Updated news on the Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Lucchese and Colombo Organized Crime Families of New York City.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

United States of America v. Junior Gotti

The past three trials of John "Junior" Gotti have ended in mistrials, but jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday in Manhattan federal court on a new case against the Gambino family scion that features some new charges, new witnesses, a new judge - and, prosecutors hope, a different result.

The charges against Gotti, 45, of Oyster Bay, include a sprawling racketeering conspiracy from 1983 to 2008 to engage in murder, drug-dealing, extortion, bribery and loan-sharking, and two substantive counts of conspiracy to murder George Grosso in 1988 and Bruce Gotterup in 1991 in connection with cocaine dealing in Queens.

Gotti is expected to rely, at least in part, on the same defense he used to deflect three federal racketeering cases that ended in mistrials in 2005 and 2006: that he withdrew from the mob by 1999, turned off by the deceit and treachery, and as a result the statute of limitations has run on racketeering charges that rely on his old mob activities.

Defense lawyers, in court papers, argue that the new case is a thinly veiled effort to retry the case the government couldn't win three years ago.

"Though at the previous three trials the prosecution was required to disprove Mr. Gotti's defense of withdrawal beyond a reasonable doubt, its successive failure to do so renders the repetition of its efforts here both questionable and disingenuous," Gotti lawyer Charles Carnesi said in a court filing this summer.

Prosecutors, however, may have reason to be hopeful. They say they have new evidence of recent Gotti involvement in mob activities, and the two murder charges - added to the indictment early last month - are not subject to the statute of limitations or the withdrawal defense.

A key witness on those charges is expected to be Mafia turncoat John Alite - a Gambino family associate and childhood friend of Gotti who did not testify in the earlier trials. Alite's first appearance as a witness came earlier this year in the Brooklyn federal court prosecution of alleged Gambino family hit man Charles Carneglia. Carneglia, who also claimed that he had withdrawn from the mob, was convicted.

Prosecutors also have signaled that they will use testimony from informant Joey D'Angelo, who was arrested with Gotti in 2005. D'Angelo, according to court papers, will testify that while he and Gotti were in jail, Gotti concocted the withdrawal defense - and even told D'Angelo that he had received clearance from other mob families to use the claim.

Court records indicate that U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel already has dismissed 226 prospective jurors of more than 400, based on questionnaires indicating bias, fear or claims that serving would be a hardship. Questioning of remaining jurors in person is set for Monday.

Gotti's success in court in recent years has almost lived up to the "Teflon Don" nickname his father, the late Gambino boss John J. Gotti, earned in the late 1980s for skating away from criminal charges.

The younger Gotti served six years in prison beginning in 1999 on mob-related charges, but in September 2005 a jury deadlocked on racketeering, kidnapping and extortion charges. Two retrials in 2006 ended with the same result.

U.S. District Judge Schira Scheindlin presided over those earlier trials.



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