Omaha, NE – Nine pages in to the indictment naming Vinny Palermo and Johnny Palermo, something stands out that falls outside the scope of any crime they’re charged with.
In a phone conversation intercepted by the FBI in October, Vinny Palermo, an Omaha City Councilman, and Johnny Palermo, who at the time was an Omaha police officer, talked about the investigation into them. The two men are not related.
According to the transcript, they talked about a trip together.
Johnny Palermo said, “You didn’t go as an elected official. You just went as the homeboy. You are my cousin.”
Vinny Palermo agrees, then it takes a turn.
Johnny says, “It made me look into the Jewish people, and how they operate. They’re like the mafia on top of the mafia…That’s what we gotta be like, you know what I’m saying.”
Vinny says, “They always have been…that’s why district 66 is so tight…They take care of each other.”
3 News Now reached out to the attorneys representing Johnny Palermo and Vinny Palermo.
Randy Paragas, Vinny Palermo’s attorney, said Thursday morning (after the original version of this story was published) that the comments are part of about a terabyte of data, only a fraction of which is in the indictment. He hopes more context can be unveiled in the future.
Glenn Shapiro, the attorney for Johnny Palermo, has not responded to a request for comment as of Thursday morning.
The snippet of the intercepted conversation that includes the comments on the Jewish community begins on page 8 and continues on to page 9.
“I think five years ago I would have been surprised by that,” said Nicholette Meyer, the immediate past president of South Street Temple in Lincoln.
She was president in early 2020 when the synagogue was vandalized by swastikas.
“It’s a growing trend of hate and violence in our country. And it’s not just antisemitism.”
She said the stereotype in the comments are part of a bigger problem that puts Jewish people at risk.
In 2022, the Anti-Defamation League, which tracks antisemitic incidents, again counted the most it ever had.
“Anyone that is in public service in any way needs to be held to a really high standard and needs to be conscientious about any sort of biases they may hold,” Meyer said, “And open to understanding how race and racism and antisemitism have divided our country and really be committed to building a city, a state, a country where our differences don’t push us apart, but pull us together.”