Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Actor Steven Seagal and the Mob

"This is Crazy!"

Steven Seagal testifies, Gotti, front, sketch
Steven Seagal testifies, Gotti, front,

On February 11, 2003, Steven Seagal arrived at the Federal Courthouse in Brooklyn, wearing, as Anthony DeStefano reported in Newsday, "a chocolate-colored silk Mandarin jacket and blue jeans." He had a "deep tan," having just flown in from Thailand where he was shooting his latest film, Belly of the Beast. But despite his Eastern garb, Seagal was not at peace with the world that day. He clearly did not want to be there, but he'd been subpoenaed to testify for the prosecution in the government's attempt to put away 17 alleged members and associates of the Gambino crime family. The various defense attorneys made it plain that they had their legal knives sharpened for the movie star.

As George Santangelo, Sonny Ciccone's attorney, put it, Seagal was a "pathological liar," and the attorneys for the defense aimed to prove it for the jury. The attorneys were going to ask Seagal about several things, including an alleged incident in Japan where he angered a member of the Yakuza by getting involved with the man's girlfriend. Allegedly Seagal sought help from the American Mafia to handle the situation.

Anthony Pelicano
Anthony Pelicano

The attorneys also wanted to know more about an ex-con's charge that a private eye commissioned by Seagal had hired him to harass a Los Angeles Times reporter who'd been covering the actor's alleged mob ties. The reporter, Anita Busch, had found a dead fish with a rose in its mouth on her punctured windshield. A note found under the fish said, "STOP!" Alexander Proctor, the ex-con, had told an informant that he'd been hired by P.I. to the stars, Anthony Pelicano, on behalf of Seagal. "[Pelicano] wanted to make it look like the Italians were putting the hit on her so it wouldn't reflect on Seagal," Proctor said.

Although Seagal was granted limited immunity, which prevented him from being prosecuted for anything incriminating he might say on the stand, Seagal did not relish having his elaborately constructed mystique picked apart by lawyers. For four hours, the defense circled and jabbed at Seagal. Many of Seagal's claims from the past came back to haunt him. He was asked at one point if he had once hired "someone to set up a man in a compromising homosexual situation."

Seagal exploded. "I'm not on trial here! ... This is crazy."