Don't expect Musitano retaliation after latest shooting, expert says
Crime family doesn't have the strength or resources to fight back, Antonio Nicaso says
Even with his home shot up and his brother gunned down, don't expect retaliatory violence from Pat Musitano directed at whoever is targeting him, a leading mafia expert says.
The notorious mobster's home in central Hamilton was targeted early Tuesday, as bullets blew through a window and took chunks out of the brick on the front of the house.
Antonio Nicaso, a Mafia expert who teaches about organized crime at Queen's University, says that someone is likely trying to "send a message" to Musitano, who, along with his younger brother, were key figures in Hamilton's criminal underworld for decades.
- Shots fired into home of mobster Pat Musitano
- Angelo Musitano shot dead: Mobster pursued a new path, but couldn't escape his past
But as the Musitano family's power has waned in recent years, so too has their ability to strike back at anyone who would target them, Nicaso said.
"I don't think they have the power and the structure to retaliate," Nicaso said. "Now I think they're on the defensive."
"The two Musitano brothers have lost the people who used to make them feel safe and protected in Ontario."
'Anyone is entitled to take revenge'
A big part of the protection was the Rizzuto crime family, based out of Montreal. The two families were aligned in the 1990s, giving protection to the Musitanos. That relationship and the muscle behind it is nowhere near what it once was, Nicaso said.
The 2013 death of reputed Mafia boss Vito Rizzuto created a power vacuum within the organization, and now warring factions have weakened the once-mighty Montreal Mafia. That has left the Musitanos to fend for themselves.
"When you don't have someone to protect you, anyone is entitled to take revenge," Nicaso said.
And the list of people who could want revenge against the Musitanos is likely long. The family is linked to convictions for bombing and extortion in the 1970s, as well as the hit of mobster Domenic Racco in the 80s, and the murders of Carmen Barillaro and Johnny (Pops) Papalia in 1997.
Experts say anyone who was wronged over that vast criminal past could be looking to extract revenge — or, more modern gangs like the Hells Angels could be behind it. No one knows for sure.
Police say the family has not been working with investigators since Angelo Musitano was fatally shot in his Waterdown driveway in May, or since the most recent shooting at the elder Musitano's house this week. That cuts off a major line of communication for leads to detectives.
"They have not asked for any police assistance," said homicide Det. Sgt. Peter Thom.
An RCMP-led joint forces unit that once proactively investigated organized crime in Hamilton and Niagara would have likely worked on a case like this, but it was disbanded several years ago.
Angelo Musitano shot and killed in his driveway
The Musitano brothers had mostly been laying low over the last decade, according to police. They were both charged with first-degree murder back in 1997, in connection with the deaths of Papalia and one of his lieutenants, Barillaro.
They reached a deal and pleaded to conspiracy to commit murder in the death of Barillaro. In turn, the charges against them in connection with Papalia's death were dropped.
They were sentenced to 10 years in jail. They got out in 2007, and made little noise since then — though as Nicaso noted in a previous interview, silence is the "perfect landscape" for the mob to conduct business.
That silence was broken in a hail of gunfire this spring, when Angelo Musitano was gunned down in his Waterdown driveway, with his family inside his home. Friends say he found religion, and had reformed since his time in jail.
Police are still investigating, and analyzing security camera footage from the incident. Detectives say they're looking at the two shooting incidents as possibly connected.