Goodfellas question (open spoilers)

One of the defining scenes in the breathtaking Goodfellas is when Tommy DeVito, Jimmy Conway, and Henry Hill beat Billy Batts to death. Later, Tommy is executed as punishment for taking down a “made” man.

I’ve never understood why only Tommy suffered this consequence. If Tommy, a Sicilian, had no right to kill the “made” Billy Batts, why then did Jimmy and Henry, both WASPs (and, of course, not “made” men themselves), escape retribution?

Whatever the reason, I’m sure it’s not because no one knew they were involved in finishing off Batts. After all, whoever gave the info that led to Tommy being discovered as Batt’s killer, would have also known about Jimmy Conway’s and Henry Hill’s involvement, too.

So, why was Tommy the only one taken out for this?

Maybe because the other people there heard the confrontation between Tommy and Billy and just assumed he acted alone? Everyone knew Tommy was crazy and I am sure he could have handled Billy by himself. Or that it didn’t matter if Henry and Jimmy were involved because they knew it was mainly coming from Tommy, and they didn’t care about 2 “non-made” men? Billy didn’t insult Jimmy or Henry, just Tommy, and the crew only saw Tommy talk back?

It does not make sense in the movie. In real life, Paul Vario (Paul Cicero in the movie) told the Gambino family that Tommy had killed two of their men. This was in retaliation for Tommy attempting to rape Hill’s wife who was having an affair with Vario while Hill was in prison.

Nitpick: Jimmy and Henry were definitely not WASPs. “WASP” stands for White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. Jimmy and Henry were Catholics from Irish and Irish-Italian ethnic backgrounds respectively.

As for why Tommy alone was executed, much of it had not only to do with Billy Bats but also Tommy’s history as a loose cannon. Even the higher-ups in the Mob thought he was too violent and had too much of a hair-trigger temper. Thus, he had to be “sacrificed” for the greater good of the organization.

There were plenty of people around to witness the “get your shinebox!” conversation between Tommy and Billy Batts.

Henry Hill says in the movie “It [Tommy’s murder] was revenge for Billy Batts – and a lot of other things.” I think this is the filmmakers’ way of alluding to the events that Two Inches talks about, which would have cluttered the movie if depicted directly.

Ah, thanks! I hadn’t appreciated the self-condemning effect of all of Tommy’s other antics.

(And, of course, they weren’t WASPs. I don’t know what I was thinking.)

Plus Tommy was a known Earner and there would be no way they would turn him over.

Could you explain that sentence to me? What is an Earner and who would they not turn him over to?

I’ve read Wiseguy (the book Goodfellas is based on), and I don’t remember this at all. Do you have a different source?

It’s not in Wiseguy (or Goodfellas) because Henry Hill didn’t tell anyone about it until later on.

From Tommy DeSimone’s (the real Tommy DeVito) Wikipedia page:

Wow…didn’t know about Karen and Paulie. That would have put a different spin on Goodfellas, wouldn’t it have?

An “earner” is someone who earns, not necessarily money, but also connections, though relative worth is easily more identifiable with money. To get a real life idea of what a typical earner goes through, watch Donnie Brasco. It’s not all protection rackets, numbers running, and book making. A lot of it is non-glamorized stealing and petty theft.

The “they” is the family that whacked him (Tommy), or wanted him whacked. Paulie didn’t want to turn over Tommy because Tommy was such a good earner. As with most in-family whackings (other than turf wars), politics took over and as it was stated up thread, Tommy was sacrificed.