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March 2003

The 'On The Waterfront' Trials

Part Two: Three Members of the Gotti Family are Convicted

By James Ridgway de Szigethy


     A half-century after Marlon Brando’s electrifying performance in a movie that exposed to America the pervasive Mafia corruption inside labor Unions, the Feds in Brooklyn have won a victory in a trial that involved the Union that inspired the movie classic ‘On the Waterfront.’ Alleged Gambino Family acting Boss Peter Gotti, his brother Richard V. and nephew Richard G. Gotti were convicted on racketeering and money laundering charges regarding their control of Local 1814 of the Longshoreman’s Union. Peter is the brother of the late John Gotti, who, along with Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, took over the Gambino Family with the sensational execution of Godfather Paul Castellano. Jurors in the Federal trial also convicted Gambino capo "Sonny" Ciccone and three of his associates.

     This trial will be remembered for the complexity of the charges, the trial Judge who was openly hostile to the Prosecution’s case, and the testimony of reluctant Prosecution Witness Steven Seagal, the action star renown for his roles as the good guy who single-handedly takes on the bad guys. The guilty verdicts must seem a vindication to Seagal, who had his reputation smeared by several Media outlets in the months leading up to the trial, with many reporters predicting Seagal would not come across as a credible witness. Three journalists for the New York Post, which normally is considered a pro-law enforcement publication, offered nothing but derogatory reports on Seagal, including Post columnist Victoria Gotti, the best-selling author who is the daughter of John Gotti and the niece of two of the accused.

     As a Prosecution Witness Seagal described how associates of the Gambino Family threatened him and tried to extort money from him. Under cross-examination, Seagal held his own and assertively handled the questions from the criminal attorneys who were determined to discredit him. Seagal’s appearance in Court did not quite become the Media circus many expected it to be only because during his days on the Witness stand New York City was under the highest level of alert for terrorist attacks issued by the Department of Homeland Security, and thus attention by many members of the Media was diverted to covering that story. On any typical ‘slow news day’ the appearance of a movie star as a Witness in a Mafia trial would have been front-page material.

     Seagal still has to testify in a second part to this trial this year, in which he will make allegations against Julius Nasso, the former Producer of his films ‘Marked for Death,’ ‘Out for Justice,’ ‘Under Siege 2,’ and ‘Fire Down Below.’ Prior to his indictment along with the Gotti family members in this case, Nasso had filed a $60 million lawsuit against his former partner Seagal alleging Seagal backed out of a deal to Produce 4 more movies with him.

     Another Witness in the Gotti trial was "Little Joe" Defede, a former Acting Boss of the Luchese Mafia Family who is now a member of the Witness Protection Program. Defede claimed that on several occasions he attended sitdowns at which Peter Gotti represented the interests of the Gambino Family, but only as a ‘capo.’ Criminal attorney Gerald Shargel’s getting Defede to admit that he only knew Gotti as a capo and NOT the Acting Boss may have only served to re-enforce in the juror’s minds that Gotti was in fact a member of an organized crime family.

     Also testifying for the Feds was former Local 1814 ILU President "Red" Scollo, an original Defendant in the case who pleaded guilty. Under Scollo’s leadership Local 1814 was crippled by a Strike against the British company that owns the Dominos Sugar Plant in Brooklyn where the Union workers were employed. After 18 months ‘On Strike’ the members of Local 1814, realizing their own Union had victimized them, one by one crossed the picket lines and returned to work. One member committed suicide. The hopelessness and despair that was evident on the part of the Local 1814 Workers mirrored the plight of the Workers depicted in the 1954 movie classic.

     Another allusion to Hollywood in the Gotti trial came with the testimony of Genovese Family associate George Barone, who revealed the Mafia’s influence in the Waterfront Unions goes back many decades. Barone grew up on Manhattan’s West Side and in his youth joined a gang known as the "Jets," which were the inspiration for the Broadway Musical "West Side Story," later adapted into an acclaimed motion picture. Barone later took control of a waterfront Union in Manhattan and was arrested for a brutal beating he gave to a fellow Longshoreman who dared to challenge the Union’s autocratic rule. The Waterfront Commission eventually revoked Barone’s right to work in New York and Barone then fled to Miami, where he helped found Local 1922 of the International Longshoreman’s Union. Barone was convicted on labor racketeering charges involving Local 1922 and spent several years in prison. After his release, Barone allegedly ran afoul of Andrew Gigante, the son of Genovese Family Godfather Vincent "Chin" Gigante, who ran his own company in Florida that dealt with the ILU.

     In the Gotti trial Barone admitted in Court to having participated in several murders. Barone is expected to testify in the upcoming ‘On the Waterfront’ trial of Vincent Gigante, his son Andrew, and several associates in regards to allegations involving Mafia crimes committed with several Locals of the Longshoreman’s Union. That trial has been thrown into chaos due to a recent ruling by the U. S. Supreme Court that rejected Prosecutor’s invocation of the racketeering statues in a case against anti-abortion protesters, a ruling that now affects all cases involving racketeering. The ruling prompted Federal Judge Leo Glasser to throw out 2 of the extortion charges against Gigante just as jury selection was to being in that case. Gigante is being represented by criminal attorney Benjamin Brafman, who previously has represented Sammy "The Bull" Gravano and nightclub owner Peter Gatien. The Feds hope that a tape of Gigante speaking on the phone to one of his sons on 9/11 will prove that Gigante is sane and thus was feigning mental illness to escape prosecution for many years by ‘acting’ crazy, which included wandering around the streets of Manhattan wearing his bathrobe.

To be continued

J. R. de Szigethy
New York

Related Stories:

THE ‘ON THE WATERFRONT’ TRIALS
Part One: The First Trial Begins in Brooklyn Federal Court
http://www.americanmafia.com/Feature_Articles_244.html

Reporter’s note: This series referenced information published by Tim Dirks of Greatest Films, (www.filmsite.org) which is regarded by numerous movie critics and members of the Media as the best source of Motion Picture reviews, information, and film history. Three movies mentioned in this series, ‘On the Waterfront,’ The Godfather,’ and ‘West Side Story’ appear on Dirks’ list of the 100 Greatest Films ever made.

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James Ridgway de Szigethy can be reached at JAMESDE@prodigy.net.


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