They call him the "Blogfather". Instead of making people sleep with the fishes, or leaving a severed horse's head on silk bed-sheets, he prefers to settle scores via angry messages on his personal website. Thomas "Tommy Shots" Gioeli, an alleged Mafia boss on trial in Brooklyn for six gruesome murders, not to mention a string of racketeering charges, has hit on a very modern way to manage his reputation.
As the jury considers whether Gioeli, a 59-year-old Italian-American, should spend the rest of his natural life behind bars, he has taken the enterprising step of reinventing himself as the first "made man" to become a blogger.
His website, "Alleged Mob Boss Tommy Gioeli's Voice", has taken on subjects as wide-ranging as religion, politics and penal reform. Gioeli certainly has a way with words. The blog bestows members of the prosecution team with such nicknames as "The Liar", "The Prune" and "The Seducer". Their key witnesses, who are largely former gangland figures giving evidence as part of plea bargains are "water rats, subway rats, sewer rats" who "have everything to gain and nothing to lose by pointing their dirty, snot-caked fingers at me".
But its main bugbear is the people, and legal system, responsible for his predicament. "Thomas Gioeli, an unconvicted American man, is being denied basic Constitutional rights and adequate healthcare for his many serious ailments during his incarceration," reads the blog's introduction. "The media, instead of reporting the truth, is working with the government to destroy his true character and create a real-life, paper-selling monster."
He has now devoted a lengthy update to John "The Dolt" Marzulli, a reporter for the New York newspaper the Daily News, whose coverage of the trial appears to have caused him displeasure. "I would like to challenge The Dolt to [a] competition," he writes. "When I am acquitted we will have a charity boxing match: One three-minute round, bare knuckles, Marquess of Queensberry rules."
In another update, Gioeli responded to a suggestion that an ex-nun had been among the accidental victims of one of his Mob hits. "What a disgrace!" he wrote, denying the charge. "My saintly, elderly mother who just buried my father, my poor wife, my precious children, my priest, the rest of my family, friends, people I just know ... would think I am an animal."
Gioeli also complains that the prison officer who gives him pills each morning does not wear gloves. "This may be okay for the mother who is giving meds to her kids, but in an institutional setting it is downright unsanitary, if not illegal," he writes. "So I refuse my dose until she wears gloves."
Prosecutors have alleged that Gioeli is using the blog to attempt to influence the jury. He claims that writing it is instead a form of therapy. "I get very, very angry," he says. "Then I write, and my anger melts away." His alleged crimes are certainly those of a man with a short fuse. According to the FBI, Gioeli was responsible for a string of killings in his native city of Farmingdale, Long Island, which date back to an internal Mafia war during the early 1990s. He is also accused of profiting from illegal gambling, nightclub extortion and armed robberies.
In a recent phone interview with Newsweek, Gioeli explains that he types his updates and sends them to his daughter, who "does a bit of editing" before placing them on the site.