Mario Biaggi
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Mario Biaggi
Mario Biaggi
Mario Biaggi.jpg
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from New York

January 3, 1969 - August 5, 1988
Paul A. Fino
Eliot Engel
Constituency19th district (1983-88)
10th district (1973-83)
24th district (1969-73)
Personal details
Born(1917-10-26)October 26, 1917
East Harlem, New York City, U.S.
DiedJune 24, 2015(2015-06-24) (aged 97)
The Bronx, New York City, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Marie Wassil
(m. 1940; died 1997)
RelativesAlessandra Biaggi (granddaughter)

Mario Biaggi (October 26, 1917 - June 24, 2015) was a U.S. Representative from New York (served from 1969 to 1988) and former New York City police officer. He retired from the force as one of the most decorated police officers in New York Police Department (NYPD) history after being injured 11 times in the line of duty. He was elected as a Democrat from The Bronx in New York City. In 1987 and 1988, he was convicted in two separate corruption trials, and he resigned from Congress in 1988.[1]

Early years

Biaggi was born in East Harlem, New York, on 26 October 1917, to poor Italian immigrants from Piacenza[2] in northern Italy. His father, Salvatore Biaggi, was a marble setter. His mother, Mary, worked as a charwoman.

At age 18, Biaggi became a substitute letter carrier for the U.S. Post Office. Later, he became a regular letter carrier; his mail route included the home of one of his heroes, New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia. He served nearly six years with the Post Office and, in a preview of things to come, became an activist in Branch 36 of the National Letter Carriers Association.


In 1942, Biaggi joined the NYPD. His police career spanned 23 years. He was wounded 11 times and received dozens of citations for valor, becoming one of the NYPD's most decorated officers.[3] Among his many exploits was the rescue of a woman on a runaway horse, which injured him, causing a permanent limp.[4] He retired from the Department in 1965, with the rank of Detective Lieutenant.

Lawyer at age 49

At the age of 45 and near the end of his police career, Biaggi entered law school. The American Bar Association granted him a special dispensation to study law even though Biaggi did not have an undergraduate college degree.[5]

Biaggi attended New York Law School, and received a full scholarship thanks to Dean Daniel Gutman. Studying days, nights and weekends, Biaggi completed the three-year law degree program in only two and one-half years. In 1966, at the age of 49, he was admitted to the New York Bar and founded the law firm Biaggi and Ehrlich.

Elected to Congress

In 1968, the 24th District seat in the U.S. House became open when 8-term Republican incumbent Paul Fino resigned to become a New York Supreme Court Justice. Biaggi ran as a Democrat, and won easily, with 60.5% of the vote in what had been a traditional Bronx Republican stronghold.

He was easily re-elected in 1970. From 1972 onward, he was nominated by the Republicans as well, and was effectively unopposed. In 1968, 1970, and 1972, he also got the Conservative nomination, but this support ended after his abortive run for mayor in 1973. From 1978 onward he got the Liberal nomination.[]

In the redistricting after the 1970 census, Biaggi's district was renumbered the 10th, and included part of Queens. In the redistricting after the 1980 census, his district was renumbered the 19th, and included part of suburban Westchester County.[]

In 1975 Biaggi introduced a joint resolution of Congress, Public Law 94-479, to posthumously promote George Washington to the grade of General of the Armies of the United States and restore Washington's position as the highest-ranking military officer in U.S. history.[6] This was passed on January 19, 1976, approved by President Gerald Ford on October 11, 1976, and formalized in Department of the Army Order 31-3 of March 13, 1978, with an effective appointment date of July 4, 1976, the United States Bicentennial.[]

Biaggi was a leader in the effort to ban "cop killer" bullets.[7]

1973 mayoral campaign

In 1973, he declared his candidacy for Mayor of New York City. He entered the Democratic primary, and also sought the Conservative nomination. Biaggi was a fairly conservative Democrat by New York City standards, and had run on the Conservative line for Congress three times. Conservative Party leaders supported him and planned to make him their nominee regardless of whether he received the Democratic line. Biaggi lost the Democratic primary, but ran on the Conservative line in the general election. He finished in fourth place and received 10.96% of the vote.[8]

Corruption convictions

In 1987 Biaggi was charged with corrupt actions. He had accepted free vacations from former Brooklyn Democratic leader Meade Esposito in exchange for using his influence to help a ship-repair company that was a major client of Esposito's insurance agency. He was convicted of accepting an illegal gratuity and obstruction of justice, sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison, and fined $500,000.[9] The House Ethics Committee recommended that Biaggi be expelled -- the most severe penalty.[10]

Separately, in 1988 Biaggi was charged in the Wedtech scandal with having accepted bribes for assisting the Wedtech Corporation in getting Federal procurement contracts.[11] He was convicted of 15 counts of obstruction of justice and accepting illegal gratuities. He was sentenced to eight years in federal prison.

