The Chicago Syndicate: Sammy the Bull Testifes That John Gotti Ordered the Slaying of Gambino Crime Boss Paul Castellano

Tuesday, March 03, 1992

Sammy the Bull Testifes That John Gotti Ordered the Slaying of Gambino Crime Boss Paul Castellano

Reputed mob boss John Gotti ordered the slaying of Paul Castellano out of fear that he faced assassination himself, Gotti's onetime underboss said during his first day of testimony yesterday in a hushed and heavily guarded courtroom.

There were "quite a few reasons" why Gotti wanted the head of the Gambino crime family killed, Salvatore Gravano said in a low and gravelly voice. But, he testified, Gotti's chief motive was self-preservation.

Gravano described the 10 months during which, he, Gotti and others planned Castellano's execution. He said the final plan came shortly after the death of cancer-striken Aniello Dellacroce, the Gambino family's underboss and Gotti's mentor.

"Paul showed total disrespect and didn't go to the funeral," Gravano told the jury. "We were wondering if and when . . . Paul might make a move - if he might strike," Gravano testified. "We wondered if he might shoot John and Angelo" Ruggiero, a close Gotti associate. "Paul Castellano, after Neil [Dellacroce] died, said he was going to wreck John's crew," said Gravano. He said Castellano was angry that members of Gotti's crew had violated a family rule - enforceable by death - against drug dealing.

Gravano, the highest-level mob informant ever to testify against Gotti, was calm and composed as he took the stand under a deal to reduce his prison sentence to 20 years. Indicted along with Gotti and co-defendant Frank Locascio, he faced life in prison without parole if convicted at trial. Gravano occasionally glanced at Gotti, and once during the testimony pointed out Gotti and Locascio as being the boss and consigliere of the crime family.

Under questioning by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Gleeson, Gravano said others beside Gotti were dissatisfied with Castellano.

"At the time, there were a lot of conversations about Paul. Nobody was too happy with him . . . He was selling out the family for his own basic businesses," said Gravano, explaining that Castellano formed several business partnerships with leaders of the Genovese crime family.

Gravano said Gotti and his followers also were upset that Castellano had allowed another crime family to kill a Gambino crime captain in Connecticut. "You just don't let another family kill a captain in your family," Gravano testified. "That's against the rules."

Gravano said Gotti discussed two other possible plans for killing Castellano that were rejected. In one plan, Castellano was to have been shot at his home on Staten Island. But that plan was dropped because "there was a lot of FBI surveillance at his house," Gravano said.

Another rejected plan called for an old-time mobster to walk into a diner where Castellano and his driver, Thomas Bilotti, frequently went before meeting with Castellano's lawyer, James LaRossa. "The old man was known by Paul and would be able to walk in and shoot him," Gravano said.

Gravano, 46, said the final planning session for Castellano's murder came the night before Castellano and Bilotti were shot to death outside Sparks Steak House on East 46th Street on Dec. 16, 1985.

Frank DeCicco, a Castellano loyalist, had informed Gotti and Gravano that he would be meeting Castellano and Bilotti for dinner at Sparks on Dec. 16, Gravano testified. Also among those attending the dinner, said Gravano, would be Thomas Gambino, son of the late Carlo Gambino, for whom the Gambino family is named.

The night before, at a meeting Gotti arranged, Gotti, Gravano and Ruggiero sat down with eight other mob figures at Gravano's drywall construction firm in Brooklyn and outlined a plan to kill two men whose names were not revealed. "We didn't tell them who was going to be hit," Gravano said. "We just said he had to be done."

Gravano said it was decided that the shooters would be John Carneglia, Edward Lino, Salvatore Scala and Vinny Artuso, all members of the Gambino crime family.. The others would serve as backups who would be stationed at various locations.

The next afternoon, the participants - armed with guns and walkie-talkies - met Gotti and Gravano in a small park on the Lower East Side and were told the names of their targets for the first time. "We told them exactly who was going, and that it had to be done," Gravano testified.

The designated shooters were stationed in front of Sparks, Gravano said, and four backup shooters were posted around the block. He said the backups included Anthony Rampino, a convicted Gambino soldier, and Ruggiero.

"Me and John got in the car and went to the Third Avenue side of East 46th," Gravano testified. "I was a backup shooter. If they [Castellano and Bilotti] got away, we would be ready."

At that point in his testimony, U.S. District Court Judge I. Leo Glasser closed the session for the day and ordered Gravano's examination to continue today.

Gravano, known on the street as Sammy the Bull, spent much of his two hours on the witness stand discussing his crime career, which he said began shortly after he dropped out of school at the age of 16. From 1961 to 1964, "I worked on and off. I committed armed robberies, burglaries."

He served in the Army between 1964 and 1966. After his discharge, he said he returned to Brooklyn. "I went back to my life of crime," he said.

Gleeson asked him how many murders he was admitting."Nineteen," Gravano said.

Gravano said he was something of an expert killer. Asked by Gleeson if there was a common expression used by the Gambino family for murder, Gravano said without emotion: "To do a piece of work - to whack someone out."

He described his 1976 initiation into the Gambino crime family in the presence of Castellano. He said during the ceremony, his trigger finger was pricked with a pin, a drop of blood was placed on the picture of a saint and the picture was set afire.

He then repeated his oath of silence: "If I divulge any secrets of this organization my soul should burn like this saint."

Gravano testified that officials of the Luchese, Colombo and Bonanno crime families were notified of the plan to kill Castellano. "They were behind the killing," he said. New York's fifth crime organization, the Genovese family, was not consulted. "We didn't trust them because Paul Castellano was in partners with them," Gravano said.

Thanks to Pete Bowles

No comments:

Post a Comment

New York Crime Families

Flash Mafia Book Sales!

Al Capone's Vault

Crime Family Index


The Sopranos Library