Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Junior Gotti Hits Triple Crown with 3rd Mistrial

Friends of ours: John "Junior" Gotti, Gambino Crime Family

A judge declared a mistrial Wednesday in the racketeering trial of former mob boss John A. "Junior" Gotti, the third time in 12 months a jury had been unable to reach a verdict in the case.

The jury sent out a note Wednesday indicating it could not reach a unanimous verdict. "Your honor, unfortunately we are deadlocked," said the note, prompting U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin to declare the mistrial shortly after noon. A day earlier, the jury had sent a similar note to the judge.

It was the jury's seventh day of deliberations. Two previous juries in the last year wound up deadlocked, with resulting mistrials.

A relieved Gotti hugged his brother Peter and other supporters Wednesday, then wiped his eyes while sitting at the defense table. "It was a tough one," Gotti said. "This one drained the life from me."

Gotti's lawyers argued the second-generation Mafiosi had years ago severed his ties to organized crime. If convicted, the 42-year-old Gotti had faced up to 30 years in prison. He is free on $7 million bail, and there was no immediate word on whether the government would mount a fourth prosecution.

From the start, the key issue in the case has been whether Gotti quit the Gambino crime family as he claims before July 1999. If so, a five-year statute of limitations would have expired before prosecutors brought new racketeering charges in 2004.

Prosecutors say the jury should conclude Gotti continued to receive mob money after 1999 and thus was part of a racketeering conspiracy. His defense lawyers say Gotti paid a large fine when he pleaded guilty to a racketeering charge in another case in 1999 and was permitted to keep the property and businesses which remained, regardless of where the money originated.

Gotti was also accused of ordering two 1992 attacks on radio talk show host Curtis Sliwa, including one where he was shot twice before escaping out the window of a taxi rigged to keep him trapped inside. Prosecutors have said Gotti was retaliating for on-air attacks against his father, John Gotti, who was sentenced in 1992 to life in prison without parole. He died in prison in 2002.

Sliwa sat in the courtroom, looking disappointed, as the mistrial was declared. But this trial didn't focus as much as the first two did on the Sliwa attacks. Prosecutors instead aimed their evidence at convincing jurors that Gotti never quit the mob before he pleaded guilty to racketeering charges in 1999 as he insisted he had.

They tracked Gotti's financial moves to try to convince the jury that Gotti never left the mob because he continued earning money off businesses such as real estate that he started with crime-tainted money.

Gotti's defense team acknowledged his life in organized crime, but insisted their client had retired from the Mafia and had no role in the Sliwa attack. Gotti was indicted on these charges in July 2004, just two months before he was due out of prison on a prior conviction.

Last September, a jury deadlocked 11-1 in favor of conviction. At his second trial, the majority of the second jury favored acquitting Gotti in March after his lawyers successfully emphasized their claim that he had had quit the mob. The trials were meant to resolve the 14-year-old question of whether Gotti ordered two assaults on Sliwa.

According to authorities, the younger Gotti assumed control of the powerful Gambino family after his father's 1992 conviction on racketeering and murder charges.

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