Looking For Love
In All The Wrong Places
INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
March 31, 2003
Joey Cusumano and Oscar Goodman
Sin City Mayor Oscar Goodman, a former mob lawyer, is currently running
for reelection against token opposition. After his guaranteed victory,
he's expected to have a tumultuous second term because of information beginning
to surface regarding his refusal to disassociate from his past mob clients.
On March 28, Goodman's past came back to haunt him in the form of a
made by a member of the Nevada Gaming Commission. The statement was printed
in the Las Vegas Review Journal:
"Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman's decision to host
at his home a mob associate banned from Nevada's casinos 'is an embarrassment
to the state, an embarrassment for Las Vegas and an embarrassment for gaming,'
one outraged gaming regulator said."
The statement came from Gaming Control Board member Bobby Siller, former
head of the FBI in Nevada. The associate he was referring to was Joey
Cusumano. In 1990, Cusumano, 67, was placed in the Nevada Black
Book of persons banned from entering casinos. Goodman was his attorney
and considers Cusumano a family friend.
Why is this all coming to light now in the middle of Goodman's reelection
campaign? Last week, an anonymous political mailer was sent to Vegas voters
quoting Oscar Goodman referring to one of his council colleagues, Michael
McDonald who is running for a third term, as a "government rat," a
"wimp," "vermin," "a piece of garbage," "blight," the "lowest form
of human being," and a "sleaze
ball." Goodman made the statements in 2000 after signing a petition
to recall the councilmember.
A few days following the "sleaze ball"
mailer, Goodman sent his own letter endorsing
the reelection of the councilman he had vilified two years before. Many
people puzzled by Goodman's sudden turnabout began mentioning Joey Cusumano's
name as the possible motivation.
Tying McDonald to the mayor's close friend took little effort because
the councilman lived at no apparent charge for two years in a half million
dollar country club villa owned by
Cusumano's family. In 1999, when asked to produce canceled checks to prove
he paid rent, McDonald who earns $37,000 per year as a councilmember refused
to disclose his lease payments except to say "I
pay my share." Then he promptly moved out.
During his stay in the villa, McDonald was twice found guilty
of violating ethics laws for doing favors for Cusumano's "best
friend in the world," topless nightclub owner Frederick
"Rick" Rizzolo, who McDonald often referred to as a "Pillar
of the community." Following the Ethics Board's verdict, the Sheriff
said he had gathered sufficient evidence to arrest
McDonald, however, the District
Attorney refused to cooperate and McDonald remained in office.
of Goodman's endorsement of McDonald raised many eyebrows, especially since
it happened in the middle of a federal investigation of Rizzolo who was
another of Goodman's former clients. The federal government is investigating
the possibility that Rizzolo is a front man for Chicago
organized crime. It has also been suspected that Cusumano has hidden
ownership in Rizzolo's topless bar, though no hard evidence has surfaced
in news reports.
Because of the mayor's unexplainable recent actions, an April 1999 Letter
to the Editor authored by Joseph Yablonsky, the former Special-Agent-in-Charge
of the FBI's Las Vegas office, seems more relevant now than ever
Special to the Review-Journal:
Having followed activities in Las Vegas since my retirement in December
1983 after almost 32 years with the FBI - including four years as special
agent-in-charge of the Las Vegas bureau, I've never ceased to be amazed
at some of the goings on in the entertainment capital.
The latest phenomena, reeking of pure chutzpah, has been the mayoral
candidacy of mob lawyer Oscar Goodman, who led all candidates on Tuesday
in advancing to the June general election along with Arnie Adamsen.
"Mob lawyer" is a title Goodman has relished and promoted over the
years, although it's contradictory to his sporadic and inane denials that
organized crime exists in the United States. The "boys" in Chicago, Kansas
City and elsewhere must be elated about their guy in Vegas. They're probably
thinking "we'll have some political juice there again."
I was reminded of Goodman's proclivity for hyperbole and excess when
I remembered watching a promo for "Rivera Live" in November 1995 when the
movie "Casino" came out. A familiar feared face projecting a rabbinical
image appeared on the screen. The moderator touted him as the "Big 0.,"
the "mob's mouthpiece from Las Vegas.
