Tuesday, January 02, 2018

The Time My Friend Arrested John Gotti

Like many New Yorkers, I look forward to going to movies over the winter holiday break. So I was disappointed by the delay in releasing what was set to be a big prestige pic — “The Life and Death of John Gotti,” starring John Travolta as you-know-who. Hopefully, the National Enquirer headline “Mob Rubs out Travolta’s Gotti Movie” has it wrong.

As a boring professor, I used to be spellbound hearing stories from a cop friend I grew up with on Staten Island — none more than his tale of once “accidentally” arresting Gotti back in 1984.

Some New Yorkers find Gotti, the stylish “Dapper Don” and Gambino crime family boss, a fascinating, even likeable, character. Legend has it he respected cops and everyday people. But too often, the media glamorizes these gangsters. To their victims and police, they’re lowlifes, and with good reason.

My friend told me how, one more than 30 years ago, his squad car got a radio communication about a three-car collision. At the scene, two of the drivers said the other one was completely uncooperative and staying in his Lincoln Continental.

My cop friend asked him for license and registration. The perp blurted a two-word obscenity at him. Asked to get out of his Lincoln, the perp repeated the curse.

Realizing he was drunk, my friend reached into the car to help get him out — but was met with a kick just missing his groin.

Then, the thug attempted to hit him. My friend blocked the punch, countering his head butt with a right cross and knocking him to the ground, where he was cuffed and arrested for driving intoxicated and resisting arrest.

As soon as the driver was put into the police car and read his rights, he told my cop friend:

“You don’t know who I am. I’m John Gotti and I’m going to kill your mother. Then I’m going to kill you. First I’m going to rape you. Then I’m going to kill you slowly and then they’ll find you stuffed in a trunk in New Jersey. I did hard time for murder. I’ve been sleeping in jail with scum all my life.”

Only then did my cop friend realize his collar was the fortysomething Teflon Don just then approaching full glory, a few years before feds finally made stick charges of murder, conspiracy to murder, racketeering, extortion, loansharking, illegal gambling and tax evasion — not to mention his narcotics trafficking and related activities.

That wasn’t the end of the story. At the station, the desk officer, a lieutenant, asked Gotti, whose face was bleeding, “How did you get in this condition, sir?”

“I slipped and fell.”

The officer interrupted, “He didn’t slip. He resisted arrest and necessary force was used to affect that arrest.”

Gotti screamed, “What did you tell him that for?! That’s between me and you!”

He was searched. His ID confirmed his identity. The funds in his possession were $2,700. He laughed and said, “That’s chump change. I drop more in a crap game than all of you make in a year.”

“What’s your occupation?” my friend asked.

“Plumber.”

“What did you have to eat tonight?”

“The usual.”

“What did you drink tonight?”

“The usual.”

“What’s the usual?”

“You know. Wine, scotch.”

“Where were you coming from?”

“My girl friend’s house.”

At about this time, Gotti got a phone call from one of his lawyers. Gotti told him he was going to another precinct for a Breathalyzer. When the officer and Gotti got to the only facility in the area with an intoxicated-driver-testing unit, Gotti’s colleagues, three large men staring at the situation, were waiting in a black limousine.

My officer friend remembered Gotti “blowing a .27, three times the legal intoxication level.” He failed two tests, got a desk appearance ticket, and was released, eventually plea-bargaining his charges down to minor disorderly conduct and driving impaired violations.

But Gotti didn’t let anything go.

One week later, at approximately 5 a.m., my friend received a phone call at his home from an unidentified male caller.

“Your mother’s dead,” said the voice.

His mother wasn’t dead. That was the last he heard from Gotti’s people. But it still haunts him.

However Travolta portrays the mob boss, that’s the man I will remember: a killer, an intimidator and a thug.

By Stephen Miller.

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