Speed Reads

Second chances

On New Year's Eve, Donald Trump shared his stage with a colorful felon nicknamed 'Joey No Socks'

If you watched the video of President-elect Donald Trump toasting his Dubai business partner Hussain Sajwani at his New Year's Eve bash at Mar-a-Lago and wondered about that bird sculpture being held to his right, it's a "one-of-a-kind bronze Eagle award" being presented to Trump by Joseph Cinque Sr., president and CEO of the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences (AAHS). Cinque, also known as "Joey No Socks," was convicted of a felony in 1989 over stolen art found in his apartment and, according to a 1995 profile in New York, was a friend of Gambino crime family boss John Gotti — Cinque, who says he wasn't fencing stolen art, claimed he ditched "the wiseguys" for "Muffy, Buffy, and Biff" after being shot and left for dead in 1980.

AAHS presents "Star Diamond" awards to restaurants and hotels, and Trump was an "ambassador extraordinaire" for the organization as recently as 2015. According to an Associated Press report last spring, roughly half of the other 30 or so honorary AAHS trustees are Trump family members, friends, and business associates. Trump's clubs, casinos, and restaurants have received several Star Diamond awards, some of them bearing Trump's own signature alongside Cinque's, and in a 2009 tribute, Trump called Cinque "a special guy," adding, "There's nobody like him."

In the spring, Trump downplayed his relationship with Cinque. "If a guy's going to give you an award, you take it," he told AP. "You don't tend to look up his whole life story." "I don't know him," Trump told Yahoo News in May. "I just find him to be a very nice man, and I don't know his background. I really don't." David Kay Johnston, who wrote a book about Trump, says he's flabbergasted at Trump's professed ignorance. "Let's assume Donald Trump doesn't know who this guy is — wow," he told CNN on Tuesday. "Donald Trump is so unaware and doesn't have people around him to warn him that you are standing next to a convicted felon who credibly claimed to have a relationship with John Gotti?" You can learn more in the CNN report below. Peter Weber