Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Witness Protection Program


I followed the Rothstein sentencing with a grain of salt and a heavy dollop of skepticism. What really caught my attention (and cynical nature) was not the number of years that he will eventually serve but his potential initiation into a very exclusive club: the federal Witness Protection Program. This program was initiated in the early 80's. Its purpose was laudable: to get Mafia members and their hangers on to cooperate and provide them and their families with a new identity after their sentence was finished so that the omnipresent Mob would not be able to find out where they are and exact retribution. It all sounded nice in theory but I have to believe has been a disaster in practice. Think about it. You are asking a sociopath who has known nothing but crime and violence to renounce his nature and instead of living it up at the Copa every Friday night with some hot looking $750 a night arm piece, to work at a donut shop in Billings, Montana for $6.25 an hour and hope that that your old buddies from Brooklyn don't happen to drop by and say hello. The program assumes two facts; a moral convert and and almost maniacally unified and determined adversary. The former was dependent on the latter and the latter, if it ever did exist, does not now. Two famous enrollees, if that is the proper term, were Henry Hill of Goodfellas fame and Sammy Gravano of John Gotti fame. Hill is walking the streets and Gravano was until he was indicted for dealing dope after he dropped out of the club. Let's face it. The traditional Italian mafia ain't what it used to be. Most organized crime figures have game plans that are very short. Which brings me to Rothstein. His participation, if it ever comes to that, is comical. He rolls over on some heretofore unknown pretenders from South Beach and gets them indicted. I am sure they would love to feed him to the alligators. But 30 years from now? If they do, say, ten years, will they spend the next twenty plotting revenge on Rothstein? Highly unlikely. They will get on with their lives. If I were them, and assuming they are part of a well organized criminal enterprise, I would be more afraid of getting whacked for screwing up and/or for possibly buying their own way out of trouble by cooperating against their supposed lieutenants. So what is Rothstein afraid of? That when he is 82, and in a homeless shelter in Phoenix, someone will slip a knife through his stomach a la Robert Deniro as a young Vito Corleone? I don't think so.

In 30 years, most of Rothstein's enemies, imagined and real, will be dead or not even remember who he is. The whole witness protection story is a bluff, leaked by the government to build up Rothstein's bonafides as a witness to make potential defendants believe he knows more than he actually does. And how is the government going to help Rothstein in 30, 40, or 50 years from now? Get him a new identity so the other 90 somethings who are pissing and shitting in diapers every day in the convalescent home don't recognize him? I can see it now.
"Hey! Isn't that guy Hymie Schwartz really Scott Rothstein?
"Yeah. Oh my God. It's him!!!!!!"
"Hey Mr. Rothstein, Mr. Rothstein. Tell us. How did you do it? How did you fix the 1919 World Series? Tell us!"

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