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

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

How brother 'Junior' got made & unmade

MY BROTHER John stood, Christmas Eve 1988, dressed in his best suit, wearing a red tie for luck, in a dimly lit apartment on Mulberry Street in Manhattan.
More than a dozen others, hard men in expensive suits, stood with him. They were the elder statesmen of organized crime, come to take part in this time-honored ceremony. They had come to welcome the new blood into the organization.
John was to be inducted into the family, La Cosa Nostra, or whatever the media and the government calls it. We referred to it as the life.
He was handed a picture to hold in the palm of his hands -- a picture of a saint -- that had received a drop of blood from his father's finger, pricked by a knife. The picture was burned while an oath of loyalty was recited. John pledged that he would hope to burn like the picture if he were ever to betray La Cosa Nostra.
My father was not in attendance, to avoid an overtone of nepotism to the proceedings and to avoid possible bad luck. The underboss of the Gambino family at the time, Salvatore Gravano, presided over the ceremony. John later told me he had been proposed for induction by the family consigliere, Frank "Frankie Loc" Locascio. Others who were present were James "Jimmy Brown" Failla, Joseph Arcuri, "Frankie Dap" Dapalito and Joseph "Joe Butch" Corrao.
John was the youngest member at the time to be inducted, and with that, of course, would come the jealousy and unfavorable commentary. Already, the plotting would begin.
During the initiation, my brother told me he was told, "This is your new family; we come first, before your blood family. If we call you, you come in when we call you. Even if you have to kill your own brother, this is what it is."
But John was blissfully ignorant of the future on that Christmas Eve. He sat at a huge round table with about 10 other men of honor. John later told me, "I swear, I did think about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. I was that impressed."
My mother had no idea at the time that my brother had just been granted formal entry into the family -- and neither did I.
JOHN rose rapidly, becoming a capo in 1990. One Satur day in April 1991, John was with his first soldier and best friend, Bobby Borriello, at the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club in Ozone Park, Queens. Bobby and John were trading zingers back and forth, discussing a little family business, eating and drinking.
Bobby left the club at about 7 p.m., taking a jar of homemade pasta sauce to bring back to his family. John was next door at the jeweler's, contemplating an anniversary gift for his wife, when he was told he had a phone call. It was Susan, Bobby's wife, screaming that Bobby had been shot. He was lying in a pool of blood on the driveway of his home, riddled with bullets.
A car full of men had followed him home, someone fired a shot, hit him, and he managed to throw the jar of sauce he was carrying at one of his assailants. Nine more shots followed; six more hit him. His wife and his 2-year-old child witnessed the killing from the house.
John later told me, "He was pronounced dead at the scene. A wife widowed, his two children fatherless, and Bobby, at the prime of his life at age 47, dead. My best man, my dear friend, dead."
After some time, it came to light that Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, who had been at John's wedding with Bobby and toasted his good fortune with him, had ordered the hit. Gaspipe, onetime underboss of the Lucchese family, may have thought Bobby was behind an attempted hit on him, one that unfortunately failed. Or maybe he had Bobby killed to try to weaken the family, maybe as a prelude to killing my brother John.
All I know is that my brother saw the life in a whole new light that day. John told me then -- even as far back as 1991 -- that he "wanted out." He said he didn't have the treachery it took to survive or the stomach to withstand the ugliness of "the betrayal" that went with it. It was definitely the beginning of the end for John as far as the mob was concerned.
MANY mob watchers, in cluding the FBI, predicted a war when Dad went to jail in 1992. But because he had so many supporters -- men who really respected him, mostly the old-timers -- there wasn't. In a matter of months, my brother John was put in position of "acting boss" by Dad and with the support of the elders on the Commission -- the elders wanted my father, John Gotti, to hold on to the reins of the family.
On one of our visits to my father, John and I took our assigned seats behind cubicle No. 6 at the federal penitentiary in Marion, Ill., and waited for Dad to come down. This time, there was no smile or confident grin. The impromptu visit had to do with a recent newspaper headline and rumors about a possible hit put out on my brother by rival mobsters.
Dad insisted that the FBI had instigated the rumors and deliberately leaked them. He believed it was an attempt to "stir him up."
