In the Mafia the biggest compliment one can receive is to be a standup guy; a man who keeps his mouth shut and does his time in prison. John Gotti Sr. embodied this more than any mobster before or since. His son followed his father’s code, but took a slightly different path. A path his enemies are now using to try and bring him down.
After spending years behind bars, and successfully denying the government a conviction at four separate racketeering trials and a parole violation hearing in 37 months, John Gotti Jr. has been a free man since December of 2009. But during his life in the mob, and in the course of his legal battles, he’s made a lot of enemies on both sides of the law— enemies who would seek to deprive him of his freedom, or worse.
But with all of the criminal cases launched against Gotti Jr. and the resulting failures to obtain a conviction against him, his enemies have few weapons left. Now that he has abandoned the mob life for over 18 years, those who wish him harm – legal or otherwise, are left powerless to do so – at least within the legal system. All they’ve got left are words on a piece of paper, a federal law enforcement form 302, an FBI form created to document a conversation between an FBI agent and another individual. In this case, the individual is John Gotti Junior himself.
This 302 is being used to destroy Gotti Jr.’s reputation as a standup guy and smear him as a cooperating witness, which, he says, is a total mischaracterization of the sum of substance of what actually occurred by law enforcement and mob snitches.
Being labeled as a rat means an automatic death sentence in the world of the Mafia, but Gotti Jr. says he is not particularly concerned with the mob. “Most people in the street world know this talk is a fairy tale,” he explains. However, he is concerned with – and bothered by - the smear campaign designed to destroy his reputation as a standup guy.
Though he quit the mob and broke with his old life, Gotti Jr. tells Gangsters Inc. he did not break the Mafia’s code of silence. We sat down with the alleged former Gambino crime family head to discuss that piece of paper that continues to smear his name and legacy, and hear his side of the story.
“First of all,” he says. “It is necessary to understand that the 302 process is fundamentally flawed. The agents write down what the person is purported to have said, and it is not always accurate. As I have stated in more detail in my book Shadow of My Father, no recordings are allowed to be made, as this could demonstrate some creative writing on the part of the FBI agents drafting the 302. The interviewee does not sign, nor get a copy of the 302. Often in trials when the 302 is used to cross examine a defendant or witnesses, the parties being examined deny the accuracy of what is contained in the 302. This was the case with both defense and prosecution witnesses at my trial.”
With that out of the way, Gotti Jr. is very direct: The meeting with the FBI agent did take place and the things he was alleged to have said at the meeting were, in part, a creation by FBI agents. How and why you ask?
“I was no longer part of the streets in January 2005, and hadn’t been since 1998, when the meeting took place, and was facing 110 years in jail,” he explains. “I did not have any army to avenge myself against those who for years sought to have me killed or imprisoned. For nine years prior to the meeting, numerous mob sources had confirmed that certain individuals were not only my worst enemies in the life, but that some were actively seeking to remove me from my former position with extreme prejudice, when I was active, and after I left things did not change.”
Gotti Jr. details how in 1996 there was an FBI leak to the New York Daily News that one of these individuals was a mole being used against his father and him, then playing a major factor in Gotti Senior being confined in solitary for so long. “They even leaked documents that wound up in my and my father’s hands. True or not about this individual’s actions, my father at some point wanted this individual killed. Does this make the government complicit?” he asks.
By 1997, testimony from Mafia turncoat Dominic Borghese revealed that this individual, as well as his close associate in the Gambino Family were plotting to kill Gotti Junior. This information was confirmed in 2002 by Gambino capo-turned-government witness Michael DiLeonardo. Both informants had stated that Gotti Jr. was trying to kill both of these individuals as well.
“Both of these individuals had benefitted from a plea deal with the government to receive only six years in jail for murder,” Gotti Jr. says. “At the time of my meeting, they had been released from prison, and I was facing a de facto life sentence. They were welcomed back into the life, but I had long ago moved on.”
This was Gotti Junior’s mindset at that time. Gotti: “With bitterness and revenge in my heart, I at that time, in my mind being the smartest guy in the room so to speak, developed a strategy to strengthen my withdrawal defense at the expense of these two enemies. Mainly though, against the one identified as the mafia mole. With a mixture of rumor, and a roster of dead men and cooperators, I entered into the meeting.”
