The Chicago Syndicate: Curtis Sliwa
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Showing posts with label Curtis Sliwa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Curtis Sliwa. Show all posts

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Gotti Jury 'Family' Circus

The jury that was so split it couldn't decide the case against John "Junior" Gotti last week was a flawed bunch that included panelists who didn't belong on any criminal case let alone one starring the son of a notorious godfather, experts say.

Juror No. 2, a man in his 30s on disability for depression, took a drug that "gets me drowsy" and occasionally appeared to doze during the trial. Juror No. 11, a 67-year-old retired actress who once played Woody Allen's wife on stage, said she was brutally mugged in Manhattan, fought off a friend's attacker with a tap shoe and worked in a mob-run Las Vegas casino where a man was shot in the barber's chair.

"I was frightened," she said. During the trial, when the sound system made a cracking noise that sounded like gunshots, she jumped in alarm. Juror No. 5, a man in his 50s who works for a costume-wig company, admitted in pretrial questioning that he'd fibbed on the jury questionnaire by naming Al Capone as the person he least admired, in an "inept attempt to get disqualified."

Gotti's lawyer, Jeffrey Lichtman, had opposed the selection of a nurse who left nine questions blank on her questionnaire, saying the omissions showed a "lack of effort, lack of interest" and "incompetence." But Manhattan federal Judge Shira Scheindlin refused to dismiss the woman after prompting her to name three famous people she most admired: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Sidney Poitier and Whoopi Goldberg.

Lichtman called the outcome "surprising," saying it seemed impossible to get a jury not biased against or fearful of his client's notorious name. He recalled one potential juror, eventually eliminated, who began sobbing in the courtroom. "I'm afraid I'm going to get axed," the woman whimpered. (She meant whacked.)

Jury consultant Robert Hirschhorn, who aided the defense in the Danny Pelosi murder trial, was incredulous at some of the jurors selected for a case involving charges that the son of the late Gambino big John "Dapper Don" Gotti used violence or threats to extort and abducted Guardian Angel and radio host Curtis Sliwa, who was shot several times.

Last week, the jury acquitted Gotti, 41, of securities fraud and deadlocked 10-2 and 7-5 for conviction on the kidnapping charges. In an 11-1 split, a lone holdout blocked a Gotti guilty verdict on extortion and racketeering counts.

Hirschhorn called it "a miracle" that the jury didn't convict Gotti of anything and pointed out that some panelists had admitted biases. The retired actress, who suffers from osteoarthritis, told the judge before her selection that she assumed Junior had followed in his late father's footsteps.

"I thought it was part of the family tree. If your father is a doctor, you should be a doctor. Perhaps that is what he [Gotti] is doing. It's part of the business, isn't it?" she said. She also said that she suffered a concussion and that her teeth were knocked out by a mugger who escaped. "It was very bad," she told the judge, who got the woman to vow she could still be fair on the case. But Hirschhorn asked, "Do you want somebody on the jury who has been through such a terrifying experience?" He called the medicated juror "impaired" and said it seemed the costume-wig employee who hoped to return to work by Halloween lied because "he didn't want to serve. All he wanted to do was get out of there."

Scheindlin set a hearing tomorrow to decide whether to release Gotti on bail pending a possible retrial.

Thanks to Susan Edelman

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Mafia Retirement Package Includes Funeral, Dat's About It

No pension, no medical benefits, no prescription plan. When you're a mob boss, retirement is more bronze casket than golden parachute.

Since the 1930s ascension of the Mafia, its leaders have departed "The Life" almost exclusively through their deaths. Albert Anastasia, Carmine Galante and "Big Paul" Castellano were brutally (and memorably) assassinated; Vito Genovese, John Gotti and "Fat Tony" Salerno died in prison.

A third, more palatable option emerged in recent years: The Witness Protection Program, for those who found relocation to Arizona preferable to interment in Queens. But an actual mob retirement, renouncing all illegal ties and income for a shot at the straight life, is a trick rarely turned. So it's no surprise that law enforcement officials remained skeptical about John A. "Junior" Gotti's claim that he did what his father, uncles and brother-in-law could not: quit the Gambino crime family.

Defense attorneys, arguing the younger Gotti had left organized crime in the late 1990s, managed to win a hung jury in the recent racketeering case against the mob scion. The mistrial indicated at least one juror was convinced that Gotti had gone legit.

Others are not as easily swayed. "You never leave the mob," said Bruce Mouw, former head of the FBI's Gambino squad. "Sometimes you're wishing you'd never gotten into it, when there's a contract on your life or you're going to jail. But you never leave."

Federal prosecutors agree; they were already considering a retrial for Gotti. Talk radio show host Curtis Sliwa, the target of a botched kidnapping attempt allegedly ordered by Gotti, expressed fear that Junior's possible release on bail could again make him a target.

The best known example of volunteer mob retirement was Joe Bonanno, who headed one of New York's original five families. After the bloody "Banana Wars," Bonanno ceded control of his family and bolted New York for Tuscon in 1968. He died peacefully in the Arizona desert three years ago, surrounded by his family, at age 97.

