Friday, February 17, 2006

New York, Ready For Another Gotti Trial?

Friends of ours: Junior Gotti

The son of late mob boss John Gotti returned to court Tuesday for retrial on racketeering charges that include a violent plot to kidnap Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa. A jury last fall acquitted John A. "Junior" Gotti of securities fraud but deadlocked on more serious racketeering counts, leading to the retrial.

Jury selection started Tuesday with the judge announcing that 71 prospective jurors among 250 who filled out questionnaires were disqualified. Others were to be questioned the rest of the week to determine whether they might qualify. Opening statements were scheduled to begin next week.

Gotti seemed almost in the clear last fall when U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin considered if the mistrial should be an acquittal because the jury failed to find Gotti had committed at least two related acts of racketeering. Instead, she ordered a retrial on charges that he ordered a botched 1992 plot to abduct Sliwa. Gotti has been under house arrest on $7 million bond since September.

Prosecutors say Gotti, 41, wanted to retaliate against Sliwa for his on-air rants against Gotti's father. Sliwa was shot but recovered and resumed his radio work. He also testified at the trial. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday upheld Scheindlin's ruling. Lawyers have said one juror stood in the way of Gotti's conviction in the case.

A conviction could put Gotti in prison for up to 30 years. He turned down a plea deal that would have meant serving seven years of a 10-year sentence. In an interview in the New York Post, Gotti said his wife is expecting their sixth child and told him if he took the plea deal: "'If you do it, we're through. We need you in this house."'

Gotti, whose father was sentenced to life in prison in 1992 and died there 10 years later, told the Post he was confident he would be vindicated. "We're not going for a mistrial this time," he said. "We're going for an acquittal."

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