Bonanno, Joseph 1905-2002

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated

BONANNO, Joseph 1905-2002

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born January 18, 1905, in Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily, Italy; died of a heart ailment May 11, 2002, in Tucson, AZ. Mafia boss and author. Although he did not like the term "Mafia," Bonanno headed one of the original five family crime syndicates operating in New York City from the 1930s to the 1960s. His parents first brought him to the United States when Bonanno was three years old; the family returned to Sicily ten years later, but Bonanno came back to America illegally in 1924, quickly establishing himself as a mob leader. Although known to the police and FBI for his illegal activities, Bonanno escaped serious charges throughout his life and became a leader in "the Commission," a loose association of organized crime bosses in New York. His career in crime fell apart in the 1960s, however, when he led a power struggle that became known as "the Banana War" after his much-disliked nickname, "Joe Bananas." The result of his grab for power was thirteen murders, and Bonanno fled to Arizona, where he went into hiding. He wrote about his exploits in the 1983 autobiography A Man of Honor: The Autobiography of Joseph Bonanno, which many reviewers criticized as a self-serving book that reveals little about the Mafia. However, Rudolph Giuliani, the former New York mayor who in the 1980s was a federal prosecutor, found enough information in the book to bring its author to trial. Even so, Bonanno served little time in prison. From 1983 to 1984 he served an eight-month sentence for obstruction of justice, and then spent fourteen months in prison for contempt of court before going free again in 1986.

OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES:

BOOKS

Sifakis, Carl, The Mafia Encyclopedia, second edition, Facts on File, 1999.

PERIODICALS

Los Angeles Times, May 12, 2002, p. B16.

New York Times, May 13, 2002, p. A15.

Washington Post, May 13, 2002, p. B4.