NEW YORK — Joseph Gallo, the elder statesman of the nation's largest crime family, today was fined $380,000 and sentenced to prison for 10 years--a term the judge called "essentially a life sentence."
Gallo, 76, the Gambino crime family consigliere, sat with eyes half-closed and lips pursed in federal court as the sentence for racketeering was announced.
U.S. District Judge Jack B. Weinstein, citing Gallo's advanced age, history of heart disease and failing health, called the imprisonment order "essentially a life sentence."
Gallo was convicted Dec. 22, 1986, on two bribery counts and illegal interstate travel to commit bribery. He was acquitted of loan-sharking.
He was to remain under house arrest pending his appeal.
Gallo's defense attorney pleaded with the judge not to hold the old man responsible for the activities of the crime family to which he belonged.
Weinstein retorted with a reference to Austrian President Kurt Waldheim's disavowal of any role in Nazi European atrocities.
"What is this, a Waldheim defense? He was just standing there and didn't know what was going on?" the judge asked incredulously.
"I've tried enough cases here to have concluded there is an organized crime family. Certainly someone who assumes a leading membership in it has to be held responsible for those crimes," he said.
Prosecutor Douglas Grover described Gallo as "an important high-level member who resolved disputes."
Defense attorney Dominic Amoroso also argued that Gallo is not wealthy and has been "residing in a very modest apartment for the last 20 to 25 years in Queens."
But Weinstein said statements of Gallo's assets are "not accurate."
'Great Deal of Cash'
"He must have acquired a great deal of cash," he said. "The government never found it."
Gallo, a small, frail-looking white-haired man who favors wide, brightly colored ties, left the courtroom, carefully picking each step, with his son by his side. Both declined to make any comments.
The government alleged that Gallo tried to pay a $20,000 bribe to a prison official to arrange the transfer of his son, Joseph, from a state penitentiary to a federal prison.
Prosecutors also charged that he tried to have Carmine Persico, the jailed reputed boss of the Colombo crime family, moved to a prison near his home by paying another $20,000 bribe.