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crime: "Goodfella" Asaro acquitted 37 years after Lufthansa robbery

New York (AP) - Vincent Asaro, made world famous by Robert De Niro in the film "Goodfellas - Three Decades in the Mafia", does not have to go to jail.

The 80-year-old was acquitted on Thursday in New York of the charge of being the brain behind the brutal Lufthansa robbery in 1978, as the public prosecutor confirmed. At that time, millions had disappeared from a cargo plane operated by the German airline at New York's JFK airport. Asaro had also been charged with strangling an informant.

The jury had deliberated for three days, but ultimately did not see the guilt as proven. The prosecution had presented Asaro as a major backer of the Mafia, who pulls the strings from the dark and does not shrink from arson and murder. Her main witness was Asaro's own cousin. The 80-year-old's defenders had argued that the key witness himself was a mafioso and a convicted criminal - how could you believe him? If found guilty, Asaro would have threatened life imprisonment.

When leaving the court, Asaro was not very humble, according to the New York Times (Friday). He put his hands in the air and shouted: "Free!" He wanted to play a little "paddleball" now, he said - the game in which a ball fastened with a thread has to be balanced on a racket as often as possible.

Due to the ruling, the background to the so-called Lufthansa robbery remains unclear. In December 1978, the criminals were extremely brutal: At John F. Kennedy Airport they looted cash and jewelry worth almost six million dollars. The average salary at the time was a good $ 10,000 a year. The stolen $ 5 million cash was one of the highest cash loot in US criminal history. The loot has largely disappeared, the investigators assume money laundering.

Some of the alleged gangsters later killed themselves. Another, Henry Hill, went underground for decades and died three years ago. He was played by Ray Liotta in Martin Scorsese's film. Robert De Niro played Jimmy Conway, a character modeled on Asaro.

New York Times report

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