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Consigliere (pronounced [konsiʎˈʎɛːɾe]) is a position in the American Mafia. The word was popularized by Mario Puzo's novel The Godfather (1969), and its film adaptation. In the novel, a consigliere is an adviser or counselor to a mafia boss, with the additional responsibility of representing the don in important meetings both within the don's crime family and with other crime families. The consigliere is a close, trusted friend and confidant, the mob's version of an elder statesman. He is devoid of ambition and dispenses disinterested advice. This passive image of the consigliere does not correspond with what little is known of real-life consiglieri.
A real-life Mafia consigliere is generally the number three person in a crime family, after don (boss) and underboss. A crime family normally has only one consigliere at a time, but bosses have on occasion appointed more than one. The boss, underboss, and consigliere constitute a three-man ruling panel, or "Administration."
In Italian, consigliere means "adviser" or "counsellor." It is derived from Latin consiliarius (advisor) and consilium (advice). The terminology of the U.S. Mafia is taken from that of the Sicilian Mafia and suggests that an analogy is intended to the court of a medieval Italian principality. For example, Venice was led by a doge (duke) and a consigliere ducale (advisor to the doge). An underboss will normally move up to boss when the position becomes vacant, so his position is equivalent to that of heir to the throne. Consigliere, meanwhile, is analogous to chief minister or chancellor. (Oddly, in the novel The Godfather, the word is spelled consigliori; in the films, it is clearly pronounced consigliere.) In Joe Bonanno's book (A Man Of Honor) he explains that a consigliere is more of the voice or rep for the soldiers of the family, and may help solve and mediate disputes for the lower echelon of the family.
Joe Valachi mentions a mysterious "Sandino" arbitrating disputes as the Genovese family consigliere in the 1940s. But in more recent times, consiglieri have tended to take a more active role in family affairs. In 1971, Colombo family Consigliere Joseph Yacovelli directed a murder campaign against renegade Colombo family soldier Joseph "Crazy Joe" Gallo. Two decades later, another Colombo consigliere, Carmine Sessa, led a hit team that attempted to assassinate the acting boss, Victor Orena. In 1976, Frank Bompensiero was appointed consigliere of the Los Angeles crime family, only to be murdered in a public phone booth in February 1977. Bompensiero's boss promoted him so that it would cause him to let his guard down. Electronic surveillance in 1979 recorded New England Mafia Boss Raymond Patriarca Jr. talking about appointing his consigliere, so the position need not be chosen as a result of a consensus-seeking process. When New Jersey Consigliere Stefano "Steve the Truck Driver" Vitabile found out in 1992 that his family's underboss, John "Johnny Boy" D'Amato, was bisexual, he ordered him killed. In 1993, Paul Gulino, a drug dealer and associate of the Bonanno crime family, was murdered after he allegedly "put hands" on his family's consigliere.
James Ida, the current Genovese consigliere, has been serving a life sentence since 1996. Dominick Cirillo is the family's acting consigliere. Joseph Corozzo is the current Gambino consigliere, while Anthony Rabito is consigliere for the Bonanno crime family. As these examples illustrate, consiglieri nowadays are generally former soldiers and capos, not outside advisers.
In the movies The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, the consigliere to Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando), and later Don Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), is Tom Hagen (played by Robert Duvall). Hagen is the adopted son of Don Vito Corleone, and a lawyer for the family. At the end of The Godfather, Don Vito's successor and son, Michael Corleone, demotes Hagen within the organization, saying "things are going to get rough, and I need a wartime consiglieri." (In an earlier scene, Sonny Corleone, Michael's older brother and acting Don after Vito Corleone's attempted assassination, similarly criticizes Hagen.) Vito Corleone, Michael's father, replaces Hagen at Michael's side until his death.
In The Godfather Part II, Hagen regains his earlier role, as Michael consolidates his power.
In the television series The Sopranos Silvio Dante is the consigliere to Tony Soprano. His role is very much like the reputed second in command, even taking over briefly as acting boss of the Soprano crime family in Season 6 Part I.
In the video game Mafia (2001), the consigliere of the Salieri crime family to Don Salieri is Frank Colleti.
In the TV series Eastwick season 1 episode 8, Lindsay Price's character Joanna Frankel uses the word consigliere to describe a wingman.