This is Part V in a Series.
There are almost 1,000 pages of transcripts of the Bonannos defamation lawsuit against me. There are also about 35 hours of video recordings of the depositions in the case. I am not going to cover them all at once but for now I want to share one more exchange on the transcript with Jimmy Bonanno. I am going to get to Little Jimmy at some point but I also want to get into the Private Investigation reports compiled by Vigilant Resources International, what I have described as the “22 names”, mostly workers from the Buildings & Grounds Department under John Gallagher of Aramark.
As I previously recounted, the lawsuit filed by the Bonannos against me was related to two specific claims — Jimmy having district employees do work on his girlfriend’s house in Orange County and Little Jimmy making a death threat against me. Despite this Jimmy insisted at every turn that he was suing because I had said he was a member of the mafia. I never did that (in fact the opposite) but that he was connected to the mafia through his family. The two Bonannos were terrible witnesses and were completely eviscerated during the depositions by me and the lawyer for WVOX. It was not long before the Bonanno’s lawyer, Andrew Miltenberg, wanted out of the case and filed a motion to be relieved as counsel for the Bonannos. Being the hack attorneys that they were, the law firm twice failed to follow a court order to file certain paperwork as part of their motion. The first time was in June, 2014. During that court appearance, Bonanno again stated that the case was all about the claim that he was in the mafia but this time his own lawyer tells the court that Jimmy is lying.
To give this series of exchanges proper context I will begin with the court appearance in June 2014, then go back to the depositions and finally close with some final remarks from the June 2014 court appearance.
To follow this exchange, there are 2 exhibits added as images in the photo gallery within this article that readers will want to review before they get started:
- An obituary in the Journal News for Frank Fiumara, Jimmy’s uncle.
- An AP wire report on the conviction of Frank Fiumara for running mafia operations in lower Westchester.
So, let’s go back to June 2, 2014, when the parties to the lawsuit appeared before Hon. Joan B. Lefkowitz, S.C.J. at the New York State Supreme Court in White Plains, New York. There is this exchange:
THE COURT: And you are, sir?
MR. BONNANO: Vincent Bonanno.
THE COURT: Vincent Bonanno. I see. Okay. I don't have you listed. Pro se?
MR. NORWICK: No, he's represented by Mr. Byler.
MR. BYLER: Well, we have made a motion to withdraw as counsel --
THE COURT: I understand. I got it. Okay, thank you Mr. Bonanno. Okay. So I have your motion at this time to withdraw as counsel; is that what you're trying to do?
MR. BYLER: Yes.
THE COURT: Okay. And do you have anything to say?
MR. BONNANO: May I speak?
THE COURT: Yes.
MR. BONNANO: I know I have a lawsuit. I know it's serious. And I never had no intentions of suing anyone. I was approached by two law firms who contacted me and said they wanted to speak to me about what was going on in New Rochelle. I went to see them. They said I had a good case, they would work for 33 and a third. I said I don't want no money, I just wanted all the false statements to stop about me being in the Mafia; stealing, my family. All I have is my name left. I'm not in the mafia. So I let them take the case, and they made me do a whole bunch of depositions, like a lot of them eight-hour days --
THE COURT: I'm not relieving them now. Is that what you want me to do?
MR. BONNANO: No, but I don't understand -- nobody's been telling me nothing from their firm.
THE COURT: Okay, but right now I'm not relieving them anyway.
MR. BONNANO: Okay.
THE COURT: Because I'm denying their application to get off the case at this time, but I'm giving them an opportunity, to make it due again, so I'm giving them leave to renew. Because you didn't give them, sir, an in camera affirmation as directed in the order to show cause. You have to show me some reason for you to get relieved. And also you didn't file proof of service of the order to show cause and affirmation upon the parties on NYSEF as required by the order to show cause. You didn't do it.
MR. BYLER: I apologize for that. I'm surprised to hear that because I was -- no, I did not know those things were not done. I will immediately take care of that.
THE COURT: Okay.
Bonanno’s attorney, Phil Byler, then responds to Bonanno’s claims that Jimmy never wanted to sue me, that he was somehow coerced into by the lawyers and that it was all about his being in the mafia. But first lets go through how Jimmy’s claims stack up against his sworn testimony.