While Bonanno considered himself out of the crime business, authorities disagreed. He wound up serving 14 months in 1985-86 after refusing to testify at "The Commission" trial that earned 100-year jail terms for the heads of the Colombo, Genovese and Lucchese families.

The mob's induction ceremony, with the burning of a saint's picture and a blood oath of silence, makes it clear that leaving the family is a move taken at great risk for even low-level members. Death is the penalty for breaking any of the Mafia code, particularly omerta.

Gotti was 24 when he was became a Gambino family "made man" in a Christmas 1988 ceremony at his dad's Little Italy hideaway, the Ravenite Social Club. But he's distanced himself from the mob life lately.

Gotti, in various prison conversations recorded by authorities, expressed disgust to family and friends about following his father into the mob. In October 2003, Gotti said his association with the Gambinos had ended six years earlier. "Believe me, I like it better that way," he said. "I sleep better ... I just want to do my time, go home and go fishing."

He may go home on bail as early as Monday. But Gotti is likely to remain a target for catch of the day by law enforcers who reject his purported mob repudiation.

Veteran defense attorney Ed Hayes, a Court TV commentator, said Gotti's defense combined "good strategy and a good lawyer." But does that mean Gotti is no longer a top-echelon member of the Gambino family?

"Absolutely not," said Mouw. "The only way of leaving is by the slab. You're in the mob for life."

Or death.

Thanks to Larry McShane

Friday, September 09, 2005

Junior Gotti's Last Jab

A federal jury is set to begin deliberating the fate of John "Junior" Gotti after hearing a last word from his lawyer who argued yesterday that the once-powerful mob leader hung up his gangster hat so long ago he can't be convicted. Defense lawyer Jeffrey Lichtman claimed Gotti renounced the mob and defied his father when he pleaded guilty to unrelated racketeering charges in April 1999 and then harkened back to the secretly taped words of the late John "Dapper Don" Gotti.

"We've heard from John's father that Gottis don't plead guilty. They fight, fight, fight," Lichtman said.

Facing a string of charges that span the 1990s including the 1992 kidnap-shooting of radio host Curtis Sliwa, Gotti has hung his hopes on convincing jurors he exited the mob prior to the five-year statute of limitations. But Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael McGovern told jurors they should disregard Gotti's claims that he's a changed man.

"The evidence in this case has shown nothing could be further from the truth," he argued. "As recently as 2002, he was continuing to stuff his pockets."

Prosecutors normally get the final word at trial, but Manhattan Federal Judge Shira Scheindlin gave Lichtman the rare chance to respond in light of Gotti's unusual defense, which requires him to actively prove he renounced the Mafia.

Gotti, 41, is facing up to 30 years behind bars if convicted. He listened sullenly from the defense table and rarely lifted his gaze as his lawyer and the prosecutor sparred and interrupted each other with constant objections. Lichtman has claimed the 1999 plea and Gotti's subsequent six years in prison show "John ended his criminal dealing with the mob and should be acquitted of these charges." The lawyer noted that the only evidence linking Gotti to mob business in recent years came from the testimony of star witness Michael "Mikey Scars" DiLeonardo a former Gambino capo and an admitted killer and liar.

"There are no tapes, there are no letters, there are no cards, there are no bugs," Lichtman said. There were also no visits from any high-ranking members of the Gambino
crime family, other than Gotti's uncle Richard.

In the prosecution team's attempt to show Gotti's ongoing involvement in the mob, they have accused him of three criminal acts between 1999 and 2002. These include allegations that he asked DiLeonardo to return some machine guns and to repay an old $50,000 loan-sharking debt. Gotti also allegedly asked for a meeting with DiLeonardo's lawyer to convince his pal to plead guilty in an unrelated case, but DiLeonardo refused to arrange it.

Thanks to Kati Cornell Smith

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Prosecution presents closing argument in Junior Gotti racketeering trial

New York was buzzing about Gambino crime boss John Gotti in the spring of 1992, and radio host Curtis Sliwa didn't hide his disdain for the ''Dapper Don.'' Calling the boss ''America's No. 1 drug dealer,'' Sliwa infuriated the late mobster's son and protege, John A. ''Junior'' Gotti, a federal prosecutor said Tuesday as the younger Gotti's racketeering trial drew to a close.

Junior Gotti ''didn't respond like an ordinary citizen,'' Assistant U.S. Attorney Joon Kim said in his closing argument. ''Instead of engaging in public debate, Gotti responded to Sliwa's words in the Gambino family native language: violence.''The younger Gotti sent thugs to beat Sliwa with baseball bats, Kim said. But Sliwa didn't shut up, so two mobsters were sent to pick him up in a stolen cab, Kim said. As Sliwa struggled to escape, a hitman opened fire, leaving the Guardian Angels founder weak and bleeding in the back seat, Kim said. Sliwa escaped by throwing himself out the cab window but other Gambino family rivals were not as lucky, Kim said.

