By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
On May 4, 1998, from his prison outside London, Sabatino called the FBI in Miami and said he would kill Jeffrey Kay. Then he left his name and date of birth. A few minutes later he called back to say he would also kill prosecutor Paul Schwartz. If he couldn't locate them, he said, he'd blow up the whole courthouse.
On May 11, 1998, he telephoned the White House. When the switchboard operator asked what the call concerned, he responded, "A threat against the president." The call was forwarded to a Secret Service agent, to whom Sabatino recited a written statement concerning the people who "were going to die at [his hands] for mistreatment" of him and his family. Included on the list were Kay and Schwartz, "unknown members of the U.S. Secret Service and the FBI," and Bill Clinton or even Roger Clinton, "because [Roger] is more accessible."
According to an affidavit from FBI agent Charles O'Neal, Sabatino explained, in a mangled sort of way, that "members of his family and friends are being targeted and harassed by the U.S. government for reasons being that they believe to be a part of the 'Cosa Nostra' by association." He asked for a presidential pardon for his three outstanding warrants and a letter from Clinton stating he will no longer be harassed.
Later the same day, in another call, he vowed to kill the federal judge who presided over the case of Bonnano crime- family captain Gerald Chilli, a family friend in federal prison for racketeering, gambling, drug trafficking, loansharking, and other crimes.
The calls continued almost daily through mid-June, and were much the same. On June 16 he phoned the FBI in Miami. After being assured that a tape recording of the conversation would be forwarded to Schwartz, he said, "You old skinny fuck, I'm going to cut your head off," followed by, "You Jew fuck, I'm going to kill you."
The threats won Sabatino a free trip from Brixton prison in London back to the federal detention center in Miami, but only after he had served his complete three-month British sentence. One day after his return he allegedly assaulted a prison guard.
Sabatino and his lawyer, Allen S. Kaufman, initially announced in court documents that Sabatino planned to plead insanity, with his irrational behavior stemming in part from a brain aneurysm he reportedly suffered in 1995. Kaufman now says the threats telephoned from England were merely a misguided attempt by Sabatino to serve the rest of his British time in the United States. "He had no intention of doing harm to the president or to the prosecutors," Kaufman says. "It wasn't even a consideration. In his mind he thought he'd be able to serve his time in the U.S. Now that was a major mistake."
Two weeks ago, on August 24, Jimmy Sabatino walked into the courtroom of federal Judge Edward B. Davis to plead guilty to the threats against the prosecutors and the judge. Two U.S. Marshals held his arms, his hands cuffed behind his back. Sabatino's head was shaved to a fine stubble, the fat on the back of his neck rolling up like the skin on a Shar-Pei. His dark eyes drooped sheepishly on a face that hadn't seen sun in almost two years. His right eye is lazy; when he sat next to attorney Kaufman at a table before the hearing began, he seemed to stare into his lawyer's ear. Acne spots covered his forehead. He wore prison-issue tan pajamas.
The few spectators in the gallery sat as if at a funeral, family to the left, three reporters to the right. "How are you feeling?" he mouthed to his father, who sat beside a younger woman whose arm draped over his shoulder. Peter Sabatino quietly responded that he was all right, though he declined to speak to the reporters. "I don't want to talk about it," he said.
Before pronouncing Sabatino guilty, Davis read through a perfunctory list of questions. Do you really want to plead guilty? Did anyone force you to plead guilty? Do you understand what your plea means? Do you recognize that I am friends with the judge you threatened to kill? Sabatino answered yes to every query.
"I've caused enough trouble," he told Davis in his only statement. "I just want to end this as quickly as possible."
Nothing is going to end soon. Sabatino still faces sentencing for the death threats. And next week he is scheduled to begin trial for allegedly assaulting the prison guard, a charge that carries a maximum penalty of ten years in prison. (He has requested to be co-counsel in his assault defense.)
He filed a civil lawsuit last month seeking damages for the nearly full year he spent locked in the FDC's solitary confinement ward. He wants $100 per day in lost income, though he didn't spell out exactly what income he could be generating from jail. And he also asked for punitive damages of -- what the heck -- ten million dollars.
"As he gets older it's going to be tougher for him to pull this off," says Max the security consultant. "His boyish charm is leaving him. For years judges would look at him with a gleam in their eye and see this little kid who has taken on the big bad corporation. It will be interesting to see what happens to him now."
Max adds one more thing. "If you get a chance to talk to him," he implores, "give him my love, will you? I mean it."