Feature Articles

December 2009

Last Days of the Gotti Gang

Part Seventeen: Predictable Outcome of Latest Trial

By J. R. de Szigethy

     It should have come as a surprise to no one following the saga of John �Junior� Gotti when the Judge in his latest trial declared a Mistrial after the jury remained deadlocked after 11 days of deliberations.  Jurors were evenly divided in the charges involving racketeering, drug trafficking, and murders and thus, for the 4th time in 5 years, the son of the late Gambino crime family Godfather has escaped conviction in a trial prosecuted by the U. S. Attorney�s Office for the Southern District of New York.   Unlike the 3 previous trials, however, this trial was markedly different.

     The first three trials, which centered on the kidnapping and attempted murder of talk show host Curtis Sliwa, were something of a Media circus, with sensational claims of sexual escapades among members of the Gotti family making the front pages of New York newspapers.  The unsubstantiated claims about the sex lives of three of the Gottis - made by Prosecution Witnesses, and which had nothing at all to do with the charges against Junior Gotti, turned those trials into a Courtroom �reality show,� much to the delight of the publishers of local newspapers.  Thus, during the first three trials, the Courtroom was often packed beyond capacity, with both reporters and interested members of the public waiting outside for a chance to observe the spectacle.  During this trial, however, the Courtroom was often empty, faithfully attended only by a half-dozen reporters and an equal number of Gotti family and friends.  Probable reasons for this lack of public interest in the trial include:

  • The absence of headline-grabbing allegations of sexual misconduct as had occurred previously.  The only incident approaching this was when star witness John Alite backtracked from his claim in a previous Court proceeding that he had had an affair with his best friend Junior�s sister, author and reality show star Victoria Gotti. 

  • A series of sensational crime cases occurring during the first two weeks of the trial that stole the front pages from the Gottis.  These stories included the disappearance of a Yale student just days before her Wedding, later found murdered, and the arrests of several Islamic terrorists allegedly plotting to bomb strategic targets in New York City. 

  • The perception by some New Yorkers, noted in Media posts,(1) that the Mafia would find a way to bribe at least one of the anonymous jurors and thus assure Gotti would not be convicted.  This notion is based on a demonstrated history of jury tampering by the Gambino Family, which was referred to during Court testimony by Prosecution Witnesses.  

  • The perception by some New Yorkers, noted in Media posts,(1) that some members of the potential jury pool would fear for their personal safety should they be empanelled in the case.   Concerns in this regard were raised by at least one member of the jury, according to communications sent to the Judge, which were made public during the course of the trial. 

  • The perception by some New Yorkers, noted in Media posts,(1) that the evidence against Gotti in this trial was suspect, as was the credibility of those who would testify against him. 

         Thus, for a variety of reasons, including those noted above, many New Yorkers, regardless of their personal view of Junior Gotti, perceived that the outcome of this trial would be no different than the previous three. 

         The only exceptions to the public�s lack of interest in this trial came when there were two public outbursts inside Judge Kevin P. Castel�s Courtroom; In the first incident, Gotti got into a shouting match with John Alite, during which it was alleged that Gotti threatened to murder him.  (This was not substantiated by Court Officers.)  In the second incident, Gotti�s mother Victoria launched into a tirade against Judge Castel, accusing him of being biased towards the Prosecution in his various rulings during the trial.  These two incidents briefly put the trial at the center of the Media�s attention.  Also, at the beginning of the trial, Junior�s sister published a book, This Family of Mine, which detailed her version of the family�s history.  The CBS newsmagazine 48 Hours then aired a one-hour special focused on the book, including intimate interviews with members of the Gotti Family.  Cynics would point out that the publisher of the book, Simon & Schuster, is owned by Viacom, the parent company of CBS. 

         Gotti supporters could counter about alleged attempts to sway public opinion in this case by referring to the matter of the FBI report leaked to the Media at the start of the trial in which John Alite allegedly told the FBI that two decorated New York City Police Officers, Joe Coffey and Bo Dietl, had provided confidential law enforcement information to the Mafia.  The allegation regarding Coffey, one of the NYPD�s most decorated veterans, who personally arrested John Gotti on three occasions, was nothing more than alleged hearsay on the part of Alite.  Both Coffey and Dietl angrily denied the allegations and predicted the jury would not believe the career drug dealer and murderer.  

         With these sorts of sordid - and unsubstantiated stories - circulating in the Media - Judge Castel exercised his professional duties by repeatedly, at the end of each session, admonishing the jurors not to discuss the case with anyone and not to read or view Media accounts of the trial.  The jurors were instructed to only focus on the alleged evidence admitted in Court as to the case.  Judge Castel also skillfully maneuvered around a potential problem in the case when two of the jurors had some sort of personality conflict with each other, which made it�s way into the Media.  Mindful of �Reversible Error,� Judge Castel negated the problem - and the potential of a Mistrial over this situation- by exercising his Discretion to excuse both jurors from the panel. 

         Also receiving high marks for professionalism by Courtroom observers, including this reporter, was Prosecutor Jay Trezevant, whose orations before the Court received extra attention given that they were being made by a quadriplegic in a wheelchair.  The similarities and contrasts between the Defendant and the Prosecutor were compelling; two men, whose freedom of movement was constrained by events long ago during their youth; Trezevant, confined to the metal frame of a wheelchair due to a swimming accident; Gotti, trapped behind bars for over a year as he answered for the decision he made as a young man to follow his father in the family business.  In this trial, it was easy to feel sympathy for both the Prosecutor and his prey. 

         When the case ended as many had expected in a Mistrial, another Prosecutor, Elie Honig, made a sympathetic gesture towards Gotti, shaking his hand and wishing luck for him and his family.  The gesture was interpreted by some as an indication that the Feds will not take Gotti to trial a second time on the current charges. 


         John �Junior� Gotti did not �win� this case; he was not Acquitted of the charges, but rather released after the jury could not reach a unanimous Verdict.  Likewise, the Prosecutors in this case did not �lose� this case; half of the jurors agreed with the presentation the Prosecutors made to them.

         The real losers in this case are the American taxpayers; Federal trials with anonymous jurors are very expensive, and there are the additional costs of the money the Feds give to Witnesses such as Michael �Mikey Scars� DiLeonardo and John Alite.   Both men will some day be living next door to unsuspecting Americans under a new identity, compliments, once again, of the American taxpayer.

         As for John �Junior� Gotti, he stated in Media interviews that he intends to relocate his family far away from the city his father once ruled as a crime boss.  America, it would seem, has at long last seen the last days of the Gotti gang. 


    To be continued

    Related Features by this Author:

    Crime Scene - World Trade Center

    Last Days of the Gotti Gang
    Part Sixteen: Liar�s Poker

    Last Days of the Gotti Gang
    Part Fifteen: "Junior" Gotti Indicted! Again!

    Last Days of the Gotti Gang
    Part Fourteen: Heroin Chic

    Last Days of the Gotti Gang
    Part Thirteen: Partial Victory for Gotti and Sliwa

    Last Days of the Gotti Gang
    Part Twelve: Playing the 'Race Card?'

    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


    James Ridgway de Szigethy can be reached at:

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