Deposition of Vincent James Bonanno by Attorney for WVOX Radio
September 13, 2013
Q. Before we go back to the complaint, let me ask you sort of out of context, does the name Frank Fiumara mean anything to you?
Q, And what does it mean to you?
A. I have a Cousin Frank, and I had an Uncle Frank.
Q. With the same name?
Q. Are either one of them in the Mafia?
Q. Mr. Bonanno, I just want to go back a little bit of a loose end. Can you tell me what your mother's maiden name was?
Q. And I may have asked you whether Frank Fiumara, who you acknowledge you have relatives by that name -- and I may have asked it in the present tense -- is in the organized crime. Was he ever? Was Frank Fiumara, a relative of yours, in organized crime?
A. Not to my knowledge, no.
Deposition of Vincent James Bonanno by Attorney for WVOX Radio
October 14, 2013
Q. I'm going to go back to a subject we touched on a little bit at your previous session. What was, if I may, your mother's first name?
Q. And she had a brother named Frank? Did she have a brother named Frank?
Q. Did you know him?
Q. How well did you know him?
A. He was my uncle. He worked in Shopwell. I didn't see him that much.
Q. He worked in the Daitch Shopwell?
Q. You know where he lived?
Q. Where did he live?
A. He had two addresses when he was younger. He lived in City Park somewhere, Bean Street, and I guess as he got a little older he purchased a house in Port Chester.
Q. Did you go to his funeral?
Q. Your mother predeceased him; is that right?
Q. I’m going to ask that this document be marked as the next exhibit, I believe that's VJB 13. (Exhibit VJB 13 was marked for Identification.)
Q. Mr. Bonanno, I'm going to ask you to read this and tell me if there is anything that looks inaccurate to you in there? I should have said for the record that this is an obituary from the Journal News -- this purports to be an obituary from the Journal News of its edition of June 16, 2000, for Frank J. Fiumara.
A. (Document review). Okay. I'm ready.
Q. Do you see anything that's inaccurate in there?
A. I see some things that are inaccurate and some things I don't know because I never heard of them.
Q. What do you see as inaccurate?
A. It says he has -- he owned a venting company, he never had a venting company.
Q. Okay. How do you know that?
A. He didn't have a venting company.
Q. You are familiar with his businesses?
Q. Well, if you are not familiar with his businesses, how do you know he didn't have a venting company?
A. Can you repeat what you just said.
Q. If you are not familiar with his businesses, how do you know he didn't have a vending company?
A. It doesn't say vending, it says venting.
Q. Venting. I'm sorry, Venting. How do you know he didn't have a venting company?
A. Because it was a vending company.
Q. You think this is a misspelling?
A. There is a difference between a venting company and a vending company.
Q. I'm sure there is.
Q. As you read this, did you see anything left out that might have been newsworthy about your Uncle Frank?
Q. You see towards the bottom third of the obituary, there is a reference to his brother-in-law Joe Bonanno, with whom he apparently started Delmar Pizzeria. Who is Joe Bonanno?
A. My father.
Q. Is it accurate that your father and your Uncle Frank opened a pizzeria?
Q. Did you go there?
Q. Was Uncle Frank there when you were there?
A. Not really, never.
Q. What was Uncle Frank's involvement with the pizzeria?
A. He started his -- and my father opened it together. My father kind of did all the work and I used to work there, and then my father gave it up and gave it all to him. Got out of it.
Q. What decade was that?
Q. Well, the 70s would have been shortly before Uncle Frank died; is that correct -- no, I'm sorry, forget that. My arithmetical mistake. To your knowledge, did you ever hear of Uncle Frank being arrested?
A. I don't remember.
Q. Would it come as a surprise to you that he was arrested?
A. I don't know.
Q. You don't know.
Did you ever hear that he was a made member of the Gambino Crime Family. Did you ever hear that?
A. Absolutely not.
Q. Next exhibit please. (Exhibit VJB 14 was marked for Identification.) Let me state for the record that this is an article. It doesn't indicate that but I think it is from the New York Daily News, we can get that, it is an article.
MR. COX: It is an AP story.
MR. NORWICK: It is an AP story. Headlined "Mob Member Convicted In Numbers Game," I'll read at least a couple of paragraphs.