The FBI even leaked the name of the man who supposedly wanted my brother dead, Danny Marino. People speculated that Marino, a high-ranking Gambino captain, was still seeking revenge for Paul Castellano's death and resented having to answer to "a kid."
After we heard the chilling threats against my brother, Mom wrote Dad a missive filled with hate and anger. She let my father know that if "anything happened to John, she would never forgive him." She wrote of the pain of losing Frankie Boy and the "hole in her heart" that will never mend. She reminded Dad of his earlier promises to her to always keep John safe and protected -- and she let Dad know if he didn't release my brother from the life, she intended to turn her back on him forever.
As for John, he told me that he'd made "a big mistake" when he chose to be a part of our father's world. Without Dad out on the streets, John believed the usually loyal, dedicated and regimented men were replaced by "a bunch of Indians running amok -- a bunch of Indians all vying to be the chief." Meanwhile, the Organized Crime Task Force was expected to arrest my brother any day for acting in a supervisory role in the Gambino crime family. My father left the visiting cubicle with one word of advice for my brother: "Fight!"
On Jan. 19, 1996, the entire Gotti family gathered at John's house for a formal dinner. Rumor had it John would be arrested the next morning.
He'd made me promise I would help his wife and keep his kids safe. He also asked me to hem a pair of jogging pants for him to wear when he was arrested. At midnight, as I was walking out, actor Mickey Rourke was walking in. Mickey was a loyal friend of John's and wanted to offer his help. The two men retired to John's home office and had a few glasses of brandy in private.
The next morning, at exactly 5:30, FBI agents swarmed down on my brother's Mill Neck estate on Long Island. They stormed the front gates and surrounded the sides and back of the house. Camera crews and photographers gathered outside. John was one step ahead of them. He was staying in a comfortable room in a nearby hotel in East Norwich on Long Island. When his wife called him early that morning and told him about the raid, John immediately contacted his attorney and the two headed down to FBI headquarters.
OVER time, prosecutors kept "sweetening" a possible plea deal. John's lawyers went back and forth. Finally, a deal was offered that my brother believed he could live with.
I understood. My father did not.
So the plea that had taken months of negotiation between John's lawyers and the prosecutors had unraveled. John would never do anything without Dad's approval.
The prosecutors came back with another offer: five years and complete closure. It wasn't the shorter time in jail that attracted John. It was the "closure" clause. John wanted to put his legal troubles and his position in the life behind him.
Higher-ups in the life refused to accept John's resignation. John told me, "Vicki, I'm not Daddy. He's the last of his kind. He lived for that life, that world. It was his mission in life, to honor and support his men. It's not who I am."
Before accepting the plea package, John requested a visit with Dad. It would be a "contact" visit. John was looking forward to hugging Dad after nearly 10 years of incarceration.
John would tell me later that Dad understood his decision. But Dad tried his best to convince John the plea deal "reeked." He swore once they got their hands on John and put him in jail, they would never let him out.
Dad also let John know that taking pleas in the life was "not acceptable." Men were expected to stand tall. He told John, "Listen to me, son, you will never get out of prison if you accept this deal. The FBI will never leave you alone. The only way to beat these motherf- - -ers is to fight them. Do you understand me?"
The visit ended with Dad telling John, "Do whatever you want to do. I would never tell you what to do, how to live your life. But I will give you advice and tell you this deal is wrong."
What John remembers most was the hug at the end of the visit. "I knew it meant so much more to him. After not having any human contact for 10 years with anyone, it must have felt exhilarating."
John returned home with a heavy heart. He had a major decision to make. John took the deal, and a few weeks later, I went to see my father.
He was agitated. All he did was rehash his conversation with John, and then rant some more about how "real men don't accept plea deals -- they fight, fight, fight!" It was the beginning of a two-year feud between John and our father.
But my brother was about to begin his 77-month sentence, and Mom had written Dad another letter. Once again, it was nasty and filled with hatred. She'd reminded him of the son they had lost, and deemed John's lifestyle and Dad's encouragement of it as another "death" of one of their sons.
John had made it clear to Dad he wanted out of the life. Usually, there was only one way out: death. Because Dad was the boss, John was given a pass.
Before I'd left the visit, my father gave me a message to give Mom. "Tell your mother, your brother is out. He's released from his obligations."


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