Update: Former Mob Boss Ralph Natale Sues the Feds

Former Philadelphia mob boss Ralph Natale

Former Philadelphia mob boss Ralph Natale (Kyle Cassidy)

Last summer, I sat down for an exclusive interview with former Philadelphia mob boss Ralph Natale—released from prison in 2011—at an undisclosed location. Looking dapper and relaxed and sporting a tan as deep as his leather loafers, Natale disclosed, for the first time, that he was going blind and that he intended to hold the federal government responsible:

He lifts up his hand and traces a circle into the air a few inches in front of my nose with his fingertips.

“You’re close to me,” he says. “But this part of your face, I can’t see.” He tilts his head. “If I look to the side, I can see peripheral.”

He faces me directly. “When I’m looking at you this way, it’s just black.”

Ralph Natale is going blind.

“I’m still beside myself,” [his wife] Lucy says. “I’ve never dealt with someone who is blind or who is handicapped … I know he’s still getting searing pains across his eyes and around the side of his head, but he doesn’t tell you. He keeps it to himself.”

Natale says he’s been losing his sight steadily for years, and alleges that, while in prison, the federal authorities purposely deprived him of proper treatment. His testimony in four splashy trials helped the DOJ bring the most hidden parts of mafia life in Philly and New Jersey to light—and to send many criminals to prison. In return, he alleges, the feds willfully let him sink into darkness.

At the time of the story, Natale’s lawyer Conor Corcoran had just filed paperwork initiating a lawsuit against the federal government charging that the U.S. Department of Justice deprived Natale of his civil rights by, in short, not getting him the medical attention he needed to halt the progress of preventable blindness. At the time, they didn’t name names.

Natale's "Don't Mess with Me" look.

Natale's "Don't Mess with Me" look.

Tuesday, Corcoran formally filed the suit–and now they’re specifically calling out Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Futcher as the person who prevented Natale from attending an appointment at Will’s Eye Institute that had been set up for him by his family and was otherwise approved.

As  Lucy told PW: “When he gave his testimony, [the feds] believed him,” she said. “But they didn’t believe him when he said he had a problem.”

On a phone call with PW this morning, Corcoran reported that Natale is in good spirits and “feisty as ever,” but that his eyesight has degenerated further even since last summer.

“It’s gotten worse,” said Corcoran. “It’s still not total blindness, but what’s left of the peripheral movement is minimal.”

Natale, once known as the first sitting mob boss to flip for the feds, is eager to once again flip the script.

“He’s very interested in turning the tables on the federal government,” said Corcoran. “They’ve created their own monster in their way, because now this poor man can’t see and can’t do anything else, so they left him with an incredible sense of vindictiveness for what they’ve done to him.”

Read PW’s 2012 cover profile of Natale here. See outtakes and commentary from photographer Kyle Cassidy’s photoshoot here.

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