||Corleone| Luciano Leggio
Born: January 6, 1925 - Corleone
Dead: November 16, 1993
Luciano Leggio was a powerful member of the Sicilian Mafia. He was the head of the Corleonesi, the Mafia faction that originated in the town of Corleone. Some sources incorrectly spell his surname Liggio a result of a misspelling on court documents in the 1960s. As well as setting the Corleonisi on track to become the dominant Mafia Clan in Sicily, he became infamous for avoiding convictions for a multitude of crimes, including homicide, before he was finally imprisoned for life in 1974.
Leggio was born in 1925, one of ten children raised in extreme poverty on a small farm. He turned to crime in his teens. His first conviction was when he was aged 18 for stealing corn and as soon as he completed a six-month sentence for this crime he murdered the man who had reported him to the police for the theft. In 1945 he was recruited by the Mafia boss of Corleone, Michele Navarra, to work as an enforcer and hitman. That same year Leggio shot dead a farm hand in order to take his job, then immediately took over the farm by demanding the owner to sign it over to him at gunpoint.
Many pentiti have described Leggio as being highly volatile and violent, as well as possessing a streak of vanity. According to Tommaso Buscetta, during meetings with Mafia bosses from Palermo, Leggio insisted on correcting grammatical errors made by Gaetano Badalamenti when Badalamenti tried to speak Italian rather than his native Sicilian. Leggio apparently liked to be called "The Professor", as if he were an intellectual, even though, like many of his fellow Corleonesi criminals, he was poorly educated; he left school at the age of nine and was illiterate until well into adulthood. He also tended to wear expensively tailored suits at his repeated court appearances, often along with sunglasses and grandly puffing on a cigar.
On March 10, 1948, trade unionist Placido Rizzotto was kidnapped by three men in broad daylight, with a number of witnesses claiming Leggio was one of them. The following year two men confessed to helping Leggio kidnap Rizzotto, who shot the victim and dumped him in a fifty-foot deep cavern. The police recovered Rizzotto's body and two others, Leggio was arrested on suspicion of murder, but after spending almost two-years behind bars he was released and the charges dropped when witnesses refused to testify. The two alleged accomplices were eventually killed. Leggio went into hiding - although reportedly did not have to try hard to hide because no-one in Corleone seemed brave enough to alert the police as to his whereabouts - after he was indicted once again for the Rizotto slaying. He tried twice in absentia of the trade unionist's murder but acquitted due to insufficient evidence on both occasions. Whilst behind bars in the late 1940s he met Salvatore Riina, who was then aged nineteen and starting a six-year sentence for Manslaughter. The two eventually became accomplices in crime after Riina's release, as did another young local criminal, Bernardo Provenzano.
Ascent to power
Leggio soon began to build his own faction of mobsters loyal to him alone, including Riina and Provenzano, and in 1956 the Leggio faction went to war with Navarra and his followers. One evening in June 1958 Leggio was walking across a field when some of Navarra's men opened fire on him. He escaped with just a slight injury to his hand.
A couple of months later, on August 2, Leggio, Riina, Provenzano and a number of other gunmen set up an ambush just outside Corleone. Michele Navarra soon drove round the corner and the gunmen opened fire, riddling the car with two-hundred bullets. Navarra died instantly along with a friend (unconnected with the Mafia) he was giving a lift to, Lercara Friddi. Leggio proclaimed himself boss of Corleone and over the next five-years he and his men hunted down and killed around fifty more of Navarra's remaining supporters.
Leggio and his faction emerged victorious, and he eventually took his place on the Sicilian Mafia Commission. However, the increase in violence in Corleone, coupled with the Ciaculli massacre in Palermo relating to a separate Mafia War, had inspired a crackdown against the Mafia in 1963, meaning Leggio and his associates had to go into hiding.
Fugitive on the Italian mainland
Immediately after the trial, which ended in July 1969, a determined prosecutor named Cesare Terranova appealed against Leggio's acquittal for the Navarra slaying. In December 1970 Leggio was finally convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for this murder, but it was in absentia because, once more, he had gone underground. In July 1969, after hearing of his indictement to stand trial once more, Leggio checked in to a private health clinic in Rome to have treatment for Pott's disease, which he had suffered from most of his life and for which he had to wear a brace. When the police finally came to arrest him in January 1970 he had checked out and vanished. The fact that he had not been arrested during his seven-month stay in the clinic was a scandal in Italy, as were his repeated acquittals.
There were many suspicions that corrupt figures in authority had helped Leggio avoid justice, with plenty of suspicion falling on the General Attorney of Sicily, Pietro Scaglione; he was shot dead in 1971. Pentiti Tommaso Buscetta and Salvatore Contorno later said Leggio personally shot Scaglione dead because he either did not want him to help deliver an acquittal for one of the Corleonisi boss's rivals or he did not want to leave someone who knew a lot of his secrets alive. Leggio would later be tried twice for killing Scaglione but was acquitted for insufficient evidence.
He eventually hid out in Milan where he made ran a profitable kidnapping ring. In early 1973 he ran into a mobster named Damiano Caruso whom he blamed for killing one of his friends years before. Caruso vanished, as did his girlfriend and her fifteen-year-old daughter not long afterwards. According to numerous informants, Leggio killed Caruso then, when his girlfriend and her daughter came round asking questions, he raped and strangled them both.
He was finally captured in Milan on May 16, 1974, local police having tracked him down by tapping his telephone. Leggio was finally sent off to serve his life sentence for the Navarra slaying. He is believed to have retained significant influence from behind bars, as have many other mobsters after imprisonment. However, by the end of the 1970s, his lieutenant Salvatore Riina was fully installed as the new boss of the Corleonisi.
Raised in poverty, Leggio was a multi-millionaire by the time of his arrest. At the time of his capture, Italian law did not yet allow authorities to confiscate criminal's illicit fortunes, although this has since changed. He was tried with a number of others in 1977 for previous crimes on the testimony of Leonardo Vitale; he was acquitted with all but one of the others (Vitale's uncle) when Leonardo Vitale's mental state was called into question.
In the Maxi Trial of 1986/1987, Leggio faced charges of helping to run the Corleonesi from behind bars, including the accusation that he ordered the murder of prosecutor Cesare Terranova, who was shot dead in 1979. He acted as his own lawyer and defended himself, cross examining Tommaso Buscetta and other pentiti. He claimed he had been framed for political reasons. He was eventually acquitted of all charges due to lack of evidence, although he still had his life-sentence to serve and was returned to a maximum security prison in Sardinia, where he indulged in his hobby of painting, in particular landscapes. On November 16, 1993, he died in prison from a heart attack, aged sixty-eight. He is buried in Corleone
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