Dominick "Sonny Black" Napolitano (born June 16, 1930 in Greenpoint, Brooklyn – died August 17, 1981 Flatlands, Brooklyn) was a caporegime in the Bonanno crime family. He is well known for having allowed FBI agent Joseph "Donnie Brasco" Pistone to become an associate in his crew and nearly getting him "made".
Napolitano's parents were immigrants from Naples, Italy. Napolitano was born with blond hair, but by his forties it had turned a gunmetal white-silver color. To hide the embarrassing color, at least to him, he dyed it black. Earning him the nickname "Sonny Black". His children would later inherit this feature from their father, but their golden blond hair turned naturally to black over time. He was a close friend of future Bonanno crime family boss Joseph Massino, who would later order his execution, and incarcerated boss Phillip Rastelli, who knew Napolitano before he went to prison. He was close to Carmine Napolitano (May 30, 1943 - February 15, 1999), a cousin and fellow Bonanno mobster.
Sons Peter Napolitano (November 17, 1957-June 29, 1994), Aniello Napolitano and Rocco Napolitano were born and raised in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Napolitano told his fellow mobsters and Joseph Pistone all the time how he loved his sons very much and later on was worried about him and his estranged wife. But Pistone would later say that Napolitano cared more for his prized messenger pigeons than his sons. Napolitano was a womanizer who cheated with his long-time mistress, Judith Fields. It is unknown who Napolitano was married to at the time of his murder. It has been widely reported that Napolitano has a son with Judith Fields named Anthoni Meuir, who has proven to be elusive when an attempt was made to contact him regarding his relationship with Napolitano.
Napolitano was a sturdy 5'9" man who weighed about 200 pounds with powerfully developed chest and arms. On his right forearm was a tattoo of a black panther. He was swarthy, with hair dyed jet black. His face was fleshy with rings under his brown eyes that made him look, depending on the mood, either tired or menacing. He was not a heavy drinker and only indulged at times with fine French liquor. He had dead straight hair, a square jaw and a Roman nose. Although he was a stone-cold gangster, he ran his crew in a laid back style. Napolitano controlled Greenpoint, Brooklyn and from 1979 to 1980 he operated in Pasco County, Florida out of Holiday, Florida after negotiating control of the territory with Santo Trafficante, Jr. At that time, Napolitano set his sights on operating a major bookmaking operation in Orlando, which he was never able to do.
Napolitano was an avid racing pigeon and homing pigeon enthusiast. He kept his collection of birds on the roof of his apartment and social club The Motion Lounge. The brilliantly colored pigeons had pedigree bloodlines that descended from prize pigeons in France, Germany and Russia. He once won three thousand dollars during a race from his pigeons. Napolitano would race his prized messenger pigeons against other mobsters, including Bonanno crime family consigliere Anthony Spero, Bonanno associate Murray Kufeld and Genovese crime family capo Anthony Federici. He hired future Lucchese crime family underboss Anthony Casso to shoot hawks that preyed on his prized pigeons when Casso was a young and ambitious mobster.
Napolitano rose to prominence in 1973 as a soldier for Michael Sabella and was promoted to capo, replacing his mentor after the gangland execution of the powerful rival capo Carmine Galante. Sabella was demoted and Napolitano took over the crew. He became a trusted confidante of the imprisoned mobster Phillip Rastelli who took over leadership permanently again. But when Rastelli took over, it caused the Bonannos to split into two factions, one loyal to Phillip Rastelli, the other attempting to overthrow him in favor of the Sicilian-faction, led by Alphonse Indelicato.
Napolitano and Joseph Massino, who were loyal to Rastelli, were chiefly responsible for helping to end the struggle by killing three capos opposed to Rastelli; Alphonse Indelicato, Dominick Trinchera and Phillip Giaccone. Napolitano owned the Wither's Italian-American War Veterans Club at 415 Graham Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and also The Motion Lounge at 420 Graham Avenue. He later ran an illegal casino in Pasco County, Florida and owned a tennis club and night club called The King's Court Bottle Club in Holiday, Florida.
