A New York mafia don serving life behind bars for eight gangland murders is to be released from prison after becoming the biggest supergrass in the history of the Mob.
Joseph Massino (70) the notorious former boss of the Bonanno crime family, will be freed as a reward for his "extraordinary co-operation" with the authorities, a judge ruled.
His release from federal custody was delayed for 60 days while the government puts security arrangements in place to protect him from the enemies he will now have made among his one-time fellow mobsters.
Massino will be given a new identity and moved to another part of the US under the witness protection programme.
The ailing turncoat made a historic break with the traditional mafia oath of omerta, the code of silence not to inform on other mob member, after he was jailed for life in 2005.
He secretly recorded conversations with another mafia boss and provided investigators with information about hundreds of associates of the Bonanno operation, which he ran from 1991 to 2003, and New York's four other crime families.
His co-operation helped prosecutors convict dozens of other mafiosi, including his successor as head of the Bonanno family, Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano.
"Quite simply, Mr Massino may be the most important co-operator in the modern history of law enforcement to prosecute the American mafia," said Judge Nicholas Garaufis, as he explained his decision to commute the life sentences at a hearing in a federal district court in Brooklyn.
Wearing the Mob "uniform" of tracksuit and white training shoes, Massino, who is in poor health, spoke briefly to apologise for his life of crime and murder.
"I pray every night for all the people I hurt," he said. "Especially the victims' families."
In 2011, when he became the first New York mafia boss to testify in court against a former ally, he noted: "I'm hoping to see a light at the end of the tunnel."
Massino will now see that light in two months' time. He also knows for the rest of his life that he will be a marked man for committing the ultimate sin in mafia eyes. (© Daily Telegraph, London)