03.30.12 8:45 AM ET
Meet the Mafia’s First Blogger, Tommy Gioeli
The first and only alleged Mafia boss to maintain a blog is now on trial in Brooklyn federal court.
The charges against 59-year-old Thomas “Tommy Shots” Gioeli include six murders, among them the killing of a police officer. He has been remanded for more than three years to the starkly real Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center, but he periodically manages a virtual escape into cyberspace, thanks to a restricted email system provided by the federal Bureau of Prisons and to the untiring efforts of a devoted daughter.
To blog from behind bars, Gioeli begins by writing a missive by hand. He then signs on to the BOP’s Trust Fund Limited Inmate Computer System (TULINGS) and begins doing something that no other accused Mafia boss has been known to do.
“I sit down at the keyboard and type,” he told The Daily Beast in a telephone interview.
He offered a succinct appraisal of his typing skills.
“Terrible,” he said. “And my spelling’s worse.”
Gioeli had in fact touched index fingers to keyboard back before he was arrested, when he said it came time to prepare one of the traditional “induction lists” by which a crime family must secure approval from all the other crime families of its candidates for membership in the Mafia. He demonstrated himself to be the most modern of alleged mob bosses.
“It was a typed list Tommy had made downstairs in his basement on his computer,” capo Dino “Big Dino” Calabro would testify after he became an informant.
Having already produced the first word-processed mob-induction list, Gioeli followed up by producing the first mob blog in January 2010. The Bureau of Prisons says that TRULINGS is intended “to provide inmates with some limited computer access, to include the capability to send and receive electronic messages without having access to the Internet,” but Gioeli found a simple way to surmount that restriction. He has his daughter post his TRULINGS musings in a blog called Alleged Mob Boss Tommy Gioeli’s Voice.
“She does a little bit of editing,” Gioeli allows.
In the blog, Gioeli proclaims himself “an unconvicted American man being denied basic rights and health care,” a victim of “the tactics of Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Russia.” Gioeli assigns insulting nicknames to the prosecution team and accuses an FBI agent of being “inappropriate with the wife of an informant.” Gioeli accuses the informant, Big Dino Calabro, himself of beating his wife, poisoning a supposed buddy’s pet fish, shooting his own dog, and murdering numerous “enemies and friends.” Calabro is unreachable in protective custody and has no blog of his own with which to respond.
In his blog, Gioeli further reports that his own lawyers asked him to at least temper his postings and that the prosecution complained that some of its content violated court guidelines.
“OOPS! My bad,” he says.
The blog enabled Gioeli to register objections when he was allowed to attend neither his daughter’s wedding nor his father’s funeral. He can decry the quality of the jailhouse food and complain that his broken dentures were slow in being replaced.
“I still have no teeth,” he reports.
As for the jailhouse health care, he notes with indignation that there are “no gloves worn by the pill administrator in the pill line.” He goes on to report that the administrator “shakes out the pill in the cap or an ungloved hand and watches as we place this into our mouths.”
“The cap maneuver may be OK for the mother who is giving meds to her kids,” Gioeli says. “But in an institutional setting it is downright unsanitary, if not illegal”
In a reflective moment, Gioeli speaks of voting for Barack Obama from behind bars via absentee ballot.
“It felt good when he won; no it felt great,” Gioeli says. “What a change socially and politically.”
Nothing changed for accused mob bosses and Gioeli was still behind bars at the holidays. He was able to post via his blog a cyber Christmas card featuring a photo of his four daughters when they were youngsters.
“A very merry Christmas,” the accompanying message read. “Thanks for your continued support, it means so much. Love, the Gioeli family.”
With regards to the Colombo crime family, Gioeli protests the prosecution of another alleged boss, 93-year-old Sonny Francese, whose tendency to nod off during court proceedings caused him to become known in the newspapers as “the Nodfather.”
“To go after this old man for crimes he may or may not have committed...” Gioeli says.
Gioeli the Blogfather protested vehemently when the government filed court papers alleging that his own crimes included unintentionally killing a former nun with a shotgun blast in 1982. The court papers state that Gioeli afterward expressed a fear to an informant that “I’m going to hell.” The Blogfather flatly denied any involvement in the nun shooting and worried about the impact that just the allegation had on his family and friends.
“My saintly elderly mother who just buried my father, my poor wife, my precious children, my priests, the rest of my family, friends and the people I just know…” he wrote.
Gioeli was not actually charged with killing the nun, but he remained accused of six murders when he went on trial this month. These included the 1997 killing of New York City Police Officer Ralph Dols, who was allegedly killed at the behest of another alleged Colombo family boss because the cop had dared to marry his ex-wife.
Gioeli’s wife and at least one of his daughters sat in the courtroom as admitted capo and hit man Big Dino Calabro took the stand as the government’s star witness. Calabro testified that Gioeli had been something of a mentor, advising him on how to kill.
“Tommy always told us, ‘Shoot him in the body first, then walk up and cap him,’” Calabro said.
And, when burying a victim, the standard practice was to dump in a bag of lime.
“To deter odor,” Calabro added.
The murdered cop was left to stagger bleeding into his house and die before his horrified wife. Calabro recalled that he afterward went to his own house and took a precaution that Gioeli had advised.
“Tommy had instructed me to take a shower, because when you shoot a gun, you get gunpowder residue on you,” Calabro said.
Calabro insisted that he had not known the victim was a cop at the time of the shooting.
“We don’t typically kill police officers,” he said. “That’s just a rule in the Mafia. You don’t kill kids, you don’t kill cops.”
Calabro testified that Gioeli had given him one murder contract in a church garden, adding, “That’s the garden where Tommy prayed.” Calabro said that in reward for participating in various killings he was inducted into the mob with the traditional ceremony, during which Gioeli pricked his trigger finger and smeared blood on the picture of a saint that was the set on fire. Calabro said he had uttered an oath.
“If I repeat anything that happens in here, I should die and burn in hell,” Calabro recalled.
He clearly preferred the risk of that to spending the rest of his life in prison.
He further testified that his subsequent duties as a made man included bringing around what Gioeli had generated in his basement as the mob’s first word-processed induction list.
Among the exhibits the government entered into evidence was a video of Calabro’s 1991 wedding, where he toasted Gioeli. Twenty-one years later, Calabro was up on the witness stand fingering Gioeli for murder after murder. Gioeli sat in an argyle sweater that looked like it might have come from a truckload of Macy’s returns the crew had been accused of hijacking.
He was scribbling busily on a notepad--and some of it might even end up in the first accused-mob-boss blog.
Whatever he posts, Alleged Mob Boss Tommy Gioeli’s Voice seems all but sure to continue being written from behind bars.