The smiling eager defender of downtrodden and/or nonexistent members
of organized crime displayed a plastic rat. A childishly impish expression
came over his face as he twisted the rat's neck and commented in the first
person plural, "We bite their necks off." The use of the pronoun "we" tells
Over the years he has disparaged the FBI with public remarks such
as, "líve never met an FBI agent who has told the truth"; they're "princes
of darkness and obstructers"; the "FBI deals dirty"; "they're not always
on the up and up"; "I'd rather see my secretary go out with one of my clients
than an FBI agent"; "organized crime was invented by the FBI because of
their inability to right street crime" - on and on' adnauseam.
His outrageous remarks, intended to promote the notion that he was
somehow the FBI's nemesis, couldn't be further from the truth. During my
tenure, our concerns about Goodman had little or nothing to do with his
skills as a defense lawyer. His stereotypical tactics were to plaster the
court with frivolous motions and to put the FBI or police on trial. I recall
only one FBI case he prevailed in, during that time frame. Generally his
loss column has by far outweighed his win column.
Our concerns were more about his tactics. Example; He brought forth
two convicted slot machine cheats and created a scenario that had me directing
a burglary on then Judge Harry Claibone's residence wherein crucial evidence
was illegally gathered by an FBI agent and a Metro detective. One of the
slot cheats unequivocally flunked a polygraph test about the alleged incident
and the other later told IRS agents that the judge's best friend, convicted
murderer Benny Binion, was willing to put up $1 million to spring him.
Why did he and his co-counsel in Chicago waive a jury in the M&M
boys homicide case (the victim's head was placed in a vise, popping his
eyeballs) perpetrated by his beloved client, "gentle" Tony "The Ant" Spilotro?
Waiving a jury in a homicide case is virtually unheard of. It places the
fate of the defendant in the judgment of one person, the judge. as opposed
to 12 jurors. The judge in that case was subsequently convicted of corruption
in an FBI sting operation known as "Greylord."
One might ask why a nerdy kid like Goodman, who got his butt kicked
by neighborhood bullies, didn't become a prosecutor, which would have allowed
him to alleviate his obsession with being an underdog by putting the bad
guys in jail. Instead he became a wannabe to the most extreme breed of
bullies ... organized crime.
I was chagrined by the images of numerous sociopathic mob types expressing
their admiration for lawyer Goodman as a stand-up guy in "Mob Law," a documentary
recently shown on The Learning Channel. It is sad indeed when a man's psyche
requires validation of his own machismo by the dregs of society.
Contrary to his denial, "I am not my clients," Goodman is forever
tied to the mob by virtue of his having served and been in a love-affair
with them for 30 odd years. Axiomatically, it's a marriage from which divorce
Instead of longing for the good old days when Las Vegas was electric
and exciting to Goodman because of mob presence, he might seek redemption
and legitimacy by taking a job as an assistant district attorney, where
he could truly apply the tenets of the Constitution instead of defiling
Ironically, had it not been for the effectiveness of the FBI which
provided Goodman with defendants and made him a rich man, he wouldn't now
be seeking the love and attention of the Las Vegas community by asking
residents to elect him to office.
Lady Lake, Fla.
(Mr. Yablonsky was the former Special-Agent-in-Charge of the Las
Vegas office of the FBI)
The statements of Joe
Yablonsky along with those of his successor Bobby
Siller, cause speculation that Goodman is still defending the interest's
of organized crime in Las Vegas. In the meantime on February 21, eighty
agents of the FBI and IRS, with guns drawn, raided
Rizzolo's business. Their findings have yet to be revealed, but insiders
suspect that Goodman and McDonald's names may surface if criminal indictments
It also bears mentioning that in February, Goodman accepted a $10,000
campaign contribution from Rizzolo.
Yablonsky was responsible for the conviction and imprisonment of Goodman's
former law partner and mentor, disbarred Federal Court Judge Harry
Claiborne. Goodman unsuccessfully defended Claiborne. Now Goodman is
defending his one-time enemy in a hotly contested city council reelection
bid. Who's interest is Goodman serving?
Copyright © Steve Miller
email Steve Miller at: Stevemiller4lv@aol.com