Creaky Colombo underboss John (Sonny) Franzese was caught calling John (Junior) Gotti a “rat” on a tape recording that was secretly made by the rat in his own family – his son.
But Franzese didn’t hear his son’s handiwork.
The 93-year-old mobster was snoozing in the courtroom and had to be nudged awake by his lawyer.
It was an odd moment on an otherwise riveting day of testimony that began when Franzese’s son took the stand – and proceeded to betray him.
“He’s sitting there in the yellow shirt, I believe,” a clearly uncomfortable John Franzese answered when asked to identify his mobster father.
Franzese, whose very name made foes quake in fear and who literally turned rats into mincemeat, studied his shirt as if he wanted to make sure his son got the color correct.
Looking more like a graying slacker in a green T-shirt, jeans and sneakers than a gangster, the younger Franzese then proceeded to break mob rules by outing himself as a member of his father’s crew – and naming two dozen other Colombo family wiseguys.
Then, while father sat stone-faced with his hands resting on his cane, the double-crossing spawn proceeded to tell the court how he wound up becoming an FBI informant.
In doing so, 50-year-old John Franzese Jr. became the first New York mob scion to ever testify against his dad.
Crime bosses John Gotti, Carmine Persico and Carlo Gambino brought their sons into the Mafia life, but never endured this kind of shame.
If Franzese was feeling any paternal pain, it wasn’t visible on his face. Instead, his son looked rattled as he recounted his days as an apprentice crook, his descent into drug addiction, and how he turned on his father.
Before the turncoat began testifying in Brooklyn Federal Court, a deputy U.S. marshal cleared out Franzese Jr.’s family from the front row, including his brother Michael – a capo turned minister – to prevent them from staring him down.
“I don’t agree with everything he’s doing,” said Minister Mike. “I feel worst for my father. I know he’s very hurt by it. My father always had a soft spot for all his kids.”
Franzese Jr. testified that growing up a Franzese meant never lacking for cash.
“I pretty much had a brand new car every year up to age of 26 or 27,” he said. “I spent exorbitant amounts of money on clothes. My school thought I was the richest kid in school.”
He said he got his start in the family business running errands for his father before graduating to petty crimes and stickups.
But by age 23, the wannabe wiseguy had a full-blown cocaine habit – and it took hold of his criminal career.
“I ended up eventually walking around the street like an animal,” stealing money from mother and other family members, he said.
It was during the mid-1990’s that Franzese Jr. turned rat.
“I wanted to change my life,” he said.
The mobster’s son said he told his handler he could wheedle information out of his father that might be useful to the FBI – and perhaps keep his pop out of prison.
“I was hoping to give my father more time without getting arrested,” he said. “The FBI kept telling me a certain group they were intertested in for the time being…(And) my father wouldn’t get immediately arrested.”
Asked why he turned rat, Franzese Jr. said “I thought it was a chance to make up for what I had done in my life.”
Among other things, Franzese Jr. agreed to make secret recordings that the feds are now using to nail his father.
The wheelchair bound former Colombo-family legbreaker is one of the oldest mobsters to go on trial for racketeering.
Back in the day, Franzese was a so feared Frank Sinatra kissed his ring in public and the FBI dubbed him “a super-Dillinger.”
He was once caught on tape bragging about how he put nail polish on his fingertips to mask his fingerprints at crime scenes – and how he disposed of bodies by running severed limbs through a garbage disposal.
These days, Franzese is a mouse of a man whose “own wife beats him up and abuses him,” his lawyer, Richard Lind told the court earlier.
Prosecutors say Franzese was the second-in-command of the Colombo family and orchestrated the extortions of jiggle joints in Manhattan and a Long Island pizzeria