By JOHN ELIGON--The New York Times
The tears flowing from Sean J. Richard’s eyes in a Manhattan courtroom on Tuesday seemed hardly indicative of the man he once was.
After growing up a juvenile delinquent in the Bronx, not finishing high school and getting into business ventures that included painting and wall covering, Mr. Richard married Sara M. Riggi, the daughter of the mob boss John Riggi, in 1997.
Although Mr. Riggi, the boss of the New Jersey-based DeCavalcantes, was in prison when his daughter and Mr. Richard were married, he met Mr. Richard during a prison visit.
And before he knew it, Mr. Richard, an unlikely mobster, was making a living from organized crime. Through S&S Contractors, the carpentry company he started with his wife, Mr. Richard was bribing labor officials and rigging bids for construction contracts. He lived the high life, he said, going through cars as if they were disposable contact lenses, giving strippers $1,000 tips and buying $2,000 suits.
But law enforcement authorities caught on in 1999, and by the end of the year, Mr. Richard agreed to cooperate with them. He was turning against the mob.
And so he found himself testifying in State Supreme Court in Manhattan on Tuesday. And the session included some very unmoblike moments: he broke down several times when asked about his separation from his family, providing a view into the tattered life of a man whose fall was as rapid as his rise.
Mr. Richard, 43, provided crucial testimony in the trial of Michael Forde and Martin Devereaux, officials with Local 608 of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners. The two are accused of taking a bribe from Mr. Richard in 1998 to allow him to use nonunion workers for a job his company was doing at the Park Central Hotel in Midtown. If convicted, Mr. Forde and Mr. Devereaux would face up to seven years in prison.
Mr. Richard testified on Tuesday that Mr. Forde and Mr. Devereaux agreed to take $50,000 from him in exchange for labor peace. He said he gave them their first installment of $10,000 over beers at a Hooters in Midtown.
The two were among 38 people named in a sweeping racketeering indictment in 2000. Theirs are the only cases to make it to trial — six cases were dismissed and the rest of the defendants arranged plea deals.
In December 1999, Mr. Richard agreed to work with the Manhattan district attorney in exchange for leniency. When he first met with Assistant District Attorney Michael A. Scotto, Mr. Richard testified on Tuesday, he promised to “give the names on a silver platter.”
“I wanted to redeem myself,” Mr. Richard said.
“Was part of the reason you came into Mr. Scotto to keep yourself from being killed by your mob confederates?” Michael Dowd, the lawyer for Mr. Devereaux, asked.
“Yes,” Mr. Richard responded.
Mr. Richard, a bald, lean man with thick glasses, showed a palette of emotions in court.
During most of his testimony, Mr. Richard seemed the antithesis of the gloating, sarcastic man who lashed out against many of his former crime associates in an interview with The New York Times in 2000.
He rarely raised his voice on the witness stand, even when defense lawyers fired confrontational questions.
When questioned about his family, Mr. Richard mixed melancholy and anger.
“I’ve tried to change my life, sir,” he told Mr. Dowd.
“Was that after you left your children and your wife?” Mr. Dowd fired back.
Mr. Richard’s voice began to crack, his cadence picked up and his face turned red. He explained, “I’m not proud of everything I did,” but Mr. Dowd did not relent.
“And you chose a stripper over your children?”
Mr. Dowd was referring to Mr. Richard’s decision to take an exotic dancer who was his girlfriend into witness protection in 2000, and not his wife and two sons. Mr. Richard testified that he later took Ms. Riggi, whom he divorced roughly five years ago, and his children into protective custody with him.
Mr. Richard was most emotional when Mr. Dowd questioned whether he had been punished for his poor decisions.
“I’m missing out on my children’s lives for eight years now because of what I’ve done,” Mr. Richard said.
The authorities raided Mr. Richard’s home office in the summer of 1999, he testified. In October, they notified him that he had been wiretapped, he said. Two months later he turned himself in to the authorities.
His high life was over and the results were devastating, he said.
Mr. Richard said he became addicted to cocaine and other drugs. He was an alcoholic, he said. “I was a terrible man,” he said. “I don’t deny that before this court.”
Mr. Richard seemed depressed about his current situation. He is in witness protection on his own. Asked by Mr. Scotto when he last saw his 9- and 10-year-old sons, Mr. Richard’s voice cracked and he said: “I don’t remember. A long time ago.”
He said, however, that he was turning a corner. He said that he was in Alcoholics Anonymous and that he had been sober since 2003. He works as a furniture mover under an assumed name in an unidentified location. Yet Mr. Richard might have seen this coming. When he first got into the business, he said, he spoke with Ms. Riggi about the fact that police raids were an inevitable part of organized crime.
After roughly five hours of testimony on Tuesday, Mr. Richard was whisked out of the courthouse in a van with windows tinted pitch black, hiding him from the outside world.