Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Feds Get 2nd Shot at Junior

Friends of ours: Junior Gotti, Gambino Crime Family, Michael "Mikey Scars" DiLeonardo

After narrowly ducking a conviction that could have put him away for 30 years, John "Junior" Gotti faces a fresh showdown this week with federal prosecutors, who saw their star witnesses sliced up on the stand like fine prosciutto last time around. But a rematch of Gotti vs. the government won't be a simple replay of last year's trial, when a lone holdout juror derailed the bid to nail the ex-Gambino crime king for plotting to kidnap radio host Curtis Sliwa, loan sharking and extortion in the construction trade.

This time, there's a new attorney for Junior, along with fewer witnesses against him, pared-down charges - the first jury cleared him of securities fraud - and no co-defendants. And while Gotti will take center stage by himself, at least he can walk through the front door: Judge Shira Scheindlin sprung him on $7 million bail following the mistrial.

The 42-year-old son of the late godfather John Gotti has spent the last five months of freedom with his family - and preparing hard for the new trial, say sources close to him. His mother, Victoria, sister Angela, brother Peter and other family members are all expected to be in attendance as prosecutor Michael McGovern calls at least three key turncoat witnesses, including murderous mob rat Michael "Mikey Scars" DiLeonardo. In the first trial, DiLeonardo had a staredown with Gotti, his former pal, calling him "brother" and claiming that he thought of Gotti when he gulped pills in a failed suicide bid.

Cross-examining him will be Junior's new lawyer, Charles Carnesi, who repped Gotti's co-defendant Louis "Louie Black" Mariani in the first trial. Carnesi is expected to conduct the same grilling that Gotti's first-round lawyer, Jeffrey Lichtman, gave the witnesses, using their own lies and vile connduct to hammer at their credibility. "The main advantage Gotti has now is that every witness who testified against him was blown away on the stand," said Lichtman.

Gotti will claim again that he quit the mob in 1999 after pleading guilty to unrelated fraud charges. The new jury has seven men and five women - the reverse gender makeup of the last jury. This time around, four white males, three black males, two white females, two black females and a Hispanic woman will deliberate.

One thing won't change: the name of the defendant. "The Gotti name is still a stumbling block for any criminal defense," said Lichtman. "It just intimidates so many people."

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