Thursday, January 15, 2009

Giuseppe Setola, Camorra Boss, Captured

It's big news in Italy this morning that one of the rising bosses of the Camorra has been captured by the police. The International Herald Tribune has the story in English.

Investigators say the mobster Giuseppe Setola masterminded a terror spree that has bloodied the Caserta area of southern Italy for several months in a power struggle within the Camorra crime syndicate.

With a reputation as a sharpshooting hit-man, Setola, 38, has been convicted of murder and sentenced in absentia to life in prison. He escaped in the spring from house arrest, which was granted so he could recover from a purported eye problem.

Setola "was trying to escape by rooftop, further proof that he sees very well," Carabinieri paramilitary police Col. Carmelo Burgio told Sky TG24 TV.

The Italian police and legal system are known more for their bumbling bureaucracy than for their efficiency. Imagine a convicted murderer faking an eye ailment and getting house arrest out of the deal.

The brutality of Setola's world was dramatically described in the book by Roberto Saviano, which became the film Gomorra. It has received international acclaim as an amazing portrayal of what these Neapolitan gangsters have been getting up to.

What occurred to me, looking at Giuseppe Setola on TV this morning, was how normal he looks. This is not always the case, some of these guys look like the thugs they are, but I saw Setola smiling as the police were escorting him, and not in that lunatic way, but smiling like a regular guy. One quote said that at the moment of his arrest he said to the cops, "All right, you win."

The truth is he and the scores of young men who take orders from him are cold-blooded killers of the first order. How do you think people get like that? Are they born that way? Is it learned in childhood? Is it like James Gandolfini's character said in the great movie, True Romance?

"Now the first time you kill somebody that's the hardest. I don't give a shit if you're funckin' Wyatt Earp or Jack the Ripper..." (his speech starts at 3:40)


  1. I saw the movie, Camorra ands have seen the author, Saviano on French television many times. I am under the impression that Saviano has had to leave Italy because of his expose.

    I'm sure the potential allure of the gangster life to a poor kid anywhere is the same. The actual act of murder is an initiation, as with any traumatic event, once it's over you either are destroyed by it or can become inured to it.
    In Italy and Eastern Europe it's more of the underground culture, but in Italy, I see that the mafia has had real power.
    Do you feel that the goverment and the mafia are now two different entities?
    I was under the impression that the waste disposal crisis in Naples and throughout Italy was part of the broad swathe of mob corruption.
    I hope that I can eat buffalo mozzarella again in my lifetime with out the threat of PCB contamination.

  2. by the way, I worked with Gandofini on a number of movies and the Soprano series when it started.
    I was responsible for all of his lousy tattoos.
    A really good guy....

  3. Wow, you worked on the Sopranos. That's fantastic.

    I haven't seen the film yet, but the book makes you worry about that wonderful mozzarella. Saviano supposedly has gone into hiding, according to some reports we've seen, but of course that could be hype for the book, Salman-Rushdie style.

  4. To answer your question, how do they get that way. It wouldn't help if they really have no faith in a God who will hold them accountable for Eternity for remorseless sinning. In such cases, might makes right in a dog eat dog world --get all you can any way you can in this life because this life is all there is.

    Being raised in the Mafia "family" wouldn't help. One wonders what mothers of killers teach them about sharing, kindness, unselfishness, human rights and humane values. Did they have those lessons and were they modeled before them and toward them? I would think not. And maybe just teaching isn't enough--maybe enforcing goodness goes farther. (I'm thinking of an arrogant anti-social child (brat) I know whose mother asks "what would Jesus do?" but she doesn't do any correcting punishments --at least none that work.)

  5. I really don't think it's hype.
    Did you hear about the benefit concert given in Castel Vollumo...I'm not sure if I got the spelling right... last month in support of him?
    The singer Miriam Makeba performed and died that evening. The events were not related of course, she had a heart attack.
    Re: Gandolfino, I started working with him on Bronx Story and Goodfellas.
    Then in every movie during the 90's, when ever he needed a bad tattoo, that was my speciality...researching and creating tatoos for movies.

    Let me elaborate my remarks from this morning, the initiation of murder in any society, whether the mafia, street gang or army is a way of controlling the individual.
    "You do this for me and now you are in so deep that if you dare to disobey, I can destroy you."

    A few years ago, I was asked by an elderly neighbor to give him a hand with a pig...I had become pretty good friends with these people and I live in a very rural hamlet.
    Before I could back out and there was no way to back out gracefully, I was slaughtering a pig for my neighbors, Renee and Christiane.
    I had never killed an animal before and I found the process and idea at first repulsive. But on a moral level, I was able to go through with the act because I am carnivorous and someone has to do this to supply me with meat and I am completely in awe of the art of Charcuterie.
    Once I got over my physical revulsion, the process became fascinating...I ended up with quite a bit of pate and fresh pork and the undying gratitude of my friends.
    I have assisted them every year since. I am inured to the idea of butchering a pig. Butchering a pig was something that was repulsive to me because of the conditioning I had as I grew up. It was very hard the first time, now I actually look forward to it each year.
    Am I bad now? Can I be cured?

    As far as the role of religion in the mafia and fascism....
    The role of the family and family values.....
    Lacrima Christi!

    Say, do you know the Italian wine...Lacrima Christi?

  6. Micro, Thanks for the comment. I became a vegetarian some years ago as a personal protest against the mass production of meat and all the horror that goes with it. I often thought I might eat meat if it were raised properly on a farm and participating in the butchering might be a natural extension of that. Thanks for the description.

    I don't know that Lacrima Christi.

  7. I think the actual spelling is Lacryma Christi...a wine produced from the slopes of Vesuvius outsideof Naples.
    I ran into it as the House wine in a trendy pizzaria on East 12th Street in NYC...then, my oenological mentor, who educates my palate here...actually my employer, did a wine tasting last year in which he had it....It's a regional variety, a tart fruity red, not expensive and pretty good.