This was the fourth time in the last four years that prosecutors have brought a case against him, this time for murder and racketeering, and just like the previous three trials in the ornate federal courthouse in lower Manhattan, a jury of 12 ordinary citizens have not been able to decide if he is guilty of the crimes charged.
“They have exhibited strength, intelligence, compassion and truthfulness and should be doubly commended for standing tall and firm for their beliefs and disbeliefs,” Victoria Gotti, John’s sister, told Fox News, acknowledging the proceedings have been a “difficult and exhausting trial.” That slow journey will continue after the Thanksgiving holiday, with the jurors returning for more deliberations next week.
The jury announced it was deadlocked, just as the last three juries have since 2005, potentially handing federal prosecutions a stalemate. The U.S. government has so far been unable to convince 48 people that Gotti continued to follow his father’s line of work. He has said he quit, in 1999, when he plead guilty to racketeering charges and went away for six years. At the time he said he thought that plea, and the sentence, would wipe the slate clean, but he was slapped with new charges when he left prison four years ago.
Prosecutors have ridiculed the claim that he quit.
“This defendant has lived the Mafia life,” declared Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Trezevant, “and he never, never quit that life.” They say the claim was concocted as a legal strategy and tried to show you just can’t give the mob walking papers.
They presented the testimony of Bonanno Family Capo Dominick Cicale, who said you can only leave the Mafia by cooperating with the federal government or by dying.
But others have walked away and lived to tell about it.
he most noted examples were the founder of the Bonanno crime family, the late Joseph Bonanno, and his son, Salvatore “Bill” Bonanno. Bill told Fox News in 2006 that he thought John Gotti Jr. had indeed left what they call “the life,” in 1999, seeing what the world glamorized by “The Godfather” had really become.
In his book, “A Man of Honor,” Bonanno wrote: “The world I grew up in is gone and what is left is in ruins. The Mafia stories continue, however, regardless of the emptiness behind them.”
Bonanno wrote those words in 1999, not only the same year Gotti, Jr. claims he dropped out, but the year that the “The Sopranos” debuted on HBO, giving America a new, fictional mob fascination.
“The Sopranos” ended with the famous, and controversial, black-out scene. No Tony in handcuffs, no Tony walking away. Just Tony eating with his family. We think he’s still out hustling in New Jersey and then dining at the Vesuvio with Carm.
But in real life, organized crime careers have voluntarily ended with the finality viewers were denied by “The Sopranos” nebulous ending.
“You can quit the mob, I’ve done it,” former Columbo crime family Capo Michael Franzese told Fox News.
The 58-year-old Franzese is the son of John “Sonny” Franzese, “a kingpin of the Columbo crime family,” as Michael’s Web site, MichaelFranzese.com, puts it. But after being released from prison, he became a born-again Christian, motivational speaker, producer and author. His latest book, “I’ll Make You An Offer You Can’t Refuse,” applies what he learned in the mob to the business world - legally.
“You’ve got to be crazy to stay in the life,” says Franzese. “Like me, John wasn’t destined for this life and neither was I. I was going to school to become a doctor. I question my own self at times. I did this for my dad. At one point I wanted him to be proud of me, and I think John shares a similar feeling like that. So we got into it for one reason and realized what it was all about, and maybe had second thoughts.”
The most intriguing, and surprising evidence of precedent for departing the ranks of wise-guys and not being stuffed in a barrel and dumped in the ocean, was a 1985 F.B.I. wiretap of Aniello Dellacroce. The then 71-year-old mob patriarch suffered from terminal cancer, and as the reputed underboss of the Gambino Crime Family at the time, he actually explained how the Gambinos had kicked someone out.
Dellacroce, who was the mentor of John Gotti Jr.’s father, was secretly recorded talking about a dismissed crime family member on June 9, 1985, in his home on Staten Island, New York, six months before he died.
“We threw him out of the Family,” Dellacroce explained.
“So, youse knocked him down,” responded a listener, meaning the man in question was demoted.
“No,”responded Delleacroce. “He’s out of the family.”
“He’s out?” asked his friend, incredulously.
“Yeah,” said Dellacroce. “We threw him out. Out.”
“You threw him out?”
“Out. He don’t belong in the Family no more. Any friend
f yours, any, any friend of ours in the street…that you see…you tell them. This guy, he ain’t in the family no more. You don’t have nothin’ to do with him. That’s it.”
Four days later, another FBI wiretap heard the group discussing their lawyers, and their visit to one lawyer’s office.
“My God, what a layout he’s got. They got more customers… Michael Franzese was there,” noted one speaker, impressively.
During that tape, they resumed discussing the banished former Gambino.
“This guy is out, We threw him out,” the group was reminded and then they start arguing about that possibility.
“I heard (this guy) was just taken down, he wasn’t thrown out.” said one.
“This guy was thrown out. Ya understand?” Dellacroce snapped. “Nobody’s gonna bother with him…I wouldn’t bother with him and nobody else would…I’ll explain to him a little better this time…Maybe he didn’t get the message right… Threw him out, that’s, that’s right. We threw him out…They don’t understand English,” said Dellacroce, trying to finally get his message through.
Even Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, who later served as the Gambino Underboss, quit by agreeing to testify against the senior Gotti in 1992. Gravano wrote in his book, “Underboss,” that he when he walked in to meet Gotti’s prosecutor, he declared: “I want to switch governments,” meaning from the Gambinos to Uncle Sam. He later was caught running a drug ring in Phoenix after he served five years for 19 murders, and is now back in prison.
The current, active members of Cosa Nostra may not agree, but history shows that even their leaders, at the highest levels — including the bosses of two crime families- have walked away. And now a jury, once again, is trying to determine if John Gotti, Jr. did just that.
“I can tell you, unmistakably, that he has left that life,” John’s sister, Victoria, told Fox News. “We’re not talking about a guy that is being paraded out there and there are videotapes or audio tapes of John with present day mob members,” she notes, indirectly alluding to the avalanche of wiretaps and surveillance videos the Feds used as evidence against her father.
“John is no part of that life anymore,” she adds. “I believe they know that deep in their hearts and in their brains.”
Meanwhile, John Gotti, Jr. waits for a verdict — if there is one.