That Gay Mobster Totally Did Not Mean to Come Out

Everybody's having fun with Robert Mormando, the gay mafia hitman the world learned about today. It's like The Sopranos! Except he only meant to come out in front of the judge, not a bunch of newspaper reporters.

Mormando's attorney announced that her client was gay at a federal court hearing in Brooklyn on Monday. He was being sentenced for his role in a 2003 shooting ordered up by Vincent Gotti, John Gotti's brother. Mormando began cooperating with the feds shortly after the shooting, which wasn't fatal, and has left the mob to live "a peaceful working life" with his partner.

So he came out in open court, and "gay mob hitman" is a crazy story, and naturally newspapers ran with it. But the New York Times' story has a slightly off note:

"He didn't want to make an announcement to the world," said one person with knowledge of the case who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the dangers facing Mr. Mormando. "He wanted the judge to know what risks he took - why he wasn't just your average cooperator, someone who had simply broken the code."

Mr. Mormando's hearing was, in fact, cloaked in secrecy, listed on the daily court calendar under the name "John Doe." The documents in his case are under seal and even Pacer, the online federal court archive, has been scrubbed clean of anything related to the matter.

"He's in an absolute state of fright," said the person with knowledge of the case. "You have to understand that his partner is totally freaking out. His partner has no connection to any of this. You can just imagine how fraught the whole thing is."

In other words, even though he apparently consented to his homosexuality being discussed in the public forum of a federal court, Mormando took numerous affirmative steps to keep it from being discussed in the press—he thought the hearing would be effectively secret. It looks like someone tipped off reporters to who "John Doe" was, and the rest is history.

It's hard to feel too bad for an admitted mobster who shot a guy and allowed his lawyer to talk about his sexuality in public. And it sounds like Mormando lives as an openly gay man in his new secret life as an ex-mobster—what he's apparently worried about is the fact that his former mob pals now know he was gay.

But still, newspapers generally tread lightly when it comes to outing. Back in the 1990s, the New York Times didn't report on Jann Wenner's outing, and a Times spokeswoman described the paper's policy at the time: "It's not the newspaper's role to reveal private aspects of a person's life unless it's relevant to the story or if the person wishes the sexual information to be released." Things have obviously changed since then, but the paper still hasn't reported affirmatively whether or not Ed Koch, for instance, is gay, and his name didn't come up in the paper's review of Outrage, a documentary that claimed in no uncertain terms that he is.

Anyway, Robert Mormando is pretty much screwed, because the Times and the New York Daily News and a bunch of other papers reported what appears to be an accidental self-outing (and yes, Gawker picked it up). And the Times reported it despite clear protestations from someone close to Mormando that doing so would make his life much more difficult. Hey—didn't the Times recently successfully institute two news blackouts in order to protects the safety of its own reporters? Maybe this Mormando fellow should have tried that.