MR. COX: This is 14, before we get anywhere.
MR. NORWICK: This is 14, I believe.
Q. A White Plains datelined AP "More than a half century after his last arrest, the 77-year old reputed soldier in the Gambino mob was convicted yesterday of running a major numbers operation in Westchester County," it refers to Frank Fiumara of Port Chester. It quotes his lawyer as saying "he was grandfather of six and a decorated World War Two veteran who has worked for 37 years as a produce manager at Daitch Shopwell." Would you agree that the reference to the war -- World War Two experience is consistent with the obituary? Does the obituary also talk about his World War Two experience?
A. I'm not sure, if it says the same about what it says in here.
Q. In the article it says a decorated World War Two veteran?
Q. And the obituary indicates the same thing; correct?
Q. And the obituary says he worked for Daitch Shopwell, correct, and you also testified to that; correct?
Q. And the article that we are looking at, which is 14, also says he worked at Daitch
23 Shopwell; correct?
Q. And the last paragraph says "Prosecutors says Fiumara ran a multimillion dollar numbers operation out of New Rochelle and shared the profits with the Gambino Crime Family." They said Fiumara was a: "Made" member of the family, reportedly headed by John Gotti; I read that correctly?
Q. Now based on this newspaper article, this AP story, would it be accurate that you have a blood relation with somebody in the Gambino Crime Family, namely your Uncle Frank, your mother's brother?
A. I don't think so.
Q. And why not?
A. I never knew him to be --
Q. If we take the newspaper article at face value, would it be fair to conclude that your Uncle Frank, your mother's brother, was a made member of the Gambino crime family?
A. I don't know that. This is just something that somebody wrote. I knew my uncle the Fiumara Family and my family was the Bonanno Family. We didn't interfere with his family.
Q. Your father and he were business partners?
Q. In a pizzeria?
A. No, they weren't.
Q. What was the relationship between your father and your Uncle Frank in the pizzeria?
A. My father liked to cook, and he helped him start it, and then my father got out of it.
Q. He was initially a partner; correct?
A. I don't know, partner means you have to put up money.
Q. Not necessarily, there are, trust me, partners who don't put up money. Assuming that you don't have to put up money to be a partner, were they partners?
A. I don't know, because -- I don't know, because my father never got nothing out of it.
Q. Well, but he got into it with Uncle Frank; correct?
A. I don't know.
Q. I think you testified that you did. All right, now you don't know.
Q. Did your father and your Uncle Frank start a pizzeria together called Delmar Pizzeria, yes or no?
A. First, what is the question, is it did he start it or was he a partner? There is two different questions.
Q. Fair enough, we'll do it one at a time, did he help start it?
Q. What was his role?
A. He liked to cook.
Q. And that's your full knowledge of his relationship with the pizzeria?
Q. Did he volunteer to cook? For no pay?
A. My father was a good guy. He helped everybody and he wouldn't take a penny.
Q. With what regularity, he cooked everyday for no pay?
Q. How often did he cook?
A. There were people hired to cook.
Q. And what was your father's role?
A. He helped start the business and used his recipe.
Q. Okay, he helped start the business, that's good enough. Anyway, if somebody reported that you had a close relative who was a made member of the Gambino crime family, would that be accurate or inaccurate?
A. I think it would be inaccurate.
Q. And your basis for that is what?
A. Because a lot of people report stuff, like Mr. Cox, that's not true.
Q. Okay, so you think -- well, all right, conceivably we can dredge up these criminal records. We'll move on. Maybe for the summary judgment motion.
Q. Has [Mike DiGiacomo] shunned you since that radio broadcast?
A. People, they kind of treat you different.
Q. Did he treat you differently?
Q. How did he treat you differently?
A. People look at you like you are criminal.
Q. Does he know that you have an uncle who was in the Mafia?
A. I don't know.
Q. You don't know if he knows that?
A. I don't have an uncle in the mafia.
Q. Say that again.
A. I didn't have no uncle in the Mafia.
Q. How do you know that?
Q. He was convicted. We'll change it, do they know that you have an uncle, your mother's brother, who was convicted of numbers or crimes?