Gotti felt he was well-prepared to execute his plan. “I would use solid evidence from the Raybrook wiretaps - tapes made by the FBI of my social and legal visits at Raybrook Federal Prison - as well as information from Michael Franzese to prove my withdrawal. Michael Franzese, described by law enforcement as an intelligent articulate former high ranking street insider agreed to answer my subpoena, and say that: Yes, you can walk away from the life. It is your prerogative to do so and it’s your former confederates’ prerogative to react to leaving the life, but it is your choice. I was prepared to testify in my own defense - my attorney had filed motions limiting the government’s cross examination of me,” he says.
This was filed before each trial:
Letter to Michael Franzese:
The main subject discussed by Gotti Jr. and the FBI agents was his alleged involvement in a 1983 bar fight. In the 302 memo of that session, Gotti says, several names were listed who had died some years prior to the incident. It shows, he says, how ridiculous the whole 302 event was. Several names that appeared on this document either didn’t exist or were dead at the time of the fight. Add to that the fact that the statements contained in the 302 were loaded with factual inaccuracies and that the subject matter discussed ranged in age between 17 to 30 years old as of January 2005. “I had taken the NYPD and FBI DD5’s and reports that they had - they numbered in the dozens - and put my own spin on it,” he explains.
“One would think the government would have known that,” he says. “Also, a witness to the incident, who later hanged himself, was rumored to have been assisted in the hanging by one of the two individuals referenced above; my greatest enemies in the life, who were mentioned at the meeting. I didn’t dispel that rumor, I encouraged belief in it,”Gotti Jr. admits.
He also notes, "As I had explained in my book, friends and family of the deceased as well as the medical examiner had confirmed it was a suicide."
“The meeting was brief,” Gotti says. “And in the end it did not help the government one bit.”
Where many view a proffer session, the write-up of a 302, as a first step towards cooperation, that was not what Gotti had in mind.
“I didn’t and wouldn’t cooperate,” he reiterates to Gangsters Inc. “In their wrath and disappointment, the government gave me diesel therapy, long stays in solitary confinement, put on five proceedings against me in 37 months, neglected my medical conditions causing permanent damage to my left kidney, and finally leaked out news of the meeting in their attempts to get me killed or turn me into a cooperator. They even went as far as to, in 2008, charge me with death penalty eligible crimes. In that trial, after failing in 2006 to persuade people that I was a cooperator they used a real cooperator, [Bonanno family capo] Dominic Cicale, to testify that my meeting had been a stratagem devised in concert with another individual, Vinnie Basciano, who was accused of being the acting boss of the Bonanno family, to use as an innocence defense and withdrawal. And now they were attempting by any means to make me pay.”
Excerpt from FBI Report on Dom Cicale
All these efforts failed, however.
Gotti: “When the government did not get me convicted or cooperating, or killed, they finally recently used this paper creation about the meeting in 2005, by feeding it to a long time cooperator who in the pursuit of a book deal, fed it to an author writing a book about my family. He acted in concert with an agent who was one of the creators of the 302 (not the writer) as well as a retired FBI Agent who was a longtime handler of the confidential informant, who was a CI in the 1990’s who in the late 2000’s became a full blown cooperator.”
Gotti is referring to discredited mob turncoat John Alite (left), who, after his credibility was destroyed in the Gotti trial, was never again used as a government witness. Together with (Philadelphia) mob reporter George Anastasia, Alite wrote the book Gotti’s Rules. Alite has been extremely vocal and has attacked Gotti Jr. in numerous media appearances and especially on social media, where he prefers to operate nowadays.
The leaking of the 302, Gotti Jr. says, is evidence of the government’s hatred for him. Gotti Jr.: “This goes to show the level of malice that certain government law enforcement officials exhibited towards me.”
In his book Shadow of My Father, Gotti Jr. thoroughly dissects the 302 memo offering proof and facts as to why these were fabricated lies. But he is not done yet. “These egregious acts will be formally dealt with in the near future, in the proper established forums,” he avows.
Having been through the experience of trying to use the government’s 302 process for his own designs would he recommend this strategy to others?
