John-Gotti

John Joseph Gotti, Jr. (October 27, 1940 – June 10, 2002) was an Italian-American mobster who became boss of the Gambino crime family in New York City. Operating out of the Ozone Park neighborhood of Queens, Gotti became one of the crime family’s biggest earners.

Gotti was one of the most powerful crime bosses of his era, and widely recognized for his outspoken personality and flamboyant style. He became known as the “The Dapper Don” for his expensive clothes and personality in front of TV news cameras.

Gotti was later nicknamed “The Teflon Don” after three high-profile trials in the 1980s resulted in his acquittal – though it was later revealed that the verdicts were the result of jury tampering and juror misconduct.

In the 1996 HBO TV movie “Gotti”, John Gotti was played by Armand Assante.

Video comes courtesy of YouTube:

That’s how Hollywood saw it.

Here’s what history has to tell us:

Gotti’s Early Life

John Joseph Gotti, Jr. was born in an Italian-American enclave in the Bronx on October 27, 1940.

He was the fifth of the thirteen children of John Joseph Gotti, Sr. and his wife Philomena (referred to as Fannie).

John was one of five brothers who would become “made men” in the Gambino Family; Eugene Gotti was initiated before John, Peter Gotti was initiated under John’s leadership in 1988, and Richard V. Gotti was identified as a Capo by 2002. The fifth, Vincent, was not initiated until 2002.

Gotti grew up in poverty. His father worked irregularly as a day laborer and habitual gambler.

In school Gotti had a history of truancy and bullying other students. He dropped out, while attending Franklin K. Lane High School, at the age of 16.

Gangland Links

Gotti was involved in street gangs associated with New York Mafiosi from the age of 12.

When he was 14, he was attempting to steal a cement mixer from a construction site when it fell, crushing his toes; this injury left him with a permanent limp.

After leaving school, he devoted himself to working with the Mafia-associated Fulton-Rockaway Boys gang, where he met and befriended future Gambino mobsters Angelo Ruggiero and Wilfred “Willie Boy” Johnson.

Marriage

Gotti met his future wife, Victoria DiGiorgio, in 1958.

The couple had their first child, a daughter named Angel, in 1961, and were married on March 6, 1962. They would have four more children: another daughter (Victoria) and three sons (John, Frank and Peter).

Gotti attempted to work legitimately in 1962 as a presser in a coat factory, and as an assistant truck driver. However, by 1966 he had been jailed twice for criminal offenses.

The Gambino Crime Family

Gotti’s criminal career began in earnest when he became an associate of Carmine Fatico, a capo in what became the Gambino family after the murder of Albert Anastasia.

Together with his brother Gene and Ruggiero, Gotti carried out truck hijackings at Idlewild Airport (now John F. Kennedy International Airport).

During this time, Gotti befriended fellow mob hijacker and future Bonanno family boss Joseph Massino and was given the nicknames “Black John” and “Crazy Horse.”

It was also around this time that Gotti met Gambino underboss Aniello “Neil” Dellacroce.

Hijacking Arrests

In February 1968, United Airlines employees identified Gotti as the man who had signed for stolen merchandise; the FBI arrested him for the United hijacking soon after.

Two months later, while out on bail, Gotti was arrested a third time for hijacking – this time for stealing a load of cigarettes worth $50,000, on the New Jersey Turnpike.

Later that year, Gotti pleaded guilty to a Northwest Airlines hijacking and was sentenced to three years at Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary. Prosecutors dropped the charges for the cigarette hijacking. Gotti also pleaded guilty to the United hijacking, and spent less than three years at Lewisburg.

The Bergin Hunt and Fish Club

Gotti and Ruggiero were paroled in 1972, and returned to their old crew at the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club – still working under caporegime Carmine Fatico.

Gotti was transferred to management of the Bergin outfit’s illegal gambling, where he proved himself to be an effective enforcer.

Fatico was indicted on loansharking charges in 1972. As a condition of his release, he could not associate with known felons.

