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December 7th, 2006

Michael Cilone Dies

manny.jpg I just heard that one of the Cold Case detective’s criminal informants died. I know some people might take this the wrong way, but it’s weirdly sad. He was a limited man. It’s like the universe crushing a wounded animal after it spent three hours trying to cross a highway. If nothing else, Cilone helped to put the thug in this photograph in jail (picture courtesy of Gangland News).

This is from my book about Mike:

“Organized crime doesn’t amount to much anymore. In the most mundane ways, the business of organized crime is like any other business. Sometimes people feel trapped in dead end jobs …

… Take Mike Cilone, Kaplan’s criminal informant from the Ronald Stapleton case who came to speak to Lt. Pollini’s organized crime class at the John Jay College for Criminal Justice in the late spring of 2002. A group of young, determined, law-enforcement types sat in the classroom and listened as Mike gave a brief, very brief, outline of his life in organized crime, and then invited the class to ask questions. ‘You can ask me anything you want,’ he instructed them, with his New York street accent, the same accent, by the way, of half the NYPD. ‘I’m not saying I’m going to answer all your questions, but you shouldn’t be afraid to ask.’ He had a certain lack of awareness about himself and how the rest of the world worked that made him scary above and beyond the fact that he was a criminal and he helped kill people. He began by describing a life so depressing it’s surprising he wasn’t in a hospital bed heavily medicated. He turned informant, so no one liked him, not the bad guys, not the good guys, and he couldn’t have relationships with anyone or lead much of a life because anyone he associated with would have good reason to believe they were in danger. He was drafted into crime in early adolescence, he had no choice in the matter, and he’d been stuck there ever since, for very small gains. He never made a lot of money. He wasn’t powerful. And then he was hunted. After clearly demonstrating the hopelessness that is his life, he looked out at the class, and said ‘Now, I know you think my life was glamorous …’ with an expression of pride, like he was the big man on campus, or Tony Soprano, oblivious to the fact that not one person in the room, not one person anywhere in the world would perceive his life as glamorous. When asked, ‘Why are you even here?’ he replied without irony, ‘I want to do something good.’ He looked so proud it was painful to watch, and a lot of the students had to cast their eyes down.”

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