Facing expulsion from the House, Biaggi resigned his seat on August 5, 1988.[12] Since primary election petitions were already filed, Biaggi remained on the ballot for the Democratic and Republican primaries in the 19th District. He did not actively campaign, and lost the Democratic primary to State Assemblyman Eliot Engel. At the time, the 19th District was one of the more conservative districts in New York City. However, Bronx Republican Chairman and State Senator Guy Velella, who represented a large slice of the congressional district, chose not to field another candidate to run for the seat and left Biaggi on the ballot.

In the general election, Engel won with 56 percent of the vote to Biaggi's 44 percent.[13] To date, this is the last time that a candidate running on the Republican line has crossed the 40 percent mark in the district.

Later life and death

Biaggi was released in 1991 by the sentencing judge on the grounds of ill health (heart problems, arthritis, broken bones from four falls in prison). In 1992, Biaggi attempted a political comeback. He sought his old seat in Congress, challenging his successor, Engel, in the Democratic primary.[14] Biaggi claimed that many of his former constituents asked him to run, and that Engel had a poor record on constituent service. Despite the enthusiasm of some of his supporters, Biaggi raised little money. Engel, who raised more money and cited Biaggi's criminal convictions, won easily. After the election, the Bronx News reported that some of Biaggi's former constituents wanted to vote for him but could not. In the redistricting after the 1990 census, parts of Biaggi's old district (Throggs Neck and Morris Park) had been shifted to other districts.

Biaggi died at his home in The Bronx, New York on June 24, 2015, at the age of 97.[2]

Since 2019, Biaggi's granddaughter Alessandra has been a member of the New York State Senate from the 34th district, which covers much of the territory Mario represented in Congress.


  1. ^ Lynn, Frank (August 6, 1988). "Biaggi Quits, Will Not Seek An 11th Term". New York Times. Retrieved 2016.
  2. ^ a b McFadden, Robert D. (June 25, 2015). "Mario Biaggi, 97, Popular Bronx Congressman Who Went to Prison, Dies". New York Times. p. A25. Retrieved 2016.
  3. ^ Robert D. McFadden (June 25, 2015). "Mario Biaggi, 97, Popular Bronx Congressman Who Went to Prison, Dies". The New York Times.
  4. ^ "It's Jail for Former Solon". Ellensburg Daily Record. United Press International. November 19, 1988. p. 5. Retrieved 2016.
  5. ^ Ashabranner, Brent K. (2000). Badge of Valor: The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. Brookfield, Conn.: Twenty First Century Books. p. 20. ISBN 0-7613-1522-5. Retrieved 2016.
  6. ^ Library of Congress, H.J. Res. 519
  7. ^ "`Cop-killer` Bullets Focus Of New Fight". The Chicago Tribune. Knight-Ridder. May 29, 1985. Retrieved 2017.
  8. ^ "New York City Mayoral Election 1973". Our Campaigns. Retrieved 2014.
  9. ^ Trager, p. 786.
  10. ^ Congressional Quarterly (undated) "Disciplining Members"
  11. ^ Rudin, Ken (2007-06-06). "The Equal-Opportunity Culture of Corruption". Retrieved .
  12. ^ "Biaggi, Mario - Biographical Information". Archived from the original on 3 March 2017.
  13. ^ "Our Campaigns - NY District 19 Race - Nov 08, 1988".
  14. ^ Gonzalez, David (August 2, 1992). "Issue in Campaign Is Biaggi's Record, but Which One?". New York Times. Retrieved 2016.


External links

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Paul A. Fino
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 24th congressional district

Succeeded by
Ogden R. Reid
Preceded by
Emanuel Celler
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 10th congressional district

Succeeded by
Charles E. Schumer
Preceded by
Charles B. Rangel
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 19th congressional district

January 3, 1983 - August 5, 1988
Succeeded by
Eliot L. Engel
Party political offices
Preceded by
John Marchi
Conservative Party nominee for Mayor of New York City
Succeeded by
Barry Farber

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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