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Ex-hitman's book proceeds to go to victims

By The Associated Press

11.21.01

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MESA, Ariz. — Ads placed in East Coast newspapers will seek victims of Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano and offer a portion of royalties from his book.

The ads, placed by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, will run in The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger, New York Post and Newsday tomorrow through Nov. 28.

Arizona prosecutors won a court fight over proceeds from the book, Underboss: Sammy the Bull Gravano’s Story of Life in the Mafia, and there is roughly $400,000 to split up, said attorney general spokeswoman Pati Urias. The amount is expected to grow from interest and possible future books or movies on Gravano’s life of crime, she said.

Gravano, a Mafia turncoat who admitted to involvement in 19 murders, is awaiting sentencing in drug cases in New York and Arizona. He relocated to Tempe, Ariz., as a protected witness in 1995.

Gravano recently admitted financing a massive enterprise that sold the drug Ecstasy.

Larry Hammond, Gravano’s Phoenix attorney, disagreed with the decision made by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Mark Santana.

“It was a violation of the First Amendment,” Hammond said. “This is a decision to take from an individual the proceeds of a book based entirely on the content of the book.”

Arizona is one of many states that have a so-called "Son of Sam" law, which generally prohibits convicted felons from profiting from sales of books based on their crimes. Such measures are designed to compensate crime victims. Opponents of such laws say they violate the First Amendment right to free speech, and cite a 1991 U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down New York's "Son of Sam" law. The term originated from the serial killer David Berkowitz, who terrorized the New York City in the late 1970s and was later called "Son of Sam" because he claimed that his dog Sam told him to murder his victims.

The Superior Court in Arizona will have the final say on how the proceeds are allocated, but the attorney general’s office is providing help in finding the victims, Urias said.

The ads will seek “any person who sustained injury to his or her ‘person, business or property by the racketeering conduct’ ” of the Gambino crime family between 1970 and 1991.

Racketeering is defined as murder, extortion, loansharking, gambling, obstruction of justice and bribery.

Prosecutors have already spoken with some of Gravano’s victims and have come up with three options for distributing the funds. Victims can either receive the money directly, have it donated to a college fund or to disaster relief in New York.

Related

'Son of Sam' statutes: federal and state summary
Information on legal issues and legislation concerning attempts to prevent criminals from profiting through sale of memoirs and other intellectual property.  03.21.01

N.Y. appeals court: Mob hit man can keep proceeds from book
State's 'Son of Sam Law' doesn't apply to the federal crimes to which Salvatore 'Sammy the Bull' Gravano pleaded guilty, panel rules.  03.08.00

California high court mulls 'Son of Sam' law
Barring felons from making money from their stories violates free speech, attorney for Frank Sinatra Jr. kidnapper tells justices.  12.07.01

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