ROME (AP) — A kiss is just a kiss, perhaps. But what does a smooch mean when it's planted on the lips of an alleged mobster by another man?
Observers of Italy's organized crime syndicates have been trying to trying to figure out the meaning of the kiss earlier this week by a young man in a crowd of onlookers outside Naples police headquarters as Daniele D'Agnese was about to be hustled into a squad car.
D'Agnese was captured Wednesday, after two years on the run, along with fellow fugitive Carmine Amato, reputed chieftain of the Amato-Pagano crime clan in the Naples-based Camorra syndicate, in a house in an area of quarries on the city's outskirts.
Four men in their 20s told police they wanted to greet D'Agnese, considered by investigators to be Amato's bodyguard, before he was taken to jail, according to Naples daily Il Mattino, which quoted one of them as saying "we haven't seen him in two years."
Although police tried to move the four back from the entrance of the police headquarters while D'Agnese emerged, one pushed forward, and while photographers and videographers caught the moment, the man embraced D'Agnese, then planted a firm kiss on his mouth.
Turin daily La Stampa's correspondent in Naples wrote that the kiss was an "obvious gesture to the eyes of clan rivals" that foot soldiers in the Amato-Pagano crime family would still be loyal, despite the arrests.
Many mob bosses continue to run their crime families from behind bars, through messages given to visiting spouses or children, prosecutors say.
The kiss might also be meant to signal reassurance to D'Agnese that his family would continue to be cared for while behind bars.
Also being puzzled over were the T-shirts both Amato and D'Agnese were wearing when arrested. Each sported a shirt with an image of James Dean, the late U.S. actor. La Stampa noted another alleged clan member, Cesare Pagano, was also wearing a James Dean T-shirt when arrested a few months ago.
Some comments on Italian web sites have interpreted the shirt choice as being a way for mobsters to show they're all in the same clan, while others wondered if they were trying to identify with an actor whose roles depicted youthful rebellion and boldness.
Offices of Naples prosecutors specializing in Camorra probes were closed for the day Saturday.