A hot-dog vendor running for mayor revealed that he is a reformed Mafia hitman who has been living in Austin under the federal witness protection program for seven years.
The vendor, whose legal name is John Johnson, said at a Capitol news conference Wednesday that his real name was John Patrick Tully, a former member of the Campisi crime family of New Jersey.Johnson, 52, said he wanted to "reintroduce" himself to the voters.
"I want to tell you all the God's honest truth as to my past. I hope you will forgive me my sordid past or a least give me a look and a hearing," Johnson said.
In 1975, John Patrick Tully pleaded guilty to four counts of murder, one count of conspiring to commit murder and numerous federal and state charges, including armed robbery and drug trafficking.
He admitted being the triggerman in a 1971 slaying and participating in three other killings. Tully was arrested in 1974 after being a fugitive in South America, where he ran a cocaine smuggling operation.
Tully said he was sentenced to 12 years in prison after promising to cooperate in the prosecutions of other members of the crime family. Soon thereafter, nine family members - dubbed the Campisi nine - confessed to the same multiple murders, armed robberies, gambling and drug operations and were sentenced to prison.
In 1981, Tully was paroled from the New Jersey prison system and entered the federal witness protection program. After a government-sponsored vacation to Miami, he was relocated to Houston. He intended to sell hot dogs from street carts there, but local ordinances prevented street sales.
He then moved to Austin because "they told me it was a liberal city. "
In 1982, Tully legally changed his name to John Johnson, borrowed $10,000 from his family and began selling hot dogs and fajitas from push-carts.
Johnson said he no longer fears being killed by the Campisi family, unless he returned to New Jersey.
"These crimes happened 20 years ago. Today, I'm no longer a threat to the Mafia," he said.
Johnson said, however, that he does fear the Austin police, who he says have harassed him since discovering his identity following an arrest for public intoxication.
Lt. Colon Jordan, who headed the police department's intelligence division, confirmed that authorities have known Johnson's true identity and criminal past for several years.