“No,” he says adamantly. “However, that decision is up to the individual. What did I learn from this, other than a refresher course in certain agents of law enforcement’s capacity for treachery? Well, as my father always said, ‘The pen writes what it wants to write.’ I had sought to correct these acts of misconduct, misstatements and misrepresentations of the government by writing United States Attorney Michael Garcia in 2006, Attorneys General Michael Mukesey in 2008, and Eric Holder in 2009, and more recently United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara.” In his letter to Attorney General Eric Holder Gotti wrote, “To set the record straight, I am not now, nor was I ever a cooperator. I also had my attorneys file motions to have a hearing to correct this misconduct but so far these efforts have fallen on deaf ears.
From my Letter to US Attorney Preet Bharara dated 1/28/2015
All of these actions have left Gotti Jr. with the unshakable feeling that he has a target on his back. “They put me in jail numerous times, so in that, even though I wasn’t convicted at any of my trials, they were successful. I was a government targeted individual for many years, but now it is my hope that they will find more important endeavors to occupy themselves. In the last twenty years, not wanting to sound self-pitying, one could say that I was the most persecuted individual linked with organized crime. Not even counting the eighties and nineties where I had caught cases and stood trial. In the 2000s I have been the most tried man in such a short period of time by the federal government in history.”
It seems strange that one would then see Gotti Jr. as a cooperator since not only did he refuse to testify against anyone, he was being persecuted for said refusal at every turn.
“I have no loyalty whatsoever to the streets, but I care very much about my family, my name, and the legacy I leave behind,” he concludes. “The reality is, I paid the price for my actions, but nothing I ever said nor did, inside or outside of the courtroom has ever affected anybody else, other than myself. I defy anyone else to prove otherwise.”
Attachments by John Gotti Jr.:
Example of persecutions:
Trial 1 Fall 2005
- Seized Property and Bank Accounts
- Sent Govt Cooperator to wear a wire on my mother, sister and my lawyers.
Trial 2 Winter 2006
- Leaked 302 Document
- Seized remaining bank accounts and substitute assets (property of family members that I had no attachement to)
- Prosecutor notified my Attorney Charles Carnesi that there was a death threat against me ( due to their actions we believe)
Trial 3 Summer 2006
- Subpeoned my Brother, Sister, my friends and My defense witnesses
- Told my wife and Lawyers that If I Lose they will be throwing her and my kids in the street
- Told my lawyer Charles Carnisi that I should cooperate
Post Trial 3
- After 3 Unsuccessful prosecutions we received the following:
Early Summer 2007 Upon monthly visit to Parole Officer, 2 FBI agents WERE laying in wait there and attempt to approach me telling me I should cooperate-That there is trouble coming my way. I Refuse and immediately call my attorney Charles Carnisi and walk out on parole officer. I have another lawyer then send a legal letter as well as make a phone call to THE Parole Officer notifying him that he ( W Adam Mandelbaum) would now accompany me on all future required visits to the parole office. Discovered underneath my car as well as the vehicle of my Landscaper and friend ,who would occasionally drive me to court, were GPS Tracking devices as well as wiretaps placed in the radios. This was confirmed by the government at my last trial.
Fall of 2007 Government seized my tax records. I am charged with parole and Tax Violations. We were successful in our defense of these charges--only to be charged in the Summer of 2008 with Murder and Racketeering ( Death Eligible Charges) We were again successful in defending those charges and the Government announced again that it was not in the best interest of Justice to prosecute Mr Gotti again.
"In light of the circumstances, the government has decided not to proceed with the prosecution against John A. Gotti," Bharara said in a statement. Preet Bharara Jan 13,2010
Then in November 2010, an inmate named Angelo Ruggiero Jr who had been entrapped and forced to live in a cell with a government cooperator; only to be charged with threatening said cooperator, was approached by 2 FBI agents and told if he cooperates against me and others,but mainly me, he will not be SO charged. ANGELO RUGGIERO JR. is a person I have not seen in 18 years.
Excerpts from Motion filed by Angelo Ruggiero Jr’s Legal Counsel
-Noted award winning Investigative Reporter Peter Lance
"I believe Peter Lance was being conservative in his estimates," Gotti adds.
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