How The New York Times Missed The Point: Response to “Citing Family for Furlough from Jail”

Mosi Secret’s piece Citing Family for Furlough from Jail, in the September 23, 2013 New York Times missed the point. While the example of Joseph Sclafani allegedly using a request to visit his dying father to get married on Mob Wives runs to the absurd, there are often furlough requests that have great merit but get denied in the name of “security.”  Most of the time there is, however, really no security issue involved, and the inhumanity of our mass incarceration culture comes into sharp focus.

Cases in point are the examples of Thomas Gioeli. In one instance, he wanted to visit the funeral home where his father’s wake was being held, view and pray over his father’s body alone (but with security) and return to jail. The time of the visit would be after hours and unannounced. The funeral home staff would be on call for when the authorities decided the visit should occur, and the visit would be limited to 15 minutes. Request: Denied with the accommodation of having the coffin brought to the loading dock of a courthouse in Long Island. How a then-58 year old diabetic would pose a security threat under those circumstances is hard to imagine.

The second request — walk his daughter down the aisle. Government objection: the “Mafia” supposedly uses weddings as gathering points for organized crime meeting. Response: The Government can review the guest list and decide who should not come.  Gioeli would return immediately after the ceremony without attending the celebration. Gioeli would interact with no one but his immediate family. Request: Denied.

The New York Times conveniently fails to note that Thomas Gioeli has been held in federal custody for over 5 years. Most of that time, the government used the threat of the death penalty to continue investigating a case that was literally crumbling down around them. After a jury found Gioeli not guilty of six murders, including the first “Mafia” charged murder if an NYPD officer in over a century, the government managed to eek out a conviction for racketeering conspiracy. Now, the government has been caught suppressing key evidence that undermines that remaining slender reed of its case.

While Gioeli’s actual innocence is not a factor to be considered with his furlough requests, it highlights how the cause of justice and humanity is forsaken in name of the knee-jerk mantra of “security” whether there is any basis for it, or, as in Gioeli’s case, none.