On March 3, 1953, the second day of Anna Genovese’s Freehold trial where she sought “separate maintenance” financial support from her estranged husband Vito, 22 witnesses were called who would testify mostly on behalf of Vito.
Anna took the stand again and reversed course, turning down an offer of reconciliation from Vito made the previous day, because she feared going back to him. She had said, “If my husband wants me back, I’ll go back.” She said she never wanted a divorce. Vito’s response was “My door is still open.” During the recess, reporters overheard Anna say, as she brushed past Vito, “He wants me back, isn’t that a joke?”
Vito, “in broken English, denied he ever struck his wife. ‘I never did,’ he said, ‘so help me God.'” His stay on the witness stand lasted just 30 minutes, and he was not asked a single question about his income or alleged association with the rackets.
Vito said Anna liked New York life, and was interested in someone else, whom he would only identify as a doctor. At times, Anna would leave their Atlantic Highlands home for several days; when she returned, she would tell him, “Don’t bother me, I’m nervous.” Vito once asked Anna’s mother, “What she step on my heart for?”
Anna disclosed during testimony that at one point she had visited crime boss Frank Costello to see if he could effect a reconciliation with Vito, but nothing came of it.
Every witness that testified on Vito’s behalf denied seeing any of the things Anna had claimed, about abuse, parties, etc. Among these witnesses contradicting Anna’s accounts was Nancy Simonetti, Vito’s daughter by his first wife. Anna had testified that Vito was supporting Nancy financially, but Nancy denied this on the stand. Marie Genovese Esposito, Anna’s daughter with her first husband, testified that Vito had “raised his hand to her in a threatening manner” when she took him to task for “kicking Anna out of house and home.” Philip Genovese did not testify.
Another witness for Vito was Mrs. Elizabeth Boccia of Long Branch, who was a former cook and housekeeper at the Genovese mansion. She denied Anna’s assertions that Vito beat his wife, threatened her, cursed her, was frequently intoxicated, or gave lavish parties. “He was always a perfect gentleman,” she declared. Mrs. Boccia said Anna called the Atlantic Highlands house “a morgue” and that Anna accused Vito of being “stingy.”
Frank Radice of New York City took the stand and claimed he ran a luncheonette but denied being a bookie. Radice said he visited the Genovese household frequently. Anna had claimed that Radice’s wife Mary had been Vito’s “ex-mistress turned procuress,” and that Mary had even offered her own 15-year-old daughter to Vito.
Clifford Geiger, a retired New York detective, disputed Anna’s denial that she had once lived with an entertainer named Gwenn Saunders in New York.
As a result of her unprecedented open-court testimony, Anna was subsequently subpoenaed and forced to appear before grand juries in Bergen County, Hudson County and Mercer County, in addition to the New Jersey Law Enforcement Council, where she faced similar questions about her husband’s role in organized crime, and gave the same answers.
Peter Maas, author of The Valachi Papers, characterized Anna as Vito Genovese’s “only discernable soft spot.” Vito’s love for Anna was either pure of heart, or else he truly must have despaired for all she knew, and all she was capable of doing for him, but no longer. Even after she testified in open court before a packed courtroom and the press, Vito took no action to have her silenced.
Genovese henchman Joe Valachi said, “Nobody could understand why Vito didn’t do something about her. The word was all around, why don’t he hit her? But he must have really cared for her. She had something on him. I remember when we – Vito and me- were in Atlanta (federal penitentiary) together later on, he would sometimes talk about her, and I would see the tears rolling down his cheeks. I couldn’t believe it.”
Vito Key Racketeer Wife Says in Court. (1953) Asbury Park Press, March 3, 1953, P. 1.
Judge to Decide Genovese Case. (1953). Asbury Park Evening Press, March 4, 1953, P. 1, 2.
Wife Fears Genovese, Rejects Reconciliation. (19530. The Record (Hackensack, N.J.), March 4, 1953, P. 1.
Maas, Peter. (1968). The Valachi Papers. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, N.Y.