Although Gotti was not yet a made man in the Mafia (due to the membership books having been closed since 1957), Fatico named Gotti the acting capo of the Bergin Crew soon after Gotti was paroled.

In his new role, he frequently traveled to Dellacroce’s headquarters at the Ravenite Social Club to brief the underboss on the crew’s activities. Dellacroce had already taken a liking to Gotti, and the two became even closer during this time.

Hitman

In 1973 – after Carlo Gambino’s nephew Emanuel Gambino was kidnapped and murdered – John Gotti, Ruggiero, and Ralph Galione were assigned to the hit team targeting the main suspect, Irish-American gangster James McBratney.

The team botched their attempt to abduct McBratney at a Staten Island bar, and Galione shot McBratney dead when his accomplices managed to restrain him.

Identified by eyewitnesses and a police informant at Bergin, Gotti was arrested for the killing in June 1974. With the help of attorney Roy Cohn, he was able to strike a plea bargain, and received a four-year sentence for attempted manslaughter for his part in the hit.

After his death, Gotti was also identified by Joseph Massino as the killer of Vito Borelli, a Gambino associate killed in 1975 for insulting Paul Castellano.

Capo

Gotti was released in July 1977 after two years imprisonment.

He was then initiated into the Gambino family (now under the command of Paul Castellano), and immediately promoted to replace Fatico as Capo of the Bergin crew.

Gotti and his team reported directly to Dellacroce as part of concessions given by Castellano to keep Dellacroce as underboss, and Gotti was regarded as Dellacroce’s protégé.

Under Gotti, the Bergin crew were the biggest earners among Dellacroce’s units.

Besides his cut of his subordinates’ earnings, Gotti ran his own loan sharking operation and held a no-show job as a plumbing supply salesman. Unconfirmed allegations by FBI informants in the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club claimed Gotti also financed drug deals.

Family Affairs

Gotti tried to keep most of his family uninvolved with his activities, except for his son John Angelo Gotti (commonly known as John Gotti Jr.), who by 1982 was a mob associate.

On March 18, 1980, Gotti’s youngest son, 12-year-old Frank, was run over and killed on a family friend’s minibike by John Favara, a neighbor.

While Frank’s death was ruled an accident, Favara subsequently received death threats and, when he visited the Gottis to apologize, was attacked by Victoria Gotti with a baseball bat.

On July 28, 1980, he was abducted and disappeared, presumed murdered.

While the Gottis were on vacation in Florida at the time, John Gotti is still presumed to have ordered the killing.

Indictments

In his last two years as the Bergin Capo, Gotti was indicted on two occasions, with both cases coming to trial after his ascension to Gambino Boss.

In September 1984 Gotti was in an altercation with refrigerator mechanic Romual Piecyk, and was subsequently charged with assault and robbery.

In 1985 he was indicted with Dellacroce and several Bergin crew members in a racketeering case, by Assistant US Attorney Diane Giacalone. The indictment also revealed that Gotti’s friend “Willie Boy” Johnson (one of his co-defendants) had been an FBI informant.

Taking Over

Gotti rapidly became dissatisfied with Paul Castellano’s leadership.

In August 1983, Ruggiero and Gene Gotti were arrested for dealing heroin, based primarily on recordings from a bug in Ruggiero’s house. Castellano – who had banned made men in his family from dealing drugs under threat of death – demanded transcripts of the tapes, and when Ruggiero refused, he threatened to demote Gotti.

In 1984, Castellano was arrested and indicted for association in the crimes of Gambino hitman Roy DeMeo’s crew.

The following year he received a second indictment, for his role in the American Mafia’s Commission.

Facing life imprisonment for either case, Castellano arranged for John Gotti to serve in his absence as acting boss in a triumvirate with Thomas Bilotti, and Thomas Gambino.

