Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Sammy 'The Bull' Gravano

Sammy vs 'Son of Sam'

The Gigante trial had a sub-plot involving Gravano and his income from the book Underboss, with which he had assisted Peter Maas. The book made the best-seller's list. Gravano made it known that he would rather go to jail than to disclose any financial terms of his deal. The daughters of Eddie Garofalo had hired attorney Ronald Kuby to represent them in a $25 million dollar civil suit against Gravano, using New York State's "Son of Sam" statute which prevents a convicted felon from profiting from his crimes. Peter Maas and the publisher, HarperCollins, denied Gravano received any of the proceeds. Gravano would tell a reporter two years later, "I like the wheeling and dealing, the business, the whirlwind. I think up deals every other minute." Was there anyone who doubted that the scheming Gravano didn't profit from the book?

One of the problems Kuby was having was that he was unable to serve Gravano with the papers for the civil suit. The federal marshals offered no assistance. The judge in the case refused Kuby's request to serve Gravano in the courtroom. However, the judge ruled that Gravano could be questioned about the financial details of the book deal.

At the end of Gravano's cross-examination on July 10, he was asked about his book contract and he admitted that he had received a $250,000 advance and was anticipating additional royalties. He told the court that he was also negotiating a movie deal that was expected to bring him one million dollars. Gravano made it clear that he was ready to fight any lawsuits brought against him. The movie, Witness to the Mob, as with most Hollywood productions was loosely based on the book. The majority of scenes were out of sequence, older actors played young characters, and Gravano was portrayed in a sympathetic way. It's only fair to note that in HBO's Gotti movie, the producers demonized Gravano, unfairly and inaccurately.

In August 1997, New York State Attorney General Dennis Vacco, representing the state's Crime Victims' Board, announced his office had served Gravano with papers in a lawsuit seeking the profits from his book and movie deal. Vacco's suit was separate from the one Kuby had filed, who by now was representing the families of three of Gravano's victims.

Vacco filed another lawsuit in September 1997 against Twentieth Century Fox, charging that they attempted to scheme with Gravano to circumvent the "Son of Sam" law that allows the State of New York to seize profits from crimes and pass them back to the victims through the Crime Victims' Board. Also named in the latest suit was Underboss author Peter Maas, publisher HarperCollins and International Creative Management.

In April 1998, Kuby's suit took an unexpected turn. Gravano's attorney, Larry Krantz, exercised his client's right to move the case from state to federal court. Drawing the case was Judge Leo Glasser, who had such high praise for Gravano's testimony that he sentenced the multiple killer to just five years. By a strange coincidence, Krantz was Glasser's former law clerk causing Kuby to remark, "This is an astonishing set of circumstances." Kuby promptly requested that Glasser remove himself from the case citing the judge's comment about Gravano doing the "bravest thing I have ever seen."

"It is rare, indeed, your honor, that a federal judge extols the heroism of a serial killer," Kuby stated.

Glasser, angered by the remark, shot back that the media had misinterpreted his widely quoted comment when he sentenced Gravano in 1994. Glasser claimed he was quoting from a communication presented to him by law enforcement.

Laura Garofalo, whose father was Gravano's 18th victim, petitioned Glasser to disqualify himself from the civil suit. In September 1998 Glasser said his "conscience" told him it would be inappropriate for him to comply with the request to step aside because it would make it look like his sentencing statements were bias in regards to Gravano. To which Kuby responded to reporters that the judge had "an inflated, expansive and unrealistic notion of his own fairness."

Meanwhile, the suit filed by Vacco was dismissed by the New York Supreme Court in 1998 in a decision that stated Gravano was convicted of federal, not state, crimes. The court also decided that the New York State Crime Victims' Board did not have the authority to file the suit because it in itself was not a victim. In March 2000, a state appellate court upheld that decision by a 3 to 2 count.

By the spring of 2000, Kuby was representing twelve clients in a suit against Gravano – and was flirting with becoming Gravano's 20th victim.

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