Mob informant John Alite, in colorful testimony Wednesday, tied John "Junior" Gotti to a series of robberies and drug deals in Queens in the 1980s and told jurors that Gotti admitted that a man was hanged to cover up Gotti's role in a fatal stabbing at an Ozone Park bar.
Prosecutors contend that John Cennamo, whose 1984 hanging from a low tree limb behind a self-service laundry in St. Albans was officially classified a suicide, was killed by the Gambino family because he had fingered Gotti as a killer of Danny Silva. Silva was knifed to death during a 1983 fight at the Silver Fox Bar.
Alite, a top aide to Gotti during the 1980s, said the subject of Cennamo's death came up in the summer of 1984, when Alite was hospitalized at Jamaica Hospital with injuries from a brawl and Gotti came to visit.
Gotti went to a window overlooking the Van Wyck Expressway, he testified, and began "creeping around," acting like the "Grinch who stole Christmas." Pointing out the window, Gotti jeered, "Hey, look, he's hanging from a tree!" Alite said.
As Gotti continued his macabre comedy routine, he said, "Look, you can see him from here hanging. Let's help a little bit! ... OK, let's help you put that over there and that over there, and now jump!" Alite testified, gesturing around his neck and at an imaginary limb as he quoted Gotti.
He said Gotti told him he was talking about Cennamo.
"He said he [Cennamo] was a witness at the Silver Fox," Alite testified. "He said John Carneglia was sent to take care of it on his father's orders." Alite said that Gambino mobsters Angelo Ruggiero and "Willie Boy" Johnson also were on the team of killers.
Carneglia, who was convicted in 1989 of running a heroin distribution ring and is serving a 50-year prison sentence, was an enforcer for Gotti's late father, John J. Gotti, then a capo and later the notorious Gambino boss known as the "Dapper Don."
Cennamo died in May 1984 - 14 months after identifying Gotti as one of the killers of Silva. The defense says it was a suicide, and prosecution witnesses have acknowledged that Cennamo's family and friends told investigators at the time that he was depressed over the loss of a job and a girlfriend.
Gotti is being tried on racketeering charges for the fourth time in five years and is separately charged with two drug-related murders. Three previous racketeering trials in 2005 and 2006 ended in hung juries, after Gotti's lawyers admitted that he once was a mobster but that he withdrew from the Gambino family and has engaged in no racketeering activities since the 1990s.
Prosecutors have to prove that Gotti engaged in racketeering in the last five years to bring the charge within the statute of limitations. While Alite and other new witnesses have described extensive criminal activities in the 1980s, none yet has described more recent behavior.
In addition to the details about Cennamo's death, Alite on Wednesday also described Gotti's role in the gunpoint robbery of a drug dealer. Alite also testified that Gotti helped with the drive-by shooting of some Jamaican marijuana dealers and demanded payoffs from Queens drug dealers in return for protection.
Alite has said he can link Gotti to six killings in addition to that of Cennamo.