For four decades the name Gotti has been synonymous with organized crime in the minds of the public, who were told stories about them with varying degrees of accuracy. But now in “Shadow of My Father,” the real story of the King of the Volcano is revealed for the first time.
John A. Gotti, who survived four trials and a parole violation hearing, in four years, without a guilty verdict, now takes up his pen to tell the story of his father’s unwavering dedication to the street, and how, as his son, he entered that life, and then, with his father’s permission, left the life of crime, and put the “Family” behind him to live a legitimate life with his real family.
It is a saga of betrayal and redemption, and an insider’s view of how, at times, those who are tasked with upholding the law readily broke it to further their careers.
John Angelo Gotti III (born February 14, 1964) known as “Junior” Gotti, is a former New York City mobster who, according to law enforcement claims, was acting boss of the Gambino crime family from 1992 to 1999 after his father, John J. Gotti, was sent to prison. Between 2004 and 2009 Gotti was a defendant in four racketeeringtrials which all ended in mistrials. In January 2010, federal prosecutors announced that they would no longer seek to prosecute Gotti for those charges. He has been referred to as “Teflon Jr.” for evading conviction like his father. He has also been referred to as “Dumbfella” in the press. and called a “Spoiled Brat” by former Gambino enforcer John Alite. He has stated that he is no longer associated with organized crime.
Gotti is one of five children born to an Italian American mobster, John Joseph Gotti Jr. and Victoria DiGiorgio Gotti, whose father was of Italian descent, and mother was of Russian ancestry. He grew up in the Italian-American neighborhood of Howard Beach, a section of Queens, New York, and attended New York Military Academy in Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York.
He has two sisters, Victoria and Angel, and two brothers, Peter and Frank (deceased).
Leadership of the Gambino crime family
According to federal prosecutors, Gotti was inducted into the Gambino crime family in 1988. He was named a caporegime (captain) in 1990, and is believed to be the youngest capo in the Gambino family’s history.
In April 1992, his father, John J. Gotti, received a life sentence for racketeering and related offenses. Prosecutors say he made his son the head of family operations with a committee of captains to assist him. As a family member, he was one of the few people allowed to visit his father and Gotti is believed to have relayed his father’s orders to the organization from prison.
Remembering how his father had been brought down by FBI bugs, Gotti adopted a more secretive way of doing business. He discussed mob business mainly through “walk-talks,” or conversations held while walking alongside trusted capos. He also tried to pose as a legitimate businessman. However, several of his button men didn’t think much of him, thinking he was incompetent. He was not nearly as good a negotiator as his father had been, and the Gambinos lost out on several disputes with the other families. TheGenovese family was so unimpressed with Gotti that it refused to deal with him at all.
In a 1997 search of the basement of a property owned by Gotti, the FBI found a typed list of the names of the “made” members of his organization, as well as $348,700 in cash, a list of the guests who attended his wedding, along with the dollar amount of their wedding gifts (totaling more than $350,000), and two handguns. Also found was a list of several men who were inducted into other families in 1991 and 1992; a longstanding rule in the New York Mafia calls for prospective wiseguys to be vetted by the other families before being inducted. However, normally these lists are destroyed almost as soon as the inductions take place. The discovery enraged Gotti’s father as well as the other bosses, since it put dozens of other mafiosi at risk of government scrutiny. The episode earned him the nickname ‘dumbfella’ in the New York media.
In 1998, Gotti was slapped with a wide-ranging RICO indictment charging that he was not only the acting boss of the Gambino family, but received millions of dollars from numerous Gambino rackets. Many of the charges related to attempts to extort money from the owners and employees of Scores, an upscale strip club in Manhattan. According to the indictment, the Gambinos had forced Scores’ owners to pay $1 million over a six-year period in order to stay in business, with Gotti’s share of the loot totaling $100,000. In addition to the lists seized in the 1997 raid, prosecutors obtained transcripts of prison conversations in which he received advice from his father on how to run the family. Faced with overwhelming evidence, Gotti pleaded guilty to reduced charges of loansharking, bookmaking and extortion. He was sentenced to 77 months in prison and was released in 2005. Federal prosecutors say his uncle, Peter Gotti, became head of the Gambino organization after his nephew was sent to prison.
2004 racketeering and kidnapping charges
In 2004, months before he was released from prison, Gotti was charged in an 11-count racketeering indictment which included an alleged plot to kidnap Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels, as well as securities fraud, extortion and loansharking. A radio talk show host for WABC, Sliwa had allegedly angered the family by denouncing the elder Gotti as “Public Enemy #1″ on his show. During the trial, two former associates, Michael DiLeonardo and Joseph D’Angelo testified against Gotti. Through his attorney, Gotti admitted that he had been involved in the Gambino crime family in the 1990s, and had even been slated to lead the organization after his father was sent to jail in 1992, but claimed he had left criminal life behind after his conviction in 1999. Three juries eventually deadlocked on the charges, the last in 2006, and federal prosecutors decided not to pursue a fourth trial.
2008 racketeering charges
In August 2008, Gotti was arrested and indicted on racketeering and murder conspiracy charges brought in Florida. The charges stemmed from an alleged drug trafficking ring Gotti operated along with former associate-turned informant John Alite and others, and with the murders of two men associated with the ring. Prosecutors charge that the ring distributed at least five kilograms of cocaine in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Gotti’s trial was later moved to New York, where he pleaded not guilty, and began in September 2009.
In January 2008, Alite pleaded guilty to two murders, four murder conspiracies, at least eight shootings, and two attempted shootings as well as armed home invasions and armed robberies in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Florida, stemming from his alleged involvement in a Gambino crew in Tampa, Florida. Alite agreed to testify in the trial of Gambino family enforcer Charles Carneglia, who was found guilty of four murders and is now serving a life sentence. He then served as a key prosecution witness against Gotti.
During the trial, Gotti allegedly threatened Alite by mouthing the words “I’ll kill you”, and engaged in a shouting match with his former associate. After the incident, Victoria Gotti told The New York Daily News that Alite was “a pathological liar – a rat caught in a proverbial trap, caught in his own lies…” Alite testified that Gotti was responsible for at least eight murders, among other crimes.
On December 1, 2009, the 12 jurors announced that they had failed to reach a unanimous verdict on all the charges and the judge declared a mistrial. Federal prosecutors have indicated that they will not seek another trial against Gotti. After the trial, jurors said that they did not find witnesses, particularly Alite, to be credible. Gotti, Federal Bureau of Prisons Register # 00632-748, was released on December 1, 2009.