The state slapped mob turncoat Salvatore (Sammy Bull) Gravano with a lawsuit yesterday, charging that the admitted killer who helped put John Gotti away is illegally profiting from his new book.
Attorney General Dennis Vacco filed a suit under the state’s Son of Sam law that named Gravano and Peter Maas, the author of “Underboss.”
The law is designed to bar convicted criminals from profiting from their crimes.
The papers were filed as ABC News began airing a two-part interview with Gravano, who recently bolted from the federal witness protection program. During the lengthy talk with newswoman Diane Sawyer, Gravano recounts his life in the mob and reveals he once plotted to kill Gotti.
But it is the 19 hits Gravano has admitted to that prompted Vacco to file the suit.
“We should not allow a guy like Sammy Gravano, or any other criminal, to profit from their criminal conduct,” Vacco said.
Vacco alleges publisher HarperCollins and Maas failed to inform the state Crime Victims Board of Gravano’s contract and pay, as required under the Son of Sam law.
Gravano, he added, was allowed by the federal government to keep money from his past criminal activity when his testimony helped put John Gotti behind bars.
“The fact that he is now, within five short years of having participated in the demise of John Gotti, back on the street to earn a profit by telling his story seem patently offensive to me,” Vacco said.
Ginger Curwen, a spokeswoman for HarperCollins, insisted that the company paid Maas, not Gravano.
“HarperCollins’ contractual relations for this book are with Peter Maas and there is nothing unlawful about those arrangements,” she said.
Michael Dowd, Maas’ attorney, defended the writer.
“Who the hell does [Vacco] think he is,” Dowd asked. “By suing an author, Mr. Vacco is moving into an area that has been protected from time immemorial by the Constitution of the United States.”
Dowd insisted that Maas did not pay Gravano.
Ronald Kuby, an attorney for relatives of nine of Gravano’s victims, accused the publisher of paying Gravano.
“They should come clean and disclose the amount of blood money they are paying to Gravano,” Kuby said.
“They have structured this book deal like a Mafia deal. They should be ashamed of themselves.”
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the Crime Victims Board, named as co-defendants T.J.M. Productions Inc., a company Maas formed last year, and HarperCollins.
It also named HarperCollins chief executive officer Anthea Disney and News Corp., the multi-national conglomerate that owns the publishing house.