Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Gotti's Lawyer: Fuhgeddaboudit!

Friends of ours: Junior Gotti

Fuhgeddaboudit! John "Junior" Gotti's confident lawyer hopes his client will whack any plea bargains that desperate prosecutors now put on the table in the wake of his second stunning mistrial on racketeering charges. Spurred on by the 8-4 hung jury that was in favor of Junior on Friday, lawyer Charles Carnesie said yesterday that he'd advise Gotti to prepare his Teflon armor for a third trial - and ignore any plea deals. "It's a personal decision, something that he has to decide, but personally I'd be disappointed [if he took a deal]," Carnesie said.

Gotti was on the verge of pleading guilty last year to charges of racketeering and ordering the kidnapping of radio host Curtis Sliwa. But the deal, which would have had him serve seven years of a 10-year sentence, was rejected at the last minute. Gotti had said a major concern was protecting himself with immunity from future prosecutions.

It is possible that the chance to start his life afresh could now be offered if he is willing to admit to all of his crimes. But the attorney who negotiated that last plea deal agrees with Carnesie - and says Gotti should hold out for a hung-jury hat trick, which would be "as good as an acquittal." "If I was in the government's position, I'd go on my hands and knees, begging for a plea agreement," said his former lawyer, Jeffery Lichtman. "At some point, the government is going to have to let go of its Moby Dick."

Gotti, who is out on $7 million bail, left the Long Island mansion where he is under house arrest for about two hours yesterday. Dressed in black and wearing a baseball cap, he left home carrying a mysterious black bowling bag and lost tailing reporters in a black Infiniti sedan. While Gotti did not reveal his destination, under the terms of his house arrest, he can only visit his lawyer and church. He returned home by afternoon to play soccer with two of his sons.

Jury foreman Greg Rosenblum revealed that eight jurors bought Gotti's defense that he has not been involved in the mob since 1999, which would mean that the five-year statute of limitations on racketeering charges has expired. Those same eight, Rosenblum said, had enough reasonable doubt to clear Gotti of charges that he ordered two hoods to kidnap and beat Sliwa with baseball bats in 1992 after the radio talk show host's constant criticism of his father. The thugs ended up shooting Sliwa in the back of a cab.

Sliwa, still smarting from yet another mistrial, said yesterday that he was adamantly against any plea bargaining. "I've never been in favor of plea bargaining with the head of the Gambino crime family," he said. "Let's take a roll before the jury."

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