When in Holiday, Florida, Napolitano took up the sport of tennis with Joseph Pistone and was a doubles partner of Bonanno mobster John Cersani. Although he was a lousy tennis player, he enjoyed playing at King's Court. Pistone would later say, "On the court he would run around and yell, 'I'm going to kill you' between strokes". Napolitano would arm wrestle Pistone, but always lost. Napolitano, who was a weight lifter, constantly challenged Pistone, who was the only guy that Napolitano could not beat. Napolitano was once able to beat Pistone by spitting in his face to surprise him, showing his competitive nature.
Napolitano's headquarters were in the heart of Williamsburg's Italian neighborhood. His crew, involved in burglary, extortion, robbery, bank robbery, loansharking, hijacking, bookmaking, casino operations and drug trafficking, were one of the most successful crews in the Bonanno crime family. Napolitano's crew included Bonanno street soldiers Benjamin Ruggiero, Nicholas Santora, Louis Attanasio, John Cersani, Jerome Asaro, Sandro Asaro, John Faraci, Daniel Mangelli, Robert Lino, Frank Lino, Richard Riccardi, Joseph Grimaldi, Nicholas Accardi, Peter Rosa, Patrick DeFilippo, Michael Mancuso, Vito Grimaldi, Anthony Urso, James Tartaglione, Joseph Cammarano, John Zancocchio, Edward Barberra, Frankie Fish, Bobby Badheart, Bobby Smash and his previous capo Michael Sabella, Joseph Puma, Steven Maruca, Salvatore Farrugia, Anthony Pesiri, Antonio Tomasulo, Anthony Rabito, Raymond Wean, Frank DiStefano, Salvatore D'Ottavio, James Episcopia and Donnie Brasco.
Napolitano was unusually tough and savvy, even for a Mafia capo. Although he was a stone-cold gangster, he ran his crew in a laid-back style. Pistone would say, "Dominick was more observant and disciplined than his old capo Michael Sabella and had a watchful eye. In mob circles, he had an excellent reputation for personal loyalty to his sidewalk soldiers. He would kill you in a minute if you crossed him." Napolitano was a fine marksman with small-caliber pistols, which made him an efficient killer.
In restaurants or in public, he was a gentleman and never flamboyant or brazen. He always carried his own suitcases when traveling, which was not traditionally done by other capos. Pistone said that Napolitano was not a 24-hour gangster, meaning that you could talk to him about other things besides the Mafia, unlike other mobsters who only wanted to talk about illegal activities and Mafia business. When working, Napolitano was respected and feared, but when hanging out with Pistone, they would go out to dinner, have coffee and just "shoot the breeze" like two friends.
Operation Donnie Brasco Edit
When Joseph Pistone infiltrated the mafia, he became attached to the crew that Napolitano ran and the two developed a close relationship. Napolitano's crew was involved in loansharking, bookmaking and several casino operations. They were heavily involved in drug trafficking. Pistone was one of the few people that Napolitano trusted and relied upon. Pistone even spent nights sleeping over at Napolitano's apartment. He regarded Pistone so highly that he planned to nominate him to be "made" (inducted into the mafia), and began to use the formal introduction "a friend of ours" (a code meaning a made man) when introducing Pistone to other mafiosi.
Pistone's undercover operation ended after six years, when Napolitano ordered Pistone to murder another mobster, originally Phillip Giaccone while he was in Miami, Florida. Later, after the decision was made to murder Giaconne at the same time as Alphonse Indelicato and Dominick Trinchera, Pistone was given the task of murdering Indelicato's son, "Bruno". Two days later, FBI agents came to his home at The Motion Lounge to inform him that Pistone, was an agent. In the hours after the shocking disclosure of Donnie Brasco, Napolitano went to his pigeon coop to think. FBI surveillance photos caught a very worried looking man. Surrounded by pigeons, Napolitano realised that the winged creatures were the only living things he could really trust.
