The Audacity of Nope

Donald Trump Kisses the Feet of Convicted Art Thief ‘Joey No Socks’

A guy who tried to scam his way out of a drunk-driving conviction by claiming lead poisoning from being shot cozies up to the president-elect.

In Donald Trump’s eyes, Joseph “Joey No Socks” Cinque is not just any scamster.

“There’s nobody like him,” Trump said in a video back in 2009. “He’s a special guy.”

That assessment was hardly manifest in Cinque’s early days as a street guy, which took a bad turn in 1980, when he was shot multiple times in what he insisted was a robbery. Authorities suspected it was as a gangland hit.

Joey No Socks then sought a more genteel life with stolen art. This venture also took a bad turn in June of 1989, when the police showed up at the front door to his Manhattan apartment.

“You’re not coming in here!” he is reported to have informed the detectives.

The detectives had a search warrant, along with a battering ram that they employed to great effect. They entered to find a trove of stolen works. The Chagalls and the Miros got most of the press attention, but there was also sculpture by Fredrick Remington.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office was originally going to let Joey No Socks plead to a misdemeanor. He was then seen chatting with mob boss John Gotti in court. And Assistant District Attorney Anne Heyman reported that an informant had told her office the same day that Joey No Socks had been dealing drugs as well as stolen art out of his apartment. Joey No Socks was never charged with narcotics but he did end up pleading guilty to a felony involving the stolen art.

Heyman soon after left the district attorney’s office to raise her three children. She also became a true hero when she set to organizing care for the orphans of the genocide in Rwanda in the way Israel once had for the orphans of the Holocaust. Fate’s unfairness was proven anew when she was killed in an equestrian accident in 2014.

Joey No Socks just kept being Joey No Socks. Thanks in part to a connection with the New York State Liquor Authority, he became involved in opening a series of upscale clubs that wanted to serve alcohol.

Just how Joey No Socks became head of the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences is something of a mystery. He instituted Star Diamond Awards that he billed as “the Academy Award of hospitality.” He bestowed them on a series of hotels and golf courses and restaurants owned by Donald Trump, who had agreed to let himself be listed on the board of directors.

“Very prestigious, coveted,” Trump said in a letter to members after the Mar-a-Lago Club received one. “Another feather in our cap.”

In the meantime, Joey No Socks retained a certain stubbornness when it came to being caught by the police. He refused to take a breathalyzer when a cop in Watchung, New Jersey, pulled him over for driving under the influence in 2006. He then proceeded to fail a series of field sobriety tests administered by Officer Edward (“Mike”) Sugalski.

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“Sugalski first conducted the ‘one-legged-stand’ test,” court papers report, “Defendant was unable to hold his leg six inches off the ground and maintain his balance, and defendant incorrectly counted from one to 30 by skipping number 16 and going directly from number 19 to number 30.”

Joey No Socks was subsequently convicted, but appealed. Court papers say, “Defendant largely attributes his performance on the field sobriety tests to his medical condition.”

“[Joey No Socks’ doctor] testified that he has been treating defendant for 11 years for hypertension, gout, and chronic lead poisoning,” the papers report. “The symptoms of gout are severe pain, swelling of the joints, redness, and gait imbalance. Defendant suffers from gout in his foot, and his right and left ankles.”

Then comes the good part.

“Defendant also suffers from lead poisoning as a result of multiple lead pellets in his body,” the papers say. “[The doctor] explained that ‘because [of Joey No Socks’ elevated] lead level, he’s lost some sensation in some of his peripheral nerves, specifically the bottom of his feet’ when weight-bearing is involved.”

The “lead pellets” apparently being bullets or bullet fragments from when Joey No Socks was shot in his street days a quarter century before. His use of them to try to get out of a drunk-driving conviction is indeed the mark of a special guy in the Trumpian realm.

Call it the audacity of nope.

Trump himself showed similar audacity in recent months, when he was asked about his relationship with the likes of Joey No Socks and the ethics of accepting awards from an organization where he sat on the board.

“I don’t know him well,” Trump said. “But I have found him over the years to be a very nice man.”

Never mind that the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences lists Trump as its “ambassador extraordinaire” and that its site posted the video in which The Donald calls Joey No Socks a unique and special guy.

On at least the past three New Year’s Eves, Joey No Socks has been at Trump’s club at Mar-a-Lago in Florida. Trump showed further audacity this New Year’s Eve by not bothering to pretend that he was anything but pals with Joey No Socks as they stood together on the stage.

On his part, Joey No Socks had arrived with something to top all the awards he had given Trump for his various enterprises. Trump was now about to become our next president and Joey No Socks presented him with what was described as a “one-of-a kind bronze Eagle award.”

But the full audacity of the moment was only apparent when you considered that the bronze eagle was in the style of one sculpted by Frederick Remington, whose work had been among the stolen art the detectives reportedly found when they were forced to batter in Joey No Socks’s door back in 1989.

Talk about a special guy for our times as we go from hope to nope.