Al Sharpton says report of FBI cooperation not new

NEW YORK — The Rev. Al Sharpton admitted on Tuesday that he helped the FBI investigate New York Mafia figures in the 1980s, but he called it old news and insisted he was more a victim than an informant.

Sharpton sought to downplay a report by The Smoking Gun website identifying him as a confidential informant — cited in court papers only as “CI-7” — who helped bring down a mob boss.

He told a news conference at his Harlem headquarters that he went to federal authorities after low-level mobsters warned he and others they would be harmed if they continued to compete with for a stake in the music business — a claim he recounted in his 1996 book, “Go and Tell Pharaoh.”

“We were threatened, and that’s not a new story,” Sharpton said. “It’s in my book.”

The website posted its story Monday, and the timing became a distraction for Sharpton a day before he was to host President Barack Obama as the keynote speaker at the annual convention his civil rights group, the National Action Network. The MSNBC host complained that he was unfairly portrayed as a turncoat mob associate in front-page tabloid stories featuring headlines like “REV RAT” and 30-year-old photos of him when he was overweight and wore his hair in a bouffant.

Sharpton claimed that after the FBI targeted him in a failed sting, he “fought back and said, ‘I’m being threatened. These are the kinds of guys you should be going after.”’

He added: “I made the right decision. … The only thing I’m embarrassed by are those old fat pictures.”

For about two years, the FBI enlisted Sharpton to record conversations with mob figures using a bug hidden in a briefcase, he said. His role, he said, was to try to get them to repeat the threats and also talk about any other crimes.

“I was never told I was an informant with a number,” he said. “In my own mind, I was not an informant. I was cooperating with an investigation.”

The Smoking Gun report was based on court documents and FBI memos released in response to Freedom of Information requests. They included a draft affidavit by an FBI agent investigating allegations that the Genovese crime family had a lucrative “stranglehold” on music industry executive Morris Levy.

The FBI “has developed a relationship with a confidential informant, hereafter referred to as ‘CI-7,”’ who agreed to record conversations with a mobster with inside knowledge of the Levy shakedown, the affidavit says. In one conversation in 1984, it says the mobster told CI-7 that Levy “has tried to end his relationship with the Genovese family 10 to 15 times but that he has ‘only has one way out,’ at which point (he) gestured like someone pointing a gun and pulling the trigger.”

The information from Sharpton helped investigators persuade judges to approve wiretaps on phones at the Manhattan home of Genovese boss Vincent “The Chin” Gigante and to bug a social club where the Gigante hung out, the report said.

Gigante, who known for faking mental illness by shuffling through his Greenwich Village neighborhood in bathrobe and slippers, was convicted in 1997 of racketeering and murder conspiracy. He died in prison at 77 in 2005.

Asked about the report after an unrelated City Hall press conference, Mayor Bill de Blasio said it wouldn’t change his “positive view” of Sharpton.

“What’s obvious from what he said this very morning is that he was asked by the FBI to support their efforts and he agreed to help, and that’s exactly what a citizen should do,” the mayor said.

More in Local News

Herald photos of the week

A weekly collection of The Herald’s best images by staff photographers and… Continue reading

This week’s Herald Super Kid is Nathan Nicholson of Snohomish High School. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
‘The future is biotech,’ but for now he’s busy with everything

Snohomish senior Nathan Nicholson is a student leader and media master.

Longboarders from near and far hit the trail in Arlington

The Centennial Sk8 Festival was serious competition for some and just for fun for others.

Council passes six-month moratorium on safe injection sites

Proposal by County Councilman Nate Nehring passed unanimously.

Crews recover body of man who fell over Wallace Falls

The area where the man fell is called Sky Valley Lookout, 2.4 miles from the parking lot.

Big fire destroys building on Broadway in Everett

Officials say they rescued somebody who was trapped on the second floor.

Luring attempt reported in Mountlake Terrace

The driver allegedly instructed a boy to get in the truck and help grab a scooter he was giving away.

A place to live: Clearing a barrier for former sex workers

A nonprofit’s house “will be a safe place” for former prostitutes and sex-trafficking victims.

A customer walks away after buying a hot dog from a vendor on 33rd St and Smith Street near the Everett Station on Friday. The Everett Station District Alliance pictures the area east of Broadway and south of Hewitt Avenue as a future neighborhood and transit hub that could absorb expected population growth. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
How can Everett Station become a vibrant part of city?

A neighborhood alliance focused on long-term revitalization will update the public Tuesday.

Most Read