Feature Articles

August 2006

Last Days of the Gotti Gang

Part Twelve: Playing the 'Race Card?'

By J. R. de Szigethy

     In the first Federal trial of John "Junior" Gotti last year, in which the son of the late Gambino Family Godfather was accused of ordering the kidnapping of radio talk show personality Curtis Sliwa, Federal Prosecutors played the case pretty much by the book; the result was a jury hung 11-1 to convict Gotti on those charges.

     The second trial earlier this year was very different, with the Prosecution playing the �sex card� with the allegation by their star witness "Mikey Scars" DiLenoardo that Gotti�s father fathered a �love child.� The allegations created a Media circus, with a defiant Mrs. John Gotti, Junior�s mother, breaking her silence and defending her family. Many observers to this saga predicted a backlash might have been created within the jury, as most Americans believe the government has no business poking around in people�s bedrooms - even John Gotti�s. Jurors in the second trial were deadlocked 8-4 for acquittal.

     Now, in the third trial, Federal Prosecutors have introduced a new "witness," whom, some observers believe, has introduced a �race card� into the case, with unpredictable results. That person is Glen West, a crack and heroin dealer, kidnapper, and bank robber who is a self-confessed member of a neo-Nazi group called the �Aryan Brotherhood.� West claimed he befriended Godfather Gotti in prison and that Gotti hired the Aryan Brotherhood for protection from fellow inmates. West also alleged - without much evidence to back up his claim - that Gotti and his son arranged an interest-free loan to West so that he could participate in a drug deal. West also alleged that Gotti offered $1 million to the Aryan Brotherhood if they could find and kill Gambino turncoat Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, as well as an offer of $100,000 to kill the one inmate who had the insanity to assault Gotti during his years of incarceration.

     The notion that John Gotti needed protection from fellow inmates was laughable to many New Yorkers following this case. Whether or not the attempt to paint Gotti and his son Junior as racists will influence the jury in this case - one way or the other - remains to be seen.

     Ironically, if there was one group of criminals in the United States who could have tracked down and killed Sammy Gravano, that group is the neo-Nazis, a coalition of young, angry white men whose violence is often fueled by the drugs crack, heroin, and crystal meth. During the last half of the 1990s, Sammy Gravano teamed up with a group of neo-Nazis who called themselves the "Devil Dogs." With Sammy providing his know-how, the criminal enterprise - which included Gravano�s young son and daughter - trafficked drugs, mostly the Club drug Ecstasy, but also crystal meth and anabolic steroids as well, throughout the States of Arizona, New Mexico, and Ohio. Somehow, the FBI failed to notice what their prize Witness was up to, but agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration brought the drug gang down - including Gravano - in the year 2000.

     Federal Prosecutors in Junior Gotti�s trial also introduced a new piece of evidence this third time around - a tape of the Richard Bey talk show from 1992 in which Curtis Sliwa is shown criticizing the Gambino Family in general and Gotti in particular. Sliwa appeared with Bruce Cutler, Gotti�s criminal lawyer, and Lou Eppolito, who was promoting his new book "Mafia Cop." Sliwa�s appearance on the program occurred just two weeks before he was kidnapped in a stolen cab and shot by associates of Junior Gotti�s.

     Eppolito�s book detailed how his father and uncle were members of the Gambino Mafia Family. One critical part of the book deals with the 1979 murders of Eppolito�s Uncle Jimmy "The Clam" and his son Jim-Jim. Gambino Family Godfather Paul Castellano had ordered the murders after Jim-Jim embarrassed the Family by involving then-First Lady Roslyn Carter in a charity scam. From that moment on, Eppolito wanted Godfather Castellano dead.

     Eppolito got his wish 6 years later, when John Gotti and his crew took out Castellano in a brazen public execution outside Sparks Steak House in Manhattan. Gotti was eventually convicted of that and other murders after a Federal Judge removed Bruce Cutler from his representation of Gotti and after Sammy Gravano agreed to become a Prosecution Witness.

