.

But the era of good feeling was short-lived. Four months later, at the second Civil Rights League rally, Colombo was shot by a lone gunman and mortally wounded, remaining in a coma until he finally succumbed to his wounds seven years later.

Like his three brothers, Colombo Jr. was never inducted into the crime family that still bears his father’s name. In 1985, though, he was indicted along with brothers Vincent and Anthony on racketeering charges of bookmaking and bribery. He pleaded guilty, was sentenced to five years,

and was never implicated in any wrongdoing following his release from prison in 1990.

“He was sick a long time, at least he’s not suffering any longer,” said his brother Christopher, sadly. “He was unique person, very charismatic — like my father.

Everybody loved him. He was a great father, a fantastic grand-father. He had a way of touching people, and everyone he touched loved him. He will be missed by the entire family, and everyone who knew him.”

In addition to his brother Chris, he is survived by Diane, his wife of 45 years, daughters Dina and Denise, and his son Joseph III; his brothers Anthony and Vincent; his sister Catherine; five grandchildren, John, Jenna, Joey, Laini, and Emily, and many nieces, nephews, and cousins.

Following a one day viewing at the Brooks Funeral  Home in Newburgh, and a Mass of Christian Burial at St. Mary’s Church in Newburgh, Colombo was laid to rest Tuesday at Calvary Cemetery in New Windsor.

Meanwhile, back in Joe Colombo’s old haunts in Brooklyn, Michael Persico, the son of the crime family’s current boss is now scheduled to be sentenced next year. Last week, Federal Judge Sandra Townes rejected his motion to take back his guilty plea. He faces a maximum of five years behind bars, but his plea agreement recommends a sentence between 37 and 46 months.


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