Premise: A Mafia don uses his power to bring New York City to its knees after the police arrest his retarded brother and he dies in custody.
Setting: New York City, Spring 1966. The city is uneasy. There have been civil rights protests, anti-Viet-Nam war protests and the subway is overcrowded and dirty.
‘Don Martin’ Castaldo is the long-time head of the Genovese crime family. He is in mid-60’s.
Johnny Castaldo is Don Martin’s younger brother. Johnny is what was once called ‘slow’. He is mildly retarded. He lives in Don Castaldo’s house in Queens, New York. Law enforcement knows that he has no connection to organized crime, so they leave him alone. He is in his mid-50’s. He is very religious and goes to church every day. He also keeps pigeons.
Guy Cappella is Johnny’s ‘keeper’. He drives Johnny to church, takes him shopping and is basically with him whenever he leaves the Castaldo compound. He is 30 years old. He also has nothing to do with organized crime. Guy lives in the neighborhood with his widowed mother. He got the job because Don Martin saw that Guy was always kind to Johnny when Johnny was out for his walks.
One morning, Guy was driving Johnny to church at 8am as usual when they were stopped by the police. There was a new police detective in the area and he wanted to make a name for himself and he didn’t understand (or chose to ignore) ‘the rules’. ‘The Rules’ were an unwritten code between the police and the Mafia. One of the major rules was that family members such as wives and children, were not to be targeted, harassed or arrested. Since Johnny was retarded, the police knew that he knew nothing of the inner workings of the Genovese family – so he was to be left alone.
The police stopped Guy’s car and checked his license and registration and insurance, which all checked out. Then the new detective took Johnny out of the car, put him up against the fence, frisked him and then ‘found’ a bag of heroin. Then he put handcuffs on Johnny, who was now crying, and out him into the back of the squad car.
Guy was not arrested, but told to “tell Castaldo that he shouldn’t use his retard brother to run heroin”.
Guy races home to the compound and tells Don Martin what happened. Don Castaldo is incensed. He calls his lawyer. He calls a few politicians. He lets it be known that this is not acceptable.
The detective brings Johnny to the police station and books him. When the other police officers find out who Johnny is, they let the detective know that he has nothing to do with organized crime and that he should release him immediately. The detective refuses and puts Johnny in a holding cell with a number of other suspects. The suspects have no idea who Johnny is, so when they see he is retarded, they start to abuse him. When Johnny cries out, they just abuse him more. Johnny is so frightened that he has a heart attack and dies.
When Don Castaldo finds out what happens, he declares war. Not just on the police detective or the police in general but with all of New York City.
Since Don Martin controls part of the drug trade in New York, he instructs his dealers not to sell anymore drugs in the minority neighborhoods. And he makes sure that no one else sells any drugs either. Then he secretly gives money to Black Power organizations, so that they can hold rallies against “Whitey”. He orders him men to firebomb liquor stores in the minority neighborhoods and lets it be known that it was Black activists who did it as a protest against the ‘Jewish owners’. Then with tensions at a fever pitch, he has his men blow up an electrical sub-station which causes a massive blackout.
This proves to be the final straw, and New York City is consumed by the largest riot in the history of the country.