First, Vincent "Chin" Gigante, former Village resident and Genovese Family crime boss, died in Federal prison this week. Also known as "The Oddfather," Chin (who like most Mob bosses attained his elevated position by climbing atop a pile of corpses) had some habits that were notably eccentric even in a neighborhood famous for its tolerance of eccentricity:
What made Gigante a legend was his feigning of mental illness as a way of escaping prosecution. Unshaven and mumbling to himself, Gigante would wander around Greenwich Village in his bathrobe. When cops once tried to serve him a subpoena, they found him fully clothed in a running shower holding up an umbrella.Chin's been out of the neighborhood for years, being a guest of the Feds and all. But he was back, briefly, this week, for a modest, low-key funeral service at St. Anthony of Padua Church over on Sullivan Street.
Investigators suspected Gigante was acting, but he tricked the courts for years.
In April 2003, Gigante pleaded guilty to charges he feigned mental illness in the 1990s, adding three years to his sentence.
Then there's this other guy, who still lives right around the corner from me, and who I see occasionally on the street when he's in town. A noted lawyer and former Attorney General of the United States, he's a little busy right now in an out-of-town trial... defending Saddam Hussein.
Meet Ramsey Clark, 12th Street resident and the counsel of choice for dictators, mass murderers, and war criminals who make Vinny the Chin look like Mister Rogers.
Clark has defended not just Saddam Hussein, but (and this is just a sample) Radovan Karadzic, Slobodan Milosevic, Nazi concentration camp officer Karl Linnas, Liberian dictator Charles Taylor, Rwandan genocide instigator Elizaphan Ntakirutimana, the PLO leaders whose minions tossed wheelchair-bound Leon Klinghoffer off the deck of the Achille Lauro...
Frankly, I'm not that proud to have shared a neighborhood with either man, but if forced to choose I'd rather associate with the likes of Chin Gigante than Ramsey Clark.
For one thing, I'd trust the mobster more, and have more respect for his personal integrity.
Here's Ramsey Clark, defending Saddam's use of actual murder and torture:
"He (Saddam) had this huge war going on, and you have to act firmly when you have an assassination attempt." - BBC interview, 28 November 2005, about the torture and murder of 148 men and boys near the mainly Shiite town of Dujail, Iraq in 1982.Compare and contrast with his assessment of Abu Ghraib:
"Abu Ghraib is unbelievable in the innocent times of 1961. That we would torture people that way and on the instructions of the President of the United States and his highest legal advisers, torture is okay, they said. Go for it, fellas. If we can't renounce that and remove it from office, then the Constitution doesn't work anymore."Articles cited:
- Obituary, New York Times, Dec. 19, 2005
- Gangland News: Vincent "Chin" Gigante, the Pajama King
- Gangsters, Inc: Vincent Gigante