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John Gotti's Obituary.

John Gotti 1940-2002

The King is Dead

     The King of the Volcano is dead, long live the King. John Gotti, the flamboyant mob boss who shot his way to the top of the Gambino Family died Monday, June 10 at the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners facility in Springfield, Missouri. Death came just 13 days before the tenth anniversary of receiving his life sentence.

     The colorful underworld leader, on whom the nicknames of "The Dapper Don" and "The Teflon Don," were bestowed, lost a battle with cancer of the neck, throat and head that was first diagnosed in 1998. Gotti was operated on at that time and doctors felt that they had successfully removed cancerous tumors that had developed in the throat of the jailed for life leader. In the fall of 2000 the cancer returned and last June rumors began spreading that Gottiís passing was imminent.

     Newspapers in New York all but buried the former leader of the Gambino Family - discussing funeral plans and where Gotti wanted to be buried in St. Johnís Cemetery next to his son Frank, who was killed in a tragic accident in 1980.

     The flamboyant mob boss had a legion of loyal fans. These Gottiphiles, as noted organized crime expert Jerry Capeci once dubbed them, created internet websites to honor their gang land hero. Gotti received thousands of cards and letters from admirers at the bleak federal prison which he entered in June 1992.

     In a Fox cable news show that aired last summer, when death was rumored to be imminent, a mob "expert" stated that Gotti was a throwback to the mobsters of the 1930s. Gotti was a throwback to nobody. He created his own style, his own class of mob boss. It was as if he wrote his own script on how a mob boss was to act, and then he filled the role. Historians claim that not since the days of Al Capone had there been such a dominant public figure in the underworld. Neither Capone nor any gangster since has captured the publicís attention in the manner that Gotti achieved - and he loved it. Gotti turned into a walking media event. His underworld contemporaries, as well as members of his own crime family, wished that he would have shunned the spotlight, but that was not Gottiís style. He considered the people that followed his every move his fans, and he chose to serve them. Autographs and quips to television reporters and newspaper people were only part of his persona. Another part was his attitude toward law enforcement, especially the FBI.

     His arrogance led to a concerted effort by the authorities to put him away for good. That effort was so intense that the government let Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano, an admitted participant in 19 murders, off with a slap on the wrist in return for his damning 1992 testimony.

     Despite the huge following Gotti had over the years, he would never be compared to the innovative mob leaders of the past, men such as Meyer Lansky, Frank Costello and Johnny Torrio. Gottiís rise to the top was through ruthlessness and charisma, not intelligence. Many in law enforcement considered him nothing short of a street thug. Famed New York City Police Detective Joseph Coffey once said Gotti had the IQ of a mothball. Gotti chastised his own crew members for being caught on listening devices, but in the end it was the words from his own mouth, captured on FBI bugs, that led to his downfall.

     Gottiís meteoric rise culminated with the sensational late afternoon murder of Gambino boss Paul Castellano and his underboss, Thomas Bilotti, on December 16, 1985. The shooting took place in the middle of rush hour and Christmas shopping pedestrian traffic in midtown Manhattan on 46th Street between Second and Third Avenues. From that day on Gotti was always in the headlines - and in trouble with the law.

     Between March 1986 and February 1990 Gotti was the defendant in three separate trials which ended in acquittals or the charges being dropped. At this point Gotti looked, and most likely believed, he was invincible. Over the years, however, it came to light that witness intimidation and the bribing of a juror caused the favorable results for the flamboyant mobster and several associates.

     In December 1990 Gotti was arrested for the last time in a massive RICO indictment. While awaiting trial his underboss, Gravano, became a government witness and, in a trial which ended in April 1992, Gotti was convicted of all charges and sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.

     Gotti was sent to the maximum security federal prison in Marion, Illinois. Despite being in lockdown for 22 to 23 hours each day Gotti was never far from the headlines. His son John A. Gotti, known to friends and associates as "Junior," served as the acting boss of the Gambino Family in his fatherís absence until his imprisonment in 1999. It was just recently announced that John Gottiís older brother, Peter, was promoted from acting boss to boss of the Gambino Family.

     John Gotti never lost his defiant attitude toward the government. Perhaps this was the reason he never was moved from his Marion jail cell into general population. Under normal circumstances prisoners are kept in this lockdown confinement for less than a year. This never bothered Gotti, it seemed to be part of the image he wanted to create - that the government was never going to bring him down. He stayed true to the code he created for himself and in the end Gotti cheated the government out of the long sentence that they felt he would have to endure. Gottiís life sentence lasted a mere ten years.

---Allan May June 10, 2002 11:07:31PM EST

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