Pierre de Champlain

Loris Cavaliere : a clarification about the mafia function of "consigliere"

Some medias have reported in recent days that Loris Cavaliere, a well-known Montreal lawyer specializing in criminal law, and still a member of the Barreau du Québec at the time of this writing (2017-02-03), pleaded guilty to charges of gangsterism brought against him. The former lawyer was arrested in November 2015, as part of Operation Magot-Mastif, conducted by the Regional Mixed Squad of Montreal (ERM). Cavaliere was accused of committing acts of gangsterism for the benefit of a criminal organization, namely the Rizzuto organization. These are, of course, serious accusations, especially since he was a lawyer.

Cavaliere was released under a heavy bail with, furthermore, that he was prohibited from practicing the profession of lawyer, pending the conclusion of the procedures against him. On February 1st, 2017, he pleaded guilty to the charges and was sentenced to 34 months, half of the sentence to be served before he could be eligible for parole.

There have been reports that Cavaliere allegedly acted as a "consigliere" or "house counsel" for the Rizzuto family in recent years, this being based on Crown evidence that Cavaliere promoted the interests of the Rizzuto family in the pursuit of its criminal activities. Cavaliere has not challenge the facts since he admitted his guilt.

However, I would like to draw attention to the attribution of the "consigliere" label on the deposed lawyer. This qualifier, from my point of view, is ambiguous because it implies that he is a member of Cosa Nostra. In the mafia, it is not necessary to be a lawyer to hold the position of the "consigliere", as in the mythical film "The Godfather" in which actor Robert Duvall played the role of Tom Hagen, the loyal lawyer who advised the boss of clan, Vito Corleone, and later his son, Michael. There stops the fiction of Hollywood.

In Cosa Nostra the rank of "consigliere" is not a fiction. It really exists, as it has been demonstrated many times in the past by numerous testimonies of former members of Cosa Nostra who became repentant. The individual who holds this key position is a career criminal who has a long history of mafia affiliations. The consigliere is appointed by the family boss and ranks third in the hierarchy of a mafia family, hence its importance and influence.

The consigliere plays a key role in the destiny and development of the criminal policies of the family. He is the first advisor to the boss and he also acts as an ambassador to the other families of Cosa Nostra. He is also the one who will preside over the election of a new leader of family to replace the former one who had deceased or who was killed, as it was the case for John Gotti, who took over the head of the Gambino family in New York, after murdering his boss, Paul Castellano, in december 1985.

But to hold such a rank, one must first and foremost be a “made” member of the mafia, that is to say, to have undergone through an elaborate initiation rite and to have proved not only his allegiance to the boss, but to have an eloquent "états de service", criminally speaking, to gain the family boss’s trust. Because the "consigliere" exerts a great deal of influence on the boss. He can convince him, for example, to recommend a promotion or a demotion, and even the assassination of a member of the family. That's saying it all!

Had Loris Cavaliere reached up that level? Was he truly a member of the mafia that would deserve him to be called a "consigliere"?

I do not think so. Instead, he merely acted as a facilitator, for example by allowing the use of his lawyers' premises for criminals to continue their discussions, knowing that they would fall under the cover of solicitor-client privilege And thus, out of reach judicially by wiretap warrants. It was a waste of time, as there were countless microphones that police had installed as part of Operation Magot-Mastif strategies. He was accused of transmitting messages from incarcerated members of the organization to other members on the street, and vice versa. Finally, the lawyer, who had access to sensible intelligence gathered from ongoing police investigations, circulated them among members of the Rizzuto organization. The acts alleged against the lawyer fall within the purview of section 467.12 (1) of the Criminal Code: Offense for the benefit of a criminal organization.

Perhaps the principal interested will one day venture to provide explanations about the role he really played in the last years of his controversial practice. But this explanation might never come out, since the lawyer, although not a made member of the mafia, nevertheless remains subject to the infamous law of silence, omertà.