John Joseph Gotti, Jr. (October 27, 1940 – June 10, 2002) was the boss of the Gambino crime family after the murder of the previous boss Paul Castellano. John Gotti was the most powerful crime boss during his era. He became widely known for his outspoken personality and flamboyant style that eventually caused his downfall.
He was known by the media as the "The Dapper Don" because he wore expensive clothes and "The Teflon Don" because the majority of attempts to convict him resulted in either a hung jury or an acquittal - thus no criminal charge would "stick to him".
In 1992, Gotti was convicted of racketeering, 13 murders, obstruction of justice, conspiracy to commit murder, illegal gambling, extortion, tax evasion, and loansharking, and was sentenced to life in prison where he died 10 years later of cancer.
Early life and family
Gotti was born to Italian-American parents John Gotti Sr. and Philomena "Fannie" Gotti. He was 12 when his family moved to East New York, Brooklyn where he and his brothers, Peter, Gene, Richard, and Vincent Gotti became part of a local street gang. A cement mixer tipped over when he tried to steal it, crushing Gotti's foot, giving him a limp that would last the rest of his life.
Gotti married Victoria DiGiorgio on March 6, 1962. They had five children, Angela (Angel), Victoria, John A. "Junior" Gotti, Peter and Frank.
John Gotti subjected his wife and son to physical abuse according to FBI secret recordings of his wife, Victoria Gotti. This later became media fodder for the New York newspapers.
Towards the end of his life, during a prison visit with his brother, daughter and grandson, John Gotti verbally degraded all three.
Gotti's criminal career with the Gambinos began with fencing stolen goods from Idlewild Airport (later renamed John F. Kennedy International Airport), which was the territory of the Lucchese family, specifically, the Paul Vario crew, which included such Mob associates as Henry Hill and Jimmy Burke.
In February 1968, United employees identified Gotti as the man who signed for stolen merchandise. The FBI arrested him for the United hijacking soon after. Two months later, while out on bail, Gotti was arrested a third time for hijacking—this time stealing a load of cigarettes worth $50,000 on the New Jersey Turnpike. Later that year, Gotti pled guilty to the Northwest hijacking and was sentenced to four years at Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary. Prosecutors dropped the charges for the cigarette hijacking. Gotti also pled guilty to the United hijacking, and spent less than three years at Lewisburg.
After he was released from prison, Gotti was placed on probation and ordered to acquire legitimate employment. Meanwhile, he returned to his old crew at the Bergin club, still working under caporegime Carmine Fatico. Fatico was indicted on loansharking charges and made Gotti the acting capo of the Bergin Crew reporting to Carlo Gambino and Aniello Dellacroce. After Gambino's death, Paul Castellano, Gambino's brother-in-law, was elevated to the head of the crime family. Castellano was not respected by his underlings. When Gotti's crew was discovered to be selling heroin, against the rules of the family, Gotti and others, fearing reprisals, ordered the execution of Paul Castellano (he was shot six times along with his bodyguard, Thomas Bilotti, outside Sparks Steak House). Gotti then took control of the family.
Paul Castellano gave Gotti the contract to kill the notorious Gambino soldier and serial killer Roy DeMeo, but politely declined as DeMeo was considered extremely dangerous and was known to have murdered as many as 200 people along with his crew who operated out of the Gemini Lounge in Brooklyn. On an FBI bug in the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club in Queens, Gene Gotti was heard telling an associate that Castellano was having a difficult time finding anyone willing to kill DeMeo.
Gotti was arrested several times throughout his career, serving time in both state and federal prison (including a manslaughter conviction in connection with the 1973 shooting death of low-level Irish-American gangster James McBratney, who had kidnapped and killed Emmanuel Gambino, Carlo Gambino's nephew). By the 1980s, he was referred to by the news media as the "Teflon Don" as he avoided conviction on racketeering and assault charges.
Death of Frank Gotti
On March 18, 1980, 12-year-old Frank Gotti, youngest son of John Gotti was run over and killed on a family friend's mini-bike by John Favara, a neighbour, whose children were friends with Frank Gotti.
Police found Favara was not to blame for the accident, and no charges were ever filed against him. In the months after the accident, the word "Murderer" was spray-painted onto Favara's car and he was advised to move. On July 28, 1980, Favara disappeared after leaving work and has never been found since. The Gotti family were in Florida at the time. In January 2009, prosecutors claimed Charles Carneglia, an alleged mob soldier awaiting trial on five murders, dissolved Favara's remains in a drum of acid after murdering him.
Gotti was under electronic surveillance by the FBI; they caught him on tape in an apartment discussing a number of murders and other criminal activities. The FBI also caught Gotti denigrating his underboss, Sammy "The Bull" Gravano. On December 11, 1990, FBI agents and New York City detectives raided the Ravenite Social Club and arrested Gotti, Gravano, and Gambino Family consigliere Frank Locascio.
Gotti was charged with 13 counts of murder (including Paul Castellano and Thomas Bilotti), conspiracy to commit murder, loansharking, racketeering, obstruction of justice, illegal gambling, and tax evasion.
Gotti was tried in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York before United States District Judge I. Leo Glasser. The federal prosecutor's evidence was overwhelming. Not only did they have Gotti on tape, but they also had several witnesses to testify against Gotti. Philip Leonetti, a former Underboss in the violent Philadelphia crime family, was going to testify that Gotti bragged that he had ordered Castellano's execution. Then, Sammy Gravano agreed to testify against Gotti and Locascio, with the promise of being entered into the Witness Protection Program. Gravano subsequently pled guilty to a single count of racketeering as part of a plea agreement in which he admitted responsibility for 19 murders. On April 2, 1992, after only 13 hours of deliberation, the jury found Gotti and Locascio guilty on all 13 charges.On June 23, 1992, Judge Glasser sentenced Gotti to life imprisonment without possibility of parole.He was sent to the United States Penitentiary at Marion, Illinois, where he was kept in a cell 23 hours a day.
While in prison, Gotti offered $100,000 to the Aryan Brotherhood to kill Walter Johnson, a mentally unstable black inmate who had assaulted him. The Aryan Brotherhood accepted Gotti's offer. The prison guards surmised that Johnson was in danger, and moved him to a different cell block, ultimately transferring him to another prison where Johnson was eventually paroled. Gotti, during a prison visit with his family was recorded saying: "Being a nigger is an embarrassment."
John Gotti died of throat cancer at 12:45 p.m. on June 10, 2002 at the United States Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri, where he had been transferred once the cancer was diagnosed. Gotti had the lower half of his jaw removed due to the cancer and was fed through a tube. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn announced that Gotti's family would not be permitted to have a Mass of Christian Burial but allowed it after the burial.