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

Friday, January 15, 2010

Could This Be the End of the Celebrity Mobster?

John GottiJohn Gotti Sr. via Wikipedia
Predicting the demise of the Mafia is like predicting the demise of the “Rocky” franchise: Every time you think you have finally heard the last of it, it rears its ugly head.
That said, with the announcement on Wednesday that the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan would — really, this time — give up chasing John A. Gotti, the former boss of the Gambino family, after four failed tries in court, it could be argued that the mob’s celebrity era, its Great Man phase, has ended.
Mr. Gotti, from the moment he was sworn in to the mob in 1988, was not just a gangster but a boldface name. He was Junior, the son of John J. Gotti, the famous Teflon Don. As such, he was newspaper fodder: In the last 10 years alone, his name appeared 604 times in The New York Post.
But those days are over, if only because there aren’t any marquee names on the horizon. Thought experiment: Beyond Mr. Gotti, try to name a single current member of the mob.
“I probably couldn’t name one myself anymore,” said James Walden, a former federal prosecutor who specialized in mob cases. “Junior Gotti took the celebrity gangster role to such an extreme that, from a practical perspective, it reinforced to many mobsters why you shouldn’t be a peacock.”
FBI surveillance photograph of Anthony Casso i...Anthony Casso via Wikipedia

The death of such peacocks, Mr. Walden said, is due in part to the perseverance of law-enforcement agencies like the prosecutor’s office in Manhattan, which, working with techniques and technologies from racketeering statutes to sophisticated listening devices, have seriously culled the ranks of the mob. Culture, too, plays a role: Cooperating witnesses have proliferated as tenets like omerta, the Mafia code of silence, have eroded.
Mostly, though, times — and the interests of the news media, which partly created the Gotti myth — have simply changed. Today’s existential threat is not La Cosa Nostra, but terrorism — or, some might suggest, Goldman Sachs.
This end-of-an-era theme was inherent in Mr. Gotti’s trial itself, which resulted in a hung jury in December after 11 days of pained deliberations over his charges of racketeering and murder conspiracy. Mr. Gotti, looking less like a wiseguy from Queens than a NASA scientist from the Mercury era, confessed, for example, that the Mafia did exist.
He also presented the jury with an emotional defense that rested heavily on his fraught relations with his father. It was, in its sentimental and psychologically revealing way, the perfect culmination of — and conclusion to — the Mafia’s Me Generation.
The mob has been through shifts like this before and, if one had to, one could sketch a timeline of rough historical periods.
It would begin with the immigrant cohort of Charles Luciano (1897-1962) and Carlo Gambino (1902-1976), Italian natives who brought the old ways with them to New York. Joined by American-born counterparts like Carmine Galante (1910-1979) and Paul Castellano (1915-1985), this was “The Godfather” generation: European in their outlook, stoic in their manner and, more or less, unflashy in their dress.
They were supplanted by what might be called the rock ’n’ roll generation whose archetypal member was the elder Mr. Gotti (1940-2002). Men like this — Anthony Casso (also born in 1940), Angelo Ruggiero (1941-1989) and William Cutolo (1949-1999) — were well known for their unruliness and rebellion. They were the “Goodfellas” bracket: gaudy, brutal, dismissive of authority within the organization.
It is no surprise that the generation of the younger Mr. Gotti was the first to have its own TV show (“Growing Up Gotti”). Also no surprise: Its domestic foibles were the bread and butter of “The Sopranos.”
Indeed, Mr. Gotti was on the phone trading recipes with his lawyer, Charles Carnesi, when word arrived on Wednesday that the prosecution was over. “I was home sick,” Mr. Carnesi said. “He was telling me how he makes soup, I was telling him how my mother makes it. Someone buzzed in during the conversation, but I didn’t take the call.”
In recent years, there have been cases of Mafiosi accused of Medicare fraud and crimes related to Internet pornography, suggesting that a Web-savvy 2.0 generation may be on the make. Will they make the crossover from the underworld to the media?
Robert Henoch, another former prosecutor who worked on Mafia cases, does not think so.
“It’s much less glamorous than it was before,” he said. “If you’re sort of ridiculed in the press, as gangsters are these days, as opposed to how Dillinger and the first John Gotti were treated, it’s a little less” — and here he paused — “appealing.”
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]


Post a Comment