FROM HIT MAN TO CHURCH MAN: HAS FORMER MOBSTER JOHN VEASEY REALLY SEEN THE LIGHT? EVEN HE SAYS THAT'S STILL UP FOR DEBATE - "60 MINUTES"
In the 1990s, John Veasey was killing people for a living as a hit man in the Philadelphia mob. Just two years ago, a one-time rival and his wife say he was threatening them on the phone and Facebook. Today, Veasey drives a church bus and attends weekly worship as a born-again Christian in a Middle American suburb. There, he lives with a new wife and new identity, but still exhibits some of the old attitude that made him one of the most feared gangsters in Philadelphia. Byron Pitts reports on this ex-government witness, whose testimony helped decimate organized crime in Philadelphia, for a 60 MINUTES story to be broadcast Sunday, March 17 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
Veasey says he has found God, but a Philadelphia woman says he has left some very un-Christian voicemails on her telephone. Kathy Ciancaglini, whose husband John was acquitted in 2001 of the murder of Veasey's brother, Billy, tells Pitts the messages are "Frightening... It's intimidating. He believes that my husband has killed his brother." Ciancaglini says Veasey also posted menacing photos on Facebook, in addition to the voicemails, which she says she saved.
"I don't give a [expletive] if I get caught... I will get you, John," he says on the tape. "How's your wife feel about that? Maybe I'll hit her in the [expletive], too, you [expletive] punk." Cianaglini doesn't believe he has found any religion. "He's the punk. He threatens me, calls my husband a punk... he threatens women. That's what he does," she tells Pitts.
Veasey keeps himself in shape and works on his boxing skills when he's not at his job as a top car salesman or at home with his wife. But his name has appeared in at least four police reports over the past five years, 60 MINUTES has learned. In 2008, an argument in a restaurant led to a fight and his arrest and a subsequent guilty plea for misdemeanor battery. He explains to Pitts how the man he fought with became badly injured. "I waited for him to take his drink and I sized him up and I hit him with a good punch and the glass went through his face," says the former mob enforcer. He doesn't apologize for the inciden,t and shrugs it off as a common occurrence blown up because of his past. "The only reason [the battery] is big for me [is] because I'm a killer," Veasey says. "You think about how many of your friends had a barroom fight growing up."
The tough talk prompts Pitts to ask Veasey whether he still might have some of that bad gangster in him. "That's something you'll have to wonder...I don't know," he says with a laugh, "That's still open for debate."
But his old life wasn't all bad, he tells Pitts. In his days as a hit man, he also volunteered as a Boy Scout leader. The irony of such a role didn't occur to him. "I never really thought about it like that, I mean, I would drive by and I'd have the kids in my station wagon and then at night, I might be in the Cadillac." He admitted that at night, he would be hunting people he was under orders to kill. "The kids didn't know I was a hit man. A lot of their parents were mad, but their kids had fun when I took them camping," says Veasey. Watch a clip.