WASHINGTON Sammy the Bull won’t get to air his beef at the Supreme Court.
The justices did not comment today in turning down an appeal from the former Mafia hit man and mob turncoat, who wants to reclaim more than $380,000 in royalties from a book about his life.
Underboss: Sammy the Bull Gravano’s Story of Life in the Mafia was a best seller when published in 1997. Salvatore Gravano cooperated with author Peter Maas in return for a share of royalties.
A court in Arizona, where Gravano is serving a 20-year prison term for his role in a nationwide drug syndicate, had ruled that prosecutors fairly seized royalties from the book.
Gravano argued that his free-speech rights were violated.
“The court’s protocol for treating royalties from an expressive work as the proceeds of crime involves the state in a form of censorship that is repugnant to the First Amendment,” Gravano’s lawyer argued in his Supreme Court appeal.
Gravano, 57, was underboss of New York’s Gambino family under John Gotti.
Gravano confessed to 19 murders nearly 10 years ago as part of a deal with federal prosecutors to implicate Gotti, his longtime friend and mentor, and more than three dozen other mobsters.
He served five years in prison and entered a witness protection program in Arizona in 1995. He later left the protection program and had been living openly in Arizona when he was charged with running an Ecstasy network with his wife, children, and a group of white supremacists.
Gravano admitted the link between his past crimes and the book profits, Arizona argued.
“Gravano would not have acquired the contract rights and resulting royalties unless he had committed the racketeering acts alleged,” Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard wrote in asking the Supreme Court to stay out of the case.
On the same day the high court announced it would not hear the Gravano case, another court was scheduled to sentence a reputed hit man for plotting to kill Gravano with a remote-control bomb for betraying the Gambino crime family.
Thomas “Huck” Carbonaro, 55, was convicted in Brooklyn in October. He could get up to 10 years in prison.
Gravano was called as a witness by the defense, and described himself as an expert hit man who would have made a difficult target.
The case is Gravano v. Arizona, 03-651.