Shortly thereafter, the order came down to kill Napolitano for having allowed such a breach in mafia security. Rather than turn state's evidence and enter the witness protection program, Napolitano accepted his fate. Shortly before his death, Napolitano told his girlfriend Judy that he bore no ill will towards Pistone, knowing that Pistone was only doing his job, and that if anyone was going to be responsible for taking him down, he was glad that it was Pistone.
On August 17, 1981, he was asked to come to the basement of Bonanno associate Ronald Filocomo for a "meeting" in Flatlands, Brooklyn. Knowing he would be killed, Napolitano gave his jewelry to his favorite bartender who worked below his apartment at The Motion Lounge, along with the keys to his apartment, so that his pet pigeons could be cared for. He was shot to death in Filocomo's basement by Filocomo and Bonanno captain Frank Lino using .38 revolvers. In August, FBI surveillance agents noticed workmen dismantling Napolitano's pigeon coops on top of the Motion Lounge.
On August 12, 1982, a body was found at South Avenue and Bridge Street in Arlington, Staten Island, New York; the corpse's hands had been severed and the face was so badly decomposed that dental records were required to verify the identity. The FBI officially announced that they had found the corpse of Dominick Napolitano. However, in 2000, the FBI publicly revealed for the first time since 1982 that it had long been doubted whether or not the corpse found on Staten Island was correctly identified.
Napolitano's killer, Frank Lino, had turned state's evidence, providing authorities with the details of his murder. Although the FBI were reasonably sure that the body found in Staten Island was Napolitano, one discrepancy existed: while Lino claimed that he and Filocomo had both shot Napolitano with .38 caliber revolvers, and that he himself had fired more than one bullet, the corpse found on Staten Island only had a single bullet wound, which appeared to have been made by a .45 caliber pistol. Dominick "Sonny Black" Napolitano was buried in Calvary Cemetery, Queens.
In early 2003, Bonanno boss Joseph Massino was arrested and charged with a variety of crimes, with the case centering around the murder of Napolitano. At Massino's trial, prosecutors claimed that Napolitano was killed by his associates for allowing his crew to become compromised, and that his hands had been removed as a warning to other mobsters to follow the rule about proper introductions (the association of shaking hands with being introduced to someone). Massino was convicted in 2004.
Popular culture Edit
The 1997 film Donnie Brasco features "Sonny Black", played by Michael Madsen. For dramatic purposes, many of Sonny Black's character traits, and most of his relationship with Pistone, was combined with other real-life Bonanno mobsters Anthony Mirra and Benjamin Ruggiero, who in the film is played by Al Pacino.
A notable parallel is towards the end of the film when Ruggiero is summoned to what he knows will be his execution for allowing Pistone into the mafia (in reality, Ruggiero was arrested by the FBI). He leaves his personal effects in a drawer for his wife, echoing Napolitano's final actions shortly before he was murdered. Ruggiero's sentiments of how if it was going to be anyone that sunk him, he was glad it was Pistone; is a direct paraphrase of the real Sonny Black's last words.
Dominick Napolianto drove a W116 Mercedes S-Class as shown in Donnie Brasco.
People Murdered by Dominick Napolitano Edit
1.Carmine Galante/unofficial boss/Bonanno Crime Family/July 12th 1979/Personal/ Galante was a powerful enemy of Philip Rastelli, Galante was murdered on the orders of Rastelli to regain control of the Bonanno crime family.
2.Alphonse Indelicato/Capo/Bonanno Crime Family/May 5th 1981/Personal/ "Sonny Red" Indelicato was murdered along with Trinchera and Giaccone to prevent them taking over the Bonanno Crime Family, his murder was part of the infamous "3 Capos Murders".
3.Dominick Trinchera/Capo/Bonanno Crime Family/May 5th 1981/Personal/ Trinchera was murdered along with Indelicato and Giaccone to prevent them taking over the Bonanno Crime Family, his murder was part of the infamous "3 Capos Murders".
4.Phillip Giaccone/Capo/Bonanno Crime Family/May 5th 1981/Personal/ Giaccone was murdered along with Indelicato and Trinchera to prevent them taking over the Bonanno Crime Family, his murder was part of the infamous "3 Capos Murders".