— When Regina Granato speaks of her 3 ½-year-old daughter, Gianna, she sounds like any proud mother. "I've been touched by an angel," she says. But there's a cloud over Gianna's birth. Regina has been indicted by the federal government and could face years behind bars — for having her baby.
Here's the problem — as far as law enforcement sees it. Gianna's father and Regina's husband is Kevin Granato. He is an inmate at the Allenwood Federal Penitentiary in Pennsylvania. Kevin Granato was convicted of a string of mob-related crimes involving racketeering, extortion, assault and drug trafficking stemming from his connection with New York's notorious Colombo organized crime family.
Here's the paternity riddle. Granato is indeed Gianna's father, but he's been serving time at Allenwood since the early 1990s and, as per rules for all federal prisoners, has not been allowed conjugal visits with his wife since then. Yet Gianna was born in 1999.
‘I’m Not a Criminal’
But Regina Granato doesn't see the problem. "God gave me that baby. She's here now; people need to accept it, you know, she's a human life; she's a little girl who's very loving and caring," Regina said.
"I'm not a criminal, I don't deserve to go to prison, you know, I feel I did nothing wrong. I can't see how anyone would want to put me in prison," she said.
With Regina's then 35-year-old biological clock ticking away, and with Kevin still facing many more years behind bars, Regina was desperate. So they figured out a plan to get Kevin's sperm out of prison, and into Regina. And it worked.
"My age was creeping up, my ovaries were failing, I had an ovary removed, and I knew, you know, I had to make a move, and I wanted to be a mother," Regina said.
You can imagine the scene in prison on visiting day when Regina suddenly showed up with a baby — Kevin's baby.
Regina said the prison guards were scratching their heads, but none of them asked her any questions about the baby. And she never thought that she'd land in any sort of trouble for the strangely orchestrated pregnancy.
"I just thought about having that baby in my arms, and that was it. I really never thought about it. I didn't," she said.
But prison authorities certainly did. They didn't know exactly how the Granatos did it. Kevin has refused to tell them so he was thrown into solitary confinement, allowed no visitors and just one phone call a month.
Not an Isolated Case
One reason prison officials were so aggravated was that this wasn't the first time a mobster's sperm found its way out of prison. Back in 1996, reputed mobster, George "Georgie Neck" Zappola bribed a guard to smuggle his sperm out of a penitentiary.
In another case, a prison guard pleaded guilty in 2001 to smuggling an inmate's sperm out of the pen.
So why did sperm smuggling become so popular?
"Mobsters have become involved with this for a couple of reasons. It's a scam, it's a way of putting something over on the feds, and perhaps they are interested in having a son or a child to greet them when they get out of jail eventually," said journalist and mob expert Jerry Capeci.
But Regina says her motive was purely maternal. "There was no reason for me to live if I couldn't have a baby," she said.
We first met Regina last year in a story reported on 20/20 by John Miller. The story aired before Regina and Kevin were indicted for smuggling. Back then, without telling John how she got the sperm, Regina explained what she did with it.
Regina said she ordered a kit that would secure the sperm in a protective and sterile vial. Without disclosing how it got there, she said the kit ended up in her doctor's office, where, on the third try at insemination, it took. Nine months later, little Gianna was born.
But how did Kevin get his sperm get out of prison? His lawyer, Richard Rehbock, won't exactly say.
According to the federal indictment, Kevin bribed a guard at Allenwood to smuggle the sperm out. Kevin's lawyer denies that.
The odds against this plan working seem enormous, which may be why Regina calls Gianna her miracle baby. But one family's miracle is the federal penal system's humiliation.
The Granatos' attorney doesn't understand why the penitentiary is so angered by their action. "Shame on us. They have a child. What a horrible thing they did. It's ridiculous," said Rehbock.
Allenwood prison officials turned down requests for an interview, saying they wouldn't comment because the case is waiting to go to trial.
A Poster Family for Prisoners’ Rights?
Meanwhile, the Granatos' arraignment this past January was a reunion of sorts for Regina, Gianna and Kevin. They hadn't been together as a family for nearly three years.
Regina said Kevin was very excited to see his little girl. "He said, 'I can't believe what she looks like,' and 'I keep seeing her big eyes staring at me, she wouldn't take them off me for a minute.' "
This case has turned the Granatos into an unlikely poster family for prisoners' rights. Prison reform advocates suggest Kevin's stint in solitary confinement is nothing short of cruel and unusual punishment. And they say this case helps make the argument for conjugal visits in federal prisons.
"These men are going to stay in prison, and when you let them out the door, who are they going to know? Who are they going to have?" said Regina. "At least Kevin is fortunate to come home to a home, a wife, a daughter … you know, a family."
What makes this more than just a quirky story about how a mobster beat the system by getting his wife pregnant without intimate contact — is that Regina could, if convicted, be sent to prison for up to six years. There's also the possibility of a deal, with Regina getting off — and Kevin doing more time.
Even though she's facing possible prison time, and her husband's sentence could be extended, Regina feels having a child was worth the risk.
"She'll be proud to know she has parents who wanted her so much. Definitely worth it, my daughter's worth everything in the world. I would do it again."