|John Pappa grew up idolizing
his dad, telling his young hoodlum buddies he wanted to be just like his
father Gerard, a
bloodthirsty mobster who killed for fun and profit and eventually was
whacked for breaking mob rules, reputedly by that denizen of mob protocol,
Genovese boss Vincent
On his dresser, Pappa had a picture
of his dad, who was blown away in 1980. On his arm was a simple tattoo
tribute, "Pappa Bear." On his back, was a macabre tattoo that includes, in
Italian, a credo young Pappa believed applied to him and his father,
"Morte prima di disonore," -- Death before
Last week, the baby-faced hoodlum with a
hair-trigger temper, was convicted of racketeering, drug dealing and four
murders, including the 12th and final killing of the bloody Colombo family
Pappa (left) was found guilty in
Brooklyn Federal Court of the Oct. 20, 1993 rubout of rival capo Joseph
Scopo and three other murders in a 12 month period. Pappa, 24, faces a
mandatory life sentence. Co-defendant Hennigar, 26, convicted of drug
dealing and one murder, also faces life.
"This prosecution brings the
terrible legacy of the Colombo war to a close with the conviction of one
of the most dangerous young hitman in the Colombo family," said assistant
U.S. attorney Stephen Kelly.
During the four week trial, Kelly
and co-prosecutor Amy Walsh put together an overwhelming case against Pappa and
Hennigar (right) without the luxury of two staples of most
modern-day Mafia trials: They had no tape recorded admissions from either
defendant, and none of their witnesses were turncoat accomplices
with first hand information.
They built their case around
circumstantial evidence, such as telephone records showing that Pappa
called two of his victims several times right before their deaths. They
also had a witness who testified that she saw a slender teenager running
away from the Scopo murder scene. They introduced a photo of Pappa's back
into evidence, called an FBI agent who testified that Pappa failed to tell
the feds about the tattoo (as required of arrestees) at first and was
reluctant to remove his shirt. They argued that under the entire
circumstances of the case, it showed Pappa's guilt.
But their best evidence came from
Pappa himself, who often shot his mouth off about his murderous
achievements. Three former mob associates testified about repeated
admissions he made about murder, drug dealing and assorted mayhem in the
Seven months after the Scopo hit,
Pappa boasted how he used a .380 automatic to kill the unarmed Colombo
capo, according to Ronald (Messy Marvin) Moran, who followed Dino Basciano
and Joseph Iborti
to the witness stand.
"He said John Sparacino threw open the door
and sprayed Scopo's car (left) with a machine gun," said Moran, a
bespectacled, chubby-cheeked killer whose nickname stems from a likeness
to a cherubic adolescent in a television commercial.
"He said that the retard Sparacino
had missed him with every shot ... (and) left him at the scene. The next
part of the conversation, John was out of the car. He didn't explain how.
Just he was in another location, this time he was hiding behind a tree because he thought
Scopo had a gun. He seen Scopo in a crouched position outside the
automobile. He said he waited to see if he had a gun.
"He said Scopo was yelling at him,
'You got balls, come on. Come on, you need to kill me, kill me you little
punk.' John said Scopo threw what he believed to be a cellular phone at
him. John said he walked from behind the tree, walked over to Scopo
(right) and shot him, I believe eight times."
Lawyers for both defendants said
they would appeal. "There are significant appellate issues and we expect
our appeal to be successful," said Pappa's attorney, Michael