Gotti, meanwhile, began conspiring with fellow disgruntled Gambino family members Sammy Gravano, Frank DeCicco, Robert DiBernardo and Joseph Armone (a group collectively dubbed “the Fist”, by themselves) to overthrow Castellano, with Gambino insisting despite the boss’ inaction that Castellano would eventually try to kill him. The conspirators had the support of the bosses-in-waiting of the other families in the Commission case, as well as the complicity of Gambino consigliere Joseph N. Gallo.

After Dellacroce died of cancer on December 2, 1985, Castellano revised his succession plan, appointing Bilotti as underboss to Thomas Gambino as sole acting boss, while making plans to break up Gotti’s crew.

Infuriated by this (and Castellano’s refusal to attend Dellacroce’s wake), Gotti resolved to kill his boss.

DeCicco tipped Gotti off that he would be having a meeting with Castellano and several other Gambino mobsters at Sparks Steak House on December 16, 1985.

The evening of the meeting, when the boss and underboss arrived, they were ambushed and shot dead by assassins under Gotti’s command. Gotti allegedly watched the hit from his car, with Gravano.

Several days after the murder, Gotti was named head of a three-man committee (with Gallo and DeCicco) to temporarily run the family pending the election of a new boss. It was also announced that an internal investigation into Castellano’s murder was well underway.

However, it was an open secret that Gotti was acting boss in all but name, and nearly all of the family’s capos knew he’d been the one behind the hit.

He was formally acclaimed as the new boss of the Gambino family at a meeting of 20 capos held on January 15, 1986. He appointed his co-conspirator DeCicco as the new underboss, while retaining Gallo as consigliere.

A Public Face

At the time of Gotti’s takeover, the Gambino family was regarded as the most powerful American Mafia family, with an annual income of $500 million.

In the book “Underboss”, Gravano estimated that Gotti himself had an annual income of not less than $5 million during his years as boss, and more likely between $10 and $12 million.

To protect himself legally, Gotti banned members of the Gambino family from accepting plea bargains that acknowledged the existence of their organization.

Gotti maintained a genial public image in an attempt to play down press releases that depicted him as a ruthless mobster. He reportedly would offer coffee to FBI agents assigned to tail him.

“The Teflon Don”

Upon the revelation of his attacker’s occupation (and amid reports of intimidation by the Gambinos), the fridge mechanic Romual Piecyk decided not to testify against Gotti, and when the assault trial commenced in March 1986 he testified he was unable to remember who attacked him. The case was promptly dismissed, with the New York Daily News summarizing the proceedings with the headline “I Forgotti!”

On April 13, 1986, underboss Frank DeCicco was killed when his car was bombed following a visit to Castellano loyalist James Failla.

The bombing was allegedly carried out by Lucchese capos Victor Amuso and Anthony Casso, under orders from bosses Anthony Corallo and Vincent Gigante, to avenge Castellano and Bilotti by killing their successors.

Gotti had also planned to visit Failla that day, but canceled, and the bomb was detonated after a soldier who rode with DeCicco was mistaken for the boss.

Following the bombing, Judge Eugene Nickerson, presiding over Gotti’s racketeering trial, rescheduled to avoid a jury tainted by the resulting publicity, while Prosecutor Diane Giacalone had Gotti’s bail revoked due to evidence of intimidation in the Piecyk case.

Jury selection for the racketeering case began again in August 1986, with John Gotti standing trial alongside Gene Gotti, “Willie Boy” Johnson (who, despite being exposed as an informant, refused to turn state’s evidence), Leonard DiMaria, Tony Rampino, Nicholas Corozzo and John Carneglia.

At this point, the Gambinos were able to compromise the case when George Pape (a friend of Westies boss Bosko Radonjich) was called to serve on the jury. Through Radonjich, Pape contacted Gravano and agreed to sell his vote on the jury for $60,000.

Pape’s actions meant that Gotti entered the courtroom knowing that he was at least assured of a hung jury.