     Retired NYPD Detective Lou Eppolito and his "Partner in Crime" Stephen Caracappa were arrested in 2005 for the commission of several Mafia murders, as well as a count of trafficking the drug �crystal meth,� among other charges. One of the murders charged was that of Bobby Boriello, who was gunned down in 1991. Boriello had been the driver for John Gotti and then his son Junior after the Godfather went to prison. Boriello�s widow came to Court during Junior�s trial to offer her moral support to the Gotti family. After her husband�s murder, Mrs. Boriello turned to Mikey Scars DiLeonardo for assistance raising her two sons, only to be rebuffed, whereas Junior Gotti provided both financial and emotional support to the Boriello family.

     Although the Boriello murder count was later dropped before trial, Eppolito and Caracappa were eventually convicted of all the murders in their Federal trial this year. One such was the November, 1990 murder of heroin dealer and Gambino hitman Eddie Lino, one of the triggermen in the murder of Castellano. The Mafia Cops pulled off the daring public execution of Lino by pulling his car over on the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn after flashing their NYPD Badges. Motive for the murder was said to be the substantial cash offered to them by Luchese Family Underboss Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso.

     Prior to the Mafia Cops trial, Federal Judge Jack Weinstein warned Eppolito in a Hearing that his choice of Bruce Cutler as his Defense Attorney might present an unknown �conflict of interest,� given that Cutler had previously represented Gotti and other members of the Gambino Family. Judge Weinstein was very specific and took great effort to make certain Eppolito understood the potential for conflict that could in theory prevent Cutler from mounting the most effective Defense possible. Cutler himself volunteered that his client John Gotti had once told him that there were only three men in his entire life that he truly respected, and that one of those men was Lou Eppolito. Eppolito Waived his rights in this regard, but would later claim that Cutler failed to adequately represent him after the jury convicted both Mafia Cops of all charges.

     In a Hearing for a new trial, Judge Weinstein ruled that Cutler�s Defense was adequate, yet then stunned New Yorkers by throwing out all of the murder convictions on the issue of Federal Statute of Limitations regarding a �racketeering enterprise.� The Mafia Cops are currently being held Without Bail while awaiting retrial on the drug trafficking charge.

     In a letter to Judge Weinstein that was made public at the beginning of her son�s third trial, Junior Gotti�s mother Victoria Gotti praised Weinstein�s decision. The Statute of Limitations issue is also a key matter in Junior Gotti�s case; Junior admits he was part of the Gambino Family at one time - but withdrew from the Family after pleading guilty to income tax charges in 1999, and thus Federal racketeering charges are not valid.

     The Judge in Gotti�s trial, Shira Scheindlin, has also expressed her concerns over the Statute of Limitations issue and has also made it clear that the Feds cannot keep re-trying Junior Gotti indefinitely. Should the jury in this third trial again be deadlocked, that will have the same result as acquittal, as Scheindlin would likely throw out the case. Should that occur, Junior Gotti is expected to take his wife and six children and leave New York for a new life in another State, far from the criminals he now regrets having once been associated with.

     Should, however, the jury in this trial convict Junior Gotti on the charges regarding the assault and near-murder of Curtis Sliwa, that will not only mark the end of Junior�s freedom and second chance at life, but it will also mark the last day of the Gotti Gang.

To be continued

Related Features

Last Days of the Gotti Gang
Part Eleven: First Amendment Under Siege

Last Days of the Gotti Gang
Part Ten: Mis-Trial and Error

Last Days of the Gotti Gang
Part Nine: The Three Victims

Last Days of the Gotti Gang
Part Eight: A Father�s Sins

Last Days of the Gotti Gang
Part Seven: �Plan B; to �Get Gotti�

Last Days of the Gotti Gang
Part Six: Homecoming for Junior Gotti

Last Days of the Gotti Gang
Part Five: Junior�s Trial Intersects �Mafia Cops� Trial

Last Days of the Gotti Gang
Part Four: Curtis Sliwa Gets His Day In Court

Last Days of the Gotti Gang
Part Three: "Dirty Dozen" Trial of Junior Gotti Begins

Last Days of the Gotti Gang:
Part Two: Peter Gotti Convicted, Junior Awaits Trial

Last Days of the Gotti Gang
Part One: The Two Godfathers vs. the Two Ladies

Ends of Evil: The Final Days of Sammy "The Bull" Gravano


James Ridgway de Szigethy can be reached at:

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