Defense attorneys claim Gotti, 41, had nothing to do with Sliwa's shooting and other attacks and quit the mob after a 1999 conviction. But Kim called that argument ''simply nonsense,'' saying Gotti was ''a man who used his name to get to the top of this criminal enterprise ... a man who used his position in the family to line his pockets with millions of dollars in illegal money.''

Gotti met with gangsters and plotted crimes after his purported renunciation of the mob, Kim said. Gotti's alleged role in the Sliwa attack is part of charges that could send him to prison for 30 years. Gotti's attorney was to begin his summation today.

Thanks to Michael Weissenstein.

John "Junior" Gotti ran the Gambino crime family like it was his own "government" and thought nothing of using violence to settle scores even against the media, prosecutors charged yesterday. "He believed he was special, for after all he had become the street boss of his own government . . . the Gambino organized-crime family," Assistant U.S. Attorney Joon Kim said in closing statements in Manhattan federal court. "Instead of engaging in public debate, Gotti responded in the Gambino crime family's native language: violence," Kim said.

Gotti is facing up to 30 years behind bars if convicted of racketeering charges, most notably for allegedly orchestrating the 1992 kidnapping of radio host Curtis Sliwa in a bid to silence him. At the time, Sliwa was on a crusade against Gotti's father, John "Dapper Don" Gotti, and had branded him "America's No. 1 drug dealer."

"John Gotti Jr. did not like what Curtis Sliwa was saying one bit. He did not like that Curtis Sliwa called his father a gangster, a drug dealer," Kim told the jury. "Like he did so many times, he sent his underlings to do his dirty work for him," the prosecutor said, and recounted Gotti's allegedly chilling order to kidnap Sliwa and put him in the hospital.

"I want it to be personal. I want him to know we had our hands on him and we could do this any time. He's getting personal. I want to get personal," Kim said, quoting Gotti. Sliwa was picked up in a stolen cab as planned, but the plot went awry when the radio host was shot twice by Gotti's co-defendant Michael Yannotti, according to prosecutors.

"He would be dead if he didn't somehow leap out the window of a speeding cab," Kim said of Sliwa, who described his ordeal from the witness stand in the month-long trial. Gotti also is accused of raking in a fortune through securities fraud, extortion of the construction industry and loan-sharking. Gotti's defense will present its closing arguments today.

Thanks to Kati Cornell Smith

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Trial pits 'Angel' Curtis Sliwa against son of 'Dapper Don', Junior Gotti

Curtis Sliwa

For years, radio talk show host Curtis Sliwa routinely denigrated late mob boss John Gotti and his cohorts as murderers, drug dealers, degenerates. His tone was so strident, prosecutors say, that Gotti's son ordered an attack on the motormouthed founder of the Guardian Angels.

Make it personal, the younger Gotti allegedly told his gunsels.

Thirteen years after Sliwa took two bullets in a botched hit, he will finally get face-to-face with John "Junior" Gotti in a courtroom. Sliwa, who's rarely at a loss for words, was expected to testify Monday in Gotti's federal racketeering trial. "I've been waiting 13 years for justice," Sliwa said before the trial started last month. The courtroom showdown was expected to provide the trial's most drama: the head Angel testifying against the ex-head of the Gambino crime family.

Both native New Yorkers, they share an Italian heritage and a penchant for making headlines -- but that's about all they have in common. There's no love lost between the son of the infamous "Dapper Don" and the son of a merchant seaman.

It was Sliwa's on-air slagging of the elder Gotti that allegedly prompted an angry Junior to order the June 19, 1992, attack.

Prosecution witness Joseph "Little Joey" D'Angelo, a mob turncoat, testified that Gotti went as far as taking him on a tour of Sliwa's Manhattan neighborhood to pick out a spot where the attack should occur.

D'Angelo said that Gotti's directions were very specific: "He's getting personal. I want us to get personal." He said Gotti specifically mentioned Sliwa's cracks about his father, who was serving a life term on a racketeering charge.

Gotti allegedly only wanted Sliwa to take a beating when two mobsters inside a stolen cab picked up the radio show host. But the process was botched and mobster Michael "Mikey Y" Yannotti wound up shooting him, said prosecution witness D'Angelo. Yanotti then tossed the wounded Guardian Angel out the cab window.

Gotti has denied any involvement in the Sliwa shooting. D'Angelo testified that Gotti paid him $5,000 for the job.

Gotti, whose father died in prison in 2002, is accused of a conspiracy to kidnap Sliwa as part of racketeering charges that could jail him for 30 years.

While the attack was intended to shut up Sliwa, it's had the exact opposite effect. Sliwa, who co-hosts a morning radio show with liberal lawyer Ron Kuby, only increased his vitriol toward Gotti and the Gambino family after the shooting.

Long before Junior's indictment, Sliwa was publicly putting the blame on the Gambinos. He did stop talking about the case briefly when Gotti was finally charged with the crime.

Sliwa, quite dramatically, then went into hiding over fears that he would be targeted for retaliation by the Gambino family. He wasn't, and was soon back to his old ways on the radio.


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