How did Tony Soprano manage to be so ruthless and cold-hearted—sociopathic, really—yet still somehow cuddly? That was the magic of James Gandolfini, the man behind the beefy mob boss who padded outside his McMansion every morning in slippers and terry bathrobe to collect his newspaper.
Between feeding ducks and getting teary-eyed at his daughter’s choir concert, the suburban Jersey family man kept control over his other “Family” by any means necessary. Sure, he’s tormented by his conscience, but he’s basically a monster. And like all the most interesting anti-heroes, a complex one—thanks to Gandolfini’s mastery of his craft.
We at Everyday Law were saddened to hear of Gandolfini’s fatal heart attack this week at the age of 51. As a homage to the man who pushed the limits of what television could be, we give you a sampling of some of the many ways Tony Soprano broke the law.
1. He’s in the mafia.
It’s true that Tony’s got some legitimate lines of work, as a “waste management consultant” for Barone Sanitation and as co-owner of the Bada Bing and Satriale’s Pork Store. But that’s not what brings in the bacon. We don’t know all the details of his criminal enterprise—which runs the gamut from “no work” construction jobs and HUD scams to traditional mafia jobs like bookmaking and loansharking—so let’s just call this one racketeering.
2. He murdered eight people (at least that we’ve seen).
Tony’s on-screen kills include Willie Overall, Fabian “Febby” Petrulio, Chucky Signore, Matthew Bevilaqua, Salvatore “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero, Ralph Cifaretto (whose head he bashes into the floor in a rage over the death of his racehorse, Pie-O-My), Tony Blundetto and Christopher Moltisanti (his own “nephew” and protege).
3. He ordered the executions of many more.
One of the most devastating hits: Christopher’s fiancee Adriana La Cerva, who Christopher himself offered up to prove his loyalty to the Family. Adriana had been snitching to the FBI, so Tony orders Silvio to take her out.
4. He committed multiple counts of assault and battery.
How many times does Tony beat someone, either in a hot rage or in cold blood? Remember when he tracked down New York mobster Coco, who had made a vulgar remark to his daughter at a restaurant? He treated him to a vicious pistol whipping and nasty curb stomping that knocked out his teeth.
5. He and his crew extort lots of people, every day.
This one kind of goes along with being in the mob, but it’s the one that almost brought Tony down. He’d been extorting sporting goods store owner Davey Scatino, and receiving stolen plane tickets. The FBI had been trying to build a case against Tony for years when his mother was detained at the airport with one of these stolen tickets. FBI agents arrested Tony at his house, but he was released without being charged.
6. He’s an arsonist.
At least, he conspires to commit arson. Tony puts in the order for a pro to burn down Vesuvio, his childhood friend Artie Bucco’s restaurant. He does it to prevent a hit, orchestrated by his uncle Junior, from taking place there. So, his intentions are good, but it’s still arson. In another episode, Tony blows up a “wire room” owned by Phil Leotardo in retaliation for a hit.
7. He speeds.
And he can’t can’t even bribe—or charm—his way out of a ticket (“Got new shoes, officer. Soles are a little heavy.”).
With a list like that, how could we have liked this guy? RIP, James Gandolfini.