NEW YORK (Reuters) - Reputed mob boss Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano, who dodged the death penalty only weeks ago, was sentenced in a New York court to life in prison on Wednesday for ordering the murder of a mafia associate.
Basciano, the former acting boss of New York's Bonanno crime family, is already serving a life sentence for a separate 2001 murder.
"The court imposes consecutive life sentences in order to convey to Basciano, to other members of organized crime, to his victims and to the public, that while he has only one life with which to pay for his crimes, the debt he owes to society is far greater," U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis said in Wednesday's proceedings in federal court in Brooklyn.
Basciano, who appeared in a navy-blue prison jumpsuit, made a rambling statement accusing the government of building its cases against him on the testimony of unreliable cooperating witnesses.
He demanded the court turn over the name of a fellow inmate who told prosecutors that Basciano was assembling a hit list from within prison walls, targeting a federal prosecutor, among others.
"What's to stop anyone from making an allegation?" Basciano asked. He did not address his conviction in May of the murder of reputed mob associate Randolph Pizzolo, the crime for which he received his most recent life sentence.
Prosecutors allege that Basciano ordered Pizzolo killed to send a message to other members of the crime family that he was firmly in charge.
Federal prosecutors had sought the death penalty for the Pizzolo murder, arguing that Basciano would remain a threat even if allowed to live out his days in prison.
During the trial's penalty phase, prosecutors pointed to testimony and evidence that Basciano had ordered and tried to order hits on several people while behind bars, including a federal prosecutor and the mother of one of his own godchildren.
But the jury took just hours to reject the death penalty. Garaufis noted during Wednesday's hearing that taxpayers had spent roughly $5 million on Basciano's defense during the most recent murder trial and death penalty phase.
An attorney for Basciano, George Goltzer, said his client would appeal the court's judgment.
"A higher court will decide his fate," Goltzer said.
(Reporting by Jessica Dye; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Cynthia Johnston)