Jury Deadlocked in Gotti Racketeering Case
MIKE PESCA, host:
Fro NPR News, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Mike Pesca.
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
And I'm Madeleine Brand. In New York, another mistrial today for John Gotti, Jr. He's the son of the infamous Dapper Don. Junior was accused of racketeering and conspiracy. One of the charges involved the kidnapping of Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels and a radio talk show host.
This was Gotti's third trial in the last year on these charges. The previous two also ended in mistrials. And here to tell us more is Mafia expert writer Jerry Capeci. And Jerry, welcome back to DAY TO DAY.
Mr. JERRY CAPECI (Mafia Expert, Journalist): It's a pleasure, Madeleine.
BRAND: Jerry, the third mistrial in a year? Why has this trial been so difficult for prosecutors?
Mr. CAPECI: Well, unlike the case against his father, the feds had no smoking gun that categorically linked Junior to the Gambino crime family activities -and this is important now - between 1999 and 2004. To find someone guilty of racketeering, the prosecution has to show that you committed at least one act and furtherance of the Gambino crime family's activities within those five years. Otherwise, they're prevented from going back and convicting you of prior crimes because of the statute of limitations.
BRAND: And so, they were arguing back and forth whether or not Gotti was still a member of the Gambino crime family?
Mr. CAPECI: Exactly. That was the focal point of this case - especially this case - when the government kind of changed its focus and tried to prove that Gotti was continuing in his role as a captain in the crime family by playing some tape recordings of him in prison in which he discussed various things with some confederates whom they said were Gambino crime family associates.
BRAND: All right. Tell us about the Curtis Sliwa kidnapping allegation. It's an amazing story.
Mr. CAPECI: Well, that was the focal point of the case. And basically, back in June of 1992 - a few days before Gotti's father was about to be sentenced for his crimes - Curtis was picked up by a cab in front of his East Village apartment, and within seconds he realized that he was going to be attacked.
A guy jumped up from the front seat and pointed a gun at him, fired three times at him, hitting him once in the groin and twice in his legs. And miraculously, Sliwa felt some air gushing in through the right front window - the doors in the backseat were both locked - and he catapulted himself, using the seat as kind of a catapult trampoline to out the front window and out onto the street as the cab drove through the East Village.
I mean, he was seriously wounded, hospitalized for several weeks - several months - and managed to survive and continued on his radio show, you know, blasting the Gottis as gangsters and thugs and people who should be in prison for life.
BRAND: And this attack was done allegedly because he had said some bad things about Gotti, Sr. on his radio show?
Mr. CAPECI: Exactly. That was the motive that the prosecution introduced into evidence at trial, that Junior was really upset that Sliwa was bad mouthing not only his father, but him, his sister, his mother and all his relatives as thugs and people who should be locked up and put away in jail forever.
BRAND: And Jerry, quickly tell us about this piece of evidence that the defense introduced, that Gotti was a changed man because he's now an author.
Mr. CAPECI: Well, one of the things that they put into evidence was the fact that in prison, he, Gotti, wrote a book, you know, co-authored by another inmate who did the illustration - a children's book - that he hoped to, you know, sell when he finally got out of prison.
You know, he contends that he has turned over a new leaf, that he's given up the gangster life forever and basically wants to remain a legitimate father of six, living in Staten or Long Island or someplace else around the country.
BRAND: A heartwarming story. Mafia expert Jerry Capeci writes a weekly online column on his Web site ganglandnews.com and also in the New York Sun. Thank you, Jerry.
Mr. CAPECI: It's a pleasure, Madeleine.
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