In the trial’s opening statements on September 25, Gotti’s defense attorney Bruce Cutler denied the existence of the Gambino Crime Family and framed the government’s entire effort as a personal vendetta. His main defense strategy during the prosecution was to attack the credibility of Giacalone’s witnesses by discussing the crimes they had committed before agreeing to testify.

According to mob writers Jerry Capeci and Gene Mustain, despite Cutler’s defense and critiques about the prosecution’s performance, when the jury’s deliberations began, a majority were in favor of convicting Gotti. Pape, however, held out for acquittal until the rest of the jury began to fear that their own safety would be compromised.

On March 13, 1987, they acquitted Gotti and his codefendants of all charges.

Five years later Pape was convicted of obstruction of justice for his part in the fix.

In the face of previous Mafia convictions – particularly the success of the Commission trial – Gotti’s acquittal was a major upset that further added to his reputation.

The American media dubbed him “The Teflon Don”, in reference to the failure of any charges to “stick.”

Cleaning House

While Gotti himself escaped conviction, his associates were not so lucky.

The other two men in the Gambino administration (underboss Armone and consigliere Gallo) had been indicted on racketeering charges in 1986, and were both convicted in December 1987. The heroin trial of Gotti’s former Bergin crewmembers Ruggiero and Gene Gotti also commenced in June of that year.

Prior to their convictions, Gotti allowed Gallo to retire and promoted Sammy Gravano in his place, while slating Frank Locascio to serve as acting underboss in the event of Armone’s imprisonment.

The Gambinos also worked to compromise the heroin trial’s jury, resulting in two mistrials.

When the terminally ill Ruggiero was released in 1989, Gotti refused to contact him, blaming him for the Gambino’s misfortunes. According to Gravano, Gotti also considered murdering Ruggiero and when he finally died “I literally had to drag him to the funeral.”

Beginning in January 1988, Gotti, against Gravano’s advice, required his capos to meet with him at the Ravenite Social Club once a week. This move allowed FBI surveillance to record and identify much of the Gambino hierarchy. The FBI also bugged the Ravenite, but failed to produce incriminating recordings of high quality.

1988 also saw Gotti, Gigante and the new Lucchese boss Victor Amuso attending the first Commission meeting since the Commission trial.

In 1986, future Lucchese underboss Anthony Casso had been injured in an unauthorized hit by Gambino capo Mickey Paradiso. The following year, the FBI warned Gotti they had recorded Genovese consigliere Louis Manna discussing another hit on John and Gene Gotti.

To avoid a war, the leaders of the three families met, denied knowledge of their violence against one another, and agreed to “communicate better.” The bosses also agreed to allow Colombo acting boss Victor Orena to join the Commission.

Gotti was able to take control of the New Jersey DeCavalcante crime family in 1988. The DeCavalcantes remained in the Gambino’s sphere of influence until John Gotti’s imprisonment.

Gotti’s son John Gotti Jr. was initiated into the Gambino family on Christmas Eve 1988. According to fellow mobster Michael DiLeonardo (initiated in the same night), Gravano held the ceremony to keep Gotti from being accused of nepotism.

John Jr. was promptly promoted to capo.

Arrest

On December 11, 1990, FBI agents and New York City detectives raided the Ravenite Social Club, arresting Gotti, Gravano and Frank Locascio.

Gotti was charged, in this new racketeering case, with five murders (Castellano and Bilotti, Robert DiBernardo, Liborio Milito and Louis Dibono) conspiracy to murder Gaetano “Corky” Vastola, loansharking, illegal gambling, obstruction of justice, bribery and tax evasion.

Based on tapes from FBI bugs played at pretrial hearings, the Gambino “administration” was denied bail, and attorneys Bruce Cutler and Gerald Shargel were both disqualified from defending Gotti after determining they had worked as “in-house counsel” for the Gambino organization. Gotti subsequently hired Albert Krieger, a Miami attorney who had worked with Joseph Bonanno, to replace Cutler.

