"What're You Gonna Do Now, Tough Guy?"
The jammed .22 and the murder weapon were found at the scene. Later that night an ankle holster and a cap were discovered nearby. Despite exhaustive efforts by the police to identify the shooter, no suspects were ever pinpointed.
The case languished. After a few years it was all but forgotten except the infamous phrase, which continued to ripple through the mob in hushed tones of admiration. But like a skeleton inadvertently found by construction workers digging a foundation, the Johnny Cokes murder resurfaced in the aftermath of the 1993 mob trial that shot out the knees of the Lucchese crime family in New Jersey.
In the summer of that yearten years after Michael Coppolas homecoming party and sixteen years after the Johnny Cokes hitfour top members of the Jersey Luccheses were convicted on an array of racketeering and murder charges. Lucchese boss Anthony Tumac Accetturo, acting boss Michael Taccetta, Taccettas brother Martin, and Tommy Ricciardi were all facing long sentences.
In the old days, this crew would have kept their mouths shut and done their time, but the old days were long gone. There was no honor among thieves anymore, and omerta, the Mafia code of silence, had become more of a discretionary rule. Tommy Ricciardi considered himself a mob traditionalist, and initially he was prepared to do his time the way he was supposed to. But while the trial was going on, he had learned a few things that altered his thinking.
In the early nineties a contract had been taken out on Ricciardis life by the New York faction of the Lucchese family. It was part of a power move orchestrated by Michael Taccetta. In a maneuver worthy of Macchiavelli, Taccetta had spread the rumor that Acceturo and Ricciardi had formed an alliance with a Colombian drug gang and intended to annihilate the New York leadership of the Lucchese faction. The New York bosses bought the story and decided to eliminate the plotters before they could make their move. As a result of Taccettas duplicity, the New York bosses ordered the executions of Ricciardi, Ricciardis two brothers, boss Anthony Accetturo, Accetturos son, and two other close associates. When Ricciardi learned of Taccettas treachery, he was stunned. How could Taccetta do this to someone who had been nothing but loyal to the family, even under Taccettas dubious and self-serving acting leadership? And even worse, what kind of friend was he? Ricciardi and Taccetta had been very close. Theyd known each other since childhood in the Vailsburg section of Newark. Taccetta had even shared the exclusive Johnny Cokes story with him. Tommy Ricciardi believed that La Cosa Nostra, this thing of ours, was supposed to be a family, and a family is supposed to protect its own. Ricciardi felt betrayed.
Copyright 2001, Anthony Bruno. All Rights Reserved