A. I didn't know that he was convicted.
Q. So you say, but do you now believe that he was convicted?
A. No, I don't know.
Q. Okay, you don't know. How has Mike Digiacomo treated -- and when did he start treating you differently?
A. It ain't that he treated me, he made remarks to people about me.
Q. How do you know, were you there?
Q. How do you know he made remarks?
A. I forgot who it was, somebody came back and told me.
Q. Somebody came back and told you that DiGiacomo made comments to that person about you; correct? That's your sworn testimony?
A. All of New Rochelle talks about me because of the way --
Q. No, no, no.
A. I just said all of New Rochelle talks about me. I'm like talk of the town.
Q. I know, but there is a lot to talk about. He wrote a lot of columns. You have an uncle who was convicted of numbers running, there is a lot about you that people might want to talk about; correct?
A. No, there is not a lot about me.
Q. There is not, well, let's see, you asked your men, some of your men to give up a vacation day and -- and go up and work on your girlfriend's house and give up a vacation day, that's known about you; correct?
A. No, that's not known about me.
Q. Known about you within your department? Isn't it? The men in your department --
A. Vacation day, you can do whatever you want on your vacation. This is America. You can do what you want on your vacation.
Q. So it was patriotic on your part to ask your men to give up a vacation day?
MR. SANTORI: Ken, you don't have to be snide.
MR. NORWICK: That's what he said, it's the American way.
MR. SANTORI: That's not what he said, again you are mistaking --
MR. NORWICK: He said it's American.
MR SANTORI: Even in this insignificant way.
A. I explained to you before we are all good friends. We grew up with each other, we help each other. Don't you have friends like that?
Q. Why didn't you pay them?
A. Pay them, my friends.
Q. Your good friends to work on your girlfriend's house?
Q. You just testified that you did pay them.
A. I gave them pizza for lunch. That's how I pay them.
Q. That's how you pay them?
A. Yes, that's how.
Q. They gave up a vacation day and you gave them pizza?
A. That's what we do.
Q. Did Mr. Digiacomo treat you any differently at any point in the last four or five years?
A. He just treats me different, like, he's not friendly like he used to be.
Q. Did he read Mr. Cox's website?
A. I don't know.
Q. So if he treated you differently, it may have been a result of the website; correct? Or something else?
A. He mentioned the radio.
Q. He never mentioned the website? I see, was there anything on the radio program that you are suing over about the Mafia?
Q. What was said about you about the Mafia?
A. He said something pertaining to if you don't think the Mafia exist in New Rochelle then you are wrong, because there is Jimmy Bonanno, I believe Jimmy Generoso, another name, and we run the City of New Rochelle, not the mayor, and we have a good thing going and we steal and take whatever we want.
Q. Gee, are you suing over that?
A. We're suing over the whole radio broadcast.
Q. No, I don't think so. Are you suing over the broadcast that you just described?
A. This time I don't remember which one. There is a few.
Q. Okay, would it come as a surprise to you if I told you that you are not suing over the radio broadcast that you just described?
A. That ain't what you asked me.
Q. That's a new question.
A. You asked me to say what it was about the Mafia.
Q. It's a new question, would it come as a surprise to you that you are not suing over the Mafia reference?
A. I don't know.
Q. You don't know if it would come as a surprise?
A. I don't know.
Q. In the Mafia; correct?
Q. Okay, and what was the consequence of that? Did he say I don't want to talk to you anymore because you are in the Mafia. It is like people don't want to be associated with you anymore?
