Salvatore Leone walked free from a federal court yesterday, as the case against him collapsed. Leone, who had been on trial for tax evasion, a case that the state prosecutor intended to turn into a racketeering charge, smiled as he walked free from the courts in downtown Liberty City. Leone had been on trial after Inland Revenue experts found serious accounting irregularities in the Leone books, including $450,000 of undeclared income.
The state had been very confident of making the charges stick, the prosecution's case being based on the large sum of undeclared income. The jury, however, unequivocally accepted Mr. Leone's explanation that this money had not been accrued by racketeering, but by the illegal importing of tomato sauce, from Mr. Leone's hometown of Palermo, Sicily. Although Mr. Leone was subsequently found guilty of a minor charge of importing fresh foodstuffs without a license and paid a cursory fine, as well as all unpaid revenue, he has stayed out of prison again.
This is the fifth time the state has taken Leone to court since, they allege, he took control of the Leone crime family in a bloody power struggle in the mid 1980s. It is also the fifth time he has walked free. He has paid numerous fines, but no matter how serious the evidence, he has always avoided conviction.
Upon leaving court, Leone said to waiting reporters "I am just a businessman from Sicily. I have made a few mistakes, and perhaps I have not always followed the law to the letter, but I always believed in its spirit. The police associate me with my brother, but I never do these things they blame me for."
Leone's lawyer, Maurice Goldberg commented, "Mr. Leone is a dyslexic. Court tests prove it. His accounts are always in a mess, but he is not dishonest. Nor is he in the mafia. As a Sicilian, he knows some unsavory characters, but what kind of America is it when a man is guilty because of the friends he has? I don't want to live in an America like that, do you?"
No, Mr. Goldberg, we certainly don't.