The book is now in print and available through book stores and online outlets.
Andrew DiDonato began his life of crime in 1979 as a 14-year-old kid on the streets of Brooklyn. He proved himself to be smart, tough and daring, qualities that brought him to the attention of Gambino capo Nicholas Corozzo.
For the next 15 years Andrew did Corozzo's bidding and engaged in crimes ranging from burglary, bank robbery, assault, conspiracy to commit murder and attempted murder.
But in 1997, under a death sentence by his own crew and a faction of the Luchesse family, and facing years in prison, Andrew became a government witness. His testimony was instrumental in putting a number of wiseguys behind bars, including Corozzo.
His story of life as a gangster and then defying the odds and getting out alive, is a must read for any organized crime enthusiast.
A Near-Death Experience
At approximately 1:50 on the afternoon of April 8, 1988, an elderly woman named Sandra Raiola was walking on East 2nd Street between Avenue O and Avenue P in Brooklyn, New York. This was a residential neighborhood that tended to be relatively peaceful and quiet.
As Sandra walked she passed two men who were standing on the sidewalk arguing. A vehicle occupied by a driver was double-parked on the street next to the men. When Sandra neared the corner of Avenue P she heard a popping noise from behind her, like a car backfiring or a firecracker exploding. She turned around and looked down the street in the direction of the noise. She saw one of the two men who had been arguing lying prone on the sidewalk. He was screaming “Help me.” The other man was squatting next to him. Noticing her, the squatting man sprang to his feet and got into the double-parked vehicle. The car then sped past her, ran the red light at the corner of Avenue P and quickly disappeared from view down East 2nd Street.
Sandra didn’t know it at the time, but her presence at that location accomplished two very important things. First, it saved the life of the downed man, Ralph Burzo. And by doing so it prevented the other man from becoming a murderer.
Burzo’s assailant was Andrew DiDonato. He had already fired one round from his handgun into Burzo’s head. It was Burzo’s good fortune that the bullet struck a bone and splintered, causing serious but not fatal injuries. After his victim had fallen to the sidewalk, Andrew squatted next to him to administer a second life-ending shot. But before Andrew could pull the trigger, he noticed Raiola watching him and fled the scene.
However, Andrew’s escape was only temporary. He was arrested a short time later; and on May 17, 1988 he was indicted by a Kings County Grand Jury for one count of attempted murder in the second degree, two counts of assault in the first degree, one count of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree, and one count of criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree.
Samuel Karkis, the driver of the getaway car, was indicted on the same charges, plus hindering prosecution in the second degree.
This account of events was taken primarily from that indictment and tells the facts of what took place. But it doesn’t tell the story. It doesn’t tell what circumstances brought Ralph Burzo, Samuel Karkis and Andrew DiDonato to East 2nd Street near Avenue P that May afternoon. And it doesn’t explain why Andrew wanted Burzo dead.
The story behind the shooting is rather complex and can’t be addressed in a few sentences or paragraphs. In order to truly understand what happened that day and why, we have to go back out on the streets of Brooklyn. But this time the year is 1980.