Alleged Crime Figure Recounts Efforts To Help Entertainer
LAS VEGAS, Nev. (AP) _ A reputed crime figure called by entertainer Wayne Newton to stop death threats against his family has denied he was a member of organized crime but refused to answer questions about his employment.
In the 1984 videotaped deposition played in court Wednesday, Guido Penosi cited the possibility of self-incrimination when asked by NBC attorneys if he was a representative of organized crime on the West Coast or if he was a member of the Gambino crime family.
″I take the Fifth,″ Penosi responded each time, referring to the constitutional amendment which provides protection against self-incrimination.
He also declined to say how he was employed.
The deposition was played for federal court jurors hearing Newton’s multimillion-dollar defamation lawsuit against NBC. Newton contends the network defamed him with a series of broadcasts in 1980 and 1981 linking him to organized crime figures.
Newton testified last week that he turned to Penosi in February 1980 to halt death threats against his family. He said he had known Penosi as a fan since meeting him in New York City in 1963.
Newton testified he did not know Penosi was linked to organized crime and did not even know his last name until told by Nevada gaming authorities in 1980. Penosi agreed with most of Newton’s testimony in the five-hour deposition.
He said Newton called him in February 1980 and told him of the threats against his wife and 4-year-old daughter.
Penosi, of Beverly Hills, Calif., said he contacted his cousin, reputed East Coast mob figure Frank Piccolo, and after a series of phone calls, the threats stopped. He said he had not talked to Newton since then.
The government later accused Penosi and Piccolo of conspiring to extort money from Newton, entertainer Lola Falana and their manager, Mark Moreno.
Piccolo was slain in 1981 before he went to trial. Penosi was acquitted of the extortion charges in two separate federal trials in Connecticut.
Newton wound up eight days of testimony Tuesday by denying that Penosi and Piccolo tried to extort money from him.
Penosi said he called Newton in 1976 or 1977 to ask that the singer appear on a television pilot his son was making. ″He said ’If I can help your son, I’m only happy to,‴ Penosi said, but denied owing Newton any favors.
Penosi also invoked the Fifth amendment when asked about statements in a 1984 affidavit from Earl Devaney, a Secret Service agent in Las Vegas.
Devaney said Penosi ″was and continues to be a well-documented organized crime figure in Los Angeles who has been arrested at least 17 times.″ He said Penosi was ″one of the largest drug dealers on the West Coast.″