The tapes also created a rift between Gotti and Gravano, revealing the Gambino boss describing his newly-appointed underboss as too greedy, and attempting to frame Gravano as the main force behind the murders of DiBernardo, Milito and Dibono.

Gravano opted to turn state’s evidence, formally agreeing to testify on November 13, 1991.

Trial

Gotti and Locascio were tried in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York before United States District Judge I. Leo Glasser.

Jury selection began in January 1992, with the empanelled jury being kept anonymous and – for the first time in a Brooklyn Federal case – fully sequestered during the trial, due to Gotti’s reputation for jury tampering.

The trial commenced with the prosecution’s opening statements on February 12.

Prosecutors Andrew Maloney and John Gleeson began their case by playing tapes of Gotti discussing Gambino family business, including murders he approved, and confirming the animosity between Gotti and Castellano to establish the former’s motive to kill his boss.

After calling an eyewitness who identified Gotti associate John Carneglia as one of the men who shot Bilotti, they then brought Gravano to testify on March 2.

On the stand Gravano confirmed Gotti’s place in the structure of the Gambino family, described in detail the conspiracy to assassinate Castellano, and gave a full description of the hit and its aftermath. Krieger, and Locasio’s attorney Anthony Cardinale, proved unable to shake Gravano during cross-examination.

After additional testimony and tapes, the government rested its case on March 24.

Conviction

Five of Krieger and Cardinale’s intended six witnesses were ruled irrelevant or extraneous, leaving only Gotti’s tax attorney Murray Appleman to testify on his behalf.

The defense also attempted unsuccessfully to have a mistrial declared, based on Maloney’s closing remarks. Gotti himself became increasingly hostile during the trial, and at one point Glasser threatened to remove him from the courtroom.

On April 2, 1992, after only 14 hours of deliberation, the jury found Gotti guilty on all charges of the indictment (Locasio was found guilty on all but one).

James Fox, director of the New York City FBI, announced at a press conference, “The Teflon is gone. The don is covered with Velcro, and all the charges stuck.”

On June 23, 1992, Glasser sentenced both defendants to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, and a $250,000 fine.

Incarceration and Death

Gotti was incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary at Marion, Illinois. He spent the majority of his sentence in effective solitary confinement, only allowed out of his cell for one hour a day. His final appeal was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1994.

Despite his imprisonment, and pressure from the Commission to stand down, Gotti is believed to have held on to his position as Gambino boss, with his brother Peter and his son John A. Gotti Jr. relaying orders on his behalf.

By 1998 (when he was indicted for racketeering), John Gotti Jr. was believed to be the acting boss of the family.

John Jr.’s indictment brought further stress to John Gotti’s marriage. Victoria DiGiorgio Gotti, up to that point unaware of her son’s involvement in the mob, blamed her husband for ruining her son’s life, and threatened to leave him unless he allowed John Jr. to leave the mob.

Against his father’s wishes, John Jr. pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six years and five months imprisonment in 1999. He maintains he has since left the Gambino family.

Peter Gotti subsequently became acting boss, and is believed to have formally succeeded his brother as boss shortly before John Gotti’s death.

In 1998 Gotti was diagnosed with throat cancer and sent to the United States Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri, for surgery.

While the tumor was removed, the cancer was discovered to have returned two years later and Gotti was transferred back to Springfield, where he spent the rest of his life.

Gotti’s condition rapidly declined, and he died on June 10, 2002, at the age of 61.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn announced that Gotti’s family would not be permitted to have a Requiem Mass, but allowed it after the burial.

Gotti’s funeral was held in a non-religious facility. After the service, an estimated 300 onlookers followed the procession (which passed Gotti’s Bergin Hunt and Fish Club) to the gravesite.

John Gotti’s body was interred in a crypt next to his son Frank Gotti.

Gotti’s brother Peter was unable to attend, owing to his incarceration.

The other New York crime families sent no representatives to the funeral.

What goes around comes around.

I’ll be around soon, for our next story.

Till then.

Peace.

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