Q. What did Larkin Hays say -- is he one of them?
A. He made some remarks and then he just walked away, yes.
Q. And then he what?
A. He just walked away. We didn't get into it.
Q. That was your last interaction with him?
Q. And that radio program was in 2011?
A. Yes, I believe so.
Q. And you reached out to him in the last two years, two and a half years?
A. No, I just happened to run into him when he made the remark.
Q. In 2011?
A. I don't remember the date.
Q. Was it shortly after the alleged radio broadcast?
A. I don't remember.
Q. Were you claiming that he thought less of you as a result of the radio show?
A. I believe everybody does now.
Q. I know, but him, in particular?
A. Him, my whole neighborhood, everybody does.
Q. Including Hays?
Q. And that is a consequence of a radio reference to you being in the Mafia? Correct?
A. No, I believe it is about the whole, like I said, the smear campaign in the broadcast over the radio.
Q. That includes the websites; right?
A. And the radio.
Q. Only the radio? Only the radio and not the website?
A. I believe I answered these a lot of times already, I said it was the whole thing, the radio and the website.
Q. Thank you very much for that. Mr. Hays was aware of the whole thing?
Q. Great. John McCready, what does he have to contribute to this case?
A. I guess people hear it on the radio and they pass it along to everybody else, and one day he got the courage to come up to me and say that all the neighbors are saying that I'm in the Mafia. That they heard it on the radio. They are all talking behind your back. When you did your driveway, they said that the school paid for your driveway, and they all think you are in the Mafia.
Q. Okay, so that's a reference to you on the radio as being in the Mafia; correct?
A. No, it is a reference of the whole thing.
Q. Including a reference to you as being in the Mafia on the radio; correct?
A. I believe I call it a smear campaign, I don't even know Mr. Cox and I don’t know why he did this, so it is the whole thing.
Q. Do all these people know that you had an uncle in the Mafia?
A. I didn't know I had an uncle in the Mafia.
Q. Well, that doesn't say -- well, didn't Cox say about you that you had a relative in the Mafia?
A. I don't know. I don't remember that.
Q. You don't?
A. I don't remember.
Through the depositions and exhibits it was established by any shadow of a doubt that Jimmy Bonanno is connected to the mafia through his family and that his lawsuit said nothing about my having defamed him by making such a claim.
So, back to Judge Lefkowitz on June 2, 2014, when the parties to the lawsuit appeared before here at the New York State Supreme Court in White Plains, New York. Jimmy’s own attorney calls him a liar.
MR. BYLER: But the one thing I do to want say is what Mr. Bonanno just said is just not true. We were approached by another attorney, if we would take the case. And it is a defamation case, but it's not about accusations of his being in the mafia. It has to do with his use of his position in the school district. So it's a little more complicated than that. It's also not true that he can say he doesn't know what's going on. Six months ago he was given the memo by Mr. Miltenberg explaining the concerns and problems we had. And as a result, what I have to say -- and I don't like to do it in this way -- but I have to say that Mr. Bonanno's statement to you is just not consistent with the facts in any way. We have good basis for making the motion. I appreciate your effort --
THE COURT: You have to deal with the motion at this point --
MR. BYLER: I understand --
THE COURT: -- all I can do is tell you you have leave to renew it --
MR. BYLER: Yes.
THE COURT: -- and submit the proper papers like you're supposed to do, and I'll reconsider your application. Okay?
MR. BYLER: Your Honor, I thank you for that. I apologize for what's happened. We will take care of it.
THE COURT: And you're directed to appear for a conference in the compliance part, Courtroom 800, June 24th. That's your next date to come in. And a written order is going to be signed and issued today. And I'm uploading it to NYSEF. Okay? And it's mailed to the plaintiffs and pro se defendant, Mr. Cox. Okay.
MR. NORWICK: Your Honor, does the case proceed?
THE COURT: Yes, it does.
MR. NORWICK: Thank you.
THE COURT: We don't stop cases from proceeding. That's what a court is about. Cases go on every single day and they keep pushing for you. We have nothing else to do but keep cases moving. Right? You notice how cases move here?
MR. NORWICK: I'll make the observation that lawyers have to eat.
THE COURT: Okay?
MR. BYLER: Thank you.
THE COURT: Next case.
MR. BYLER: Am I supposed to go to the next hearing, too?
THE COURT: Yes. You're still there. If you want to go, you can go. Your client is still a client. Who's next?
The conference on June 24th did occur as scheduled. During that conference, there was an agreement to settle the case. Through various errors by Andrew Miltenberg’s firm and Jimmy Bonanno changing his mind, over and over again, the case did not settle based on that agreement. We all ended back in court in the fall until Bonanno agreed that the case would be settled with me receiving a $2,000 check and Jimmy and Little Jimmy getting nothing. In other words, I won and they lost.
Next up I am going to jump over the VRI files and take a close look at Scott Empara, one of the bigger scoundrels in the district.