The Chicago Syndicate: Joseph D'Angelo

Showing posts with label Joseph D'Angelo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Joseph D'Angelo. Show all posts

Thursday, March 09, 2006

In Break From Code, Gotti Women Soak Up Trial Spotlight

Friends of ours: Junior Gotti, John Gotti, Michael "Mikey Scars" DiLeonardo, Joseph D'Angelo, Gambino Crime Family
Friends of mine: Toni Marie Ricci

Call it the Soprano effect. To spectators at John A. Gotti's racketeering trial, it often seems as if life were imitating television, and that the airing of every intimate detail of the fictional mobster Tony Soprano's life has broken down a social code that once prevented real-life mobsters from exposing their private lives and peccadilloes, from girlfriends to illegitimate children, in public.

One of the prosecutors, Joon Kim, has led two turncoat mobsters, Michael DiLeonardo and Joseph D'Angelo, through recitations of their lives from blood oath to murder, with the calm, hypnotic manner of a psychoanalyst interrogating a patient. But it is probably the assertive presence of the Gotti women in United States District Court in Manhattan that has marked the biggest departure from Mafia tradition. "Women have always been considered an inferior element in the Mafia," says Selwyn Raab, a retired New York Times reporter who chronicled the lives of the Gottis in his book "Five Families: The Rise, Decline and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires." "They are not supposed to intrude, not supposed to be involved in any way. One: to protect them. And two: that's the culture; that's the code."

Mr. Gotti's mother, Victoria, has attended every day of her son's trial since it began two weeks ago, and offered a window into the changing social mores of the mob.

Fifty, even 20 years ago, in the era depicted by the classic Godfather movies, Mafia wives and daughters were to be neither seen nor heard. But Mr. Gotti's trial has become more of a soap opera than the soaps, in which the Gotti women — led by Mr. Gotti's mother, but also joined by his sisters, Victoria and Angel, a niece named Victoria after her grandmother, and even the ex-wife of a Gambino captain — have played a central role.

Though the presence of Mafia wives at trials has not been unheard of in recent years, Mr. Raab said, Mrs. Gotti — the widow of John J. Gotti, celebrated as the Dapper Don and the Teflon Don before spending the last years of his life locked up in a maximum security penitentiary — never attended any of her husband's major trials. "He had four trials after he became boss, and she was never there," Mr. Raab said. Partly, he noted, that was because "they were on the outs," and she did not visit him in prison, either.

In this trial, however, which enters its third week today, the Gotti women have waged a public relations war for Mr. Gotti, speaking on his behalf outside of court, while he has focused on what goes on in the courtroom.

Every day, his mother and sister Angel have occupied center aisle seats in the second row, which is reserved for family members (both conventional relatives and the Cosa Nostra kind). Mr. Gotti's more flamboyant sister, Victoria, has appeared most days in the afternoon, drawing stares from tourists both because she resembles Donatella Versace, with hip-length blond tresses and flashy clothes, and because she is recognized as a novelist and hostess of the reality-TV show "Growing Up Gotti." (Mr. Gotti's wife, Kim, who is pregnant with their sixth child, has not attended.)

Lawyers said that in a trial that is something of a morality play, even Mr. Gotti's churchgoing could have an impact on the perception of the jury, since this jury includes several observant Catholics: On Ash Wednesday, five of the 16 jurors, including alternates, arrived in court for the morning session with their foreheads marked with black smudges. Mr. Gotti returned from lunch with ashes on his forehead.

On a recent day, a federal prosecutor led an F.B.I. agent through the list of people who visited Mr. Gotti while he was in prison. As the prosecutor ticked off the names, one by one, the agent identified them each as an "associate" of the Gambino crime family, qualifying a couple by adding "and lifelong friend."

The judge called a break, and Mr. Gotti's mother called to his lawyer, Charles Carnesi: "Hey, Charles. Did you tell them that I am an associate, and my daughter, too, and my granddaughter?"

It was a typically acerbic reaction for Mrs. Gotti, whose comments are not always appreciated. "Mom, please, I got this under control," Mr. Gotti protested another time.

The racketeering charges against Mr. Gotti are so diffuse that much of the court battle has focused not on the charges but on his private life. Besides, the charges against him — loan-sharking, extortion and kidnapping — are not nearly as serious as the murder charges that the two star prosecution witnesses have confessed to as part of their cooperation agreement with the government. In his defense, Mr. Gotti says he left the mob life years ago, when he realized how much it could hurt his wife and children.

The Gotti family has been particularly angered by testimony from Mr. DiLeonardo, the turncoat Gambino captain who said that Mr. Gotti dated a woman named Mindy during his marriage and that his father had a secret second family and a daughter out of wedlock.

Three days after Mr. DiLeonardo's testimony, the Gotti family called in reinforcements. John J. Gotti's oldest granddaughter, Victoria Gotti Albano, 18, arrived at the courthouse, saying, "We always stick together." Wearing a large necklace spelling out the word "princess," which she said her grandfather had given her, she sat between her mother, Angel, and grandmother for the rest of the week. Ms. Albano, a freshman at U.C.L.A., said she wanted to become a lawyer to avenge the wrongs she said the government had inflicted on her family. Her grandmother volunteered that the teenager's role model was Ron Kuby, a civil rights lawyer. Mrs. Gotti, who is, in the traditional mold, a Queens homemaker, is supportive of her granddaughter's career goals, even confiding in the hallway outside the courtroom that the idea of being called "Ms." Gotti appealed to her. "She's liberated," Mr. Raab said, not sounding 100 percent convinced.

The more traditional "Married to the Mob" role in this courtroom drama has been played by Mr. DiLeonardo's ex-wife, Toni Marie Ricci, who appeared as a defense witness to testify on the distress that her husband's infidelity caused her and their teenage son, Michael. Asked by prosecutors last week whether she knew that her ex-husband, her father, brother, uncle and cousin were all associated with the Gambino crime family, she replied that she was "just a housewife and mother" who did not concern herself with such things.

If Mrs. Gotti doesn't always adhere to type, Mr. Raab said, that may be because her ancestry is Russian on her mother's side. Her mixed antecedents were a problem when it came time for her son to be inducted into the Mafia, Mr. Raab said, because Mafia rules required both parents of a "made" member to be of Italian descent. The senior Gotti solved the problem by changing the rule to require patrilineal descent only, Mr. Raab said.

Mrs. Gotti seemed more outraged by what she saw as the prosecution's sanctimonious attitude than by the suggestion that her husband had had affairs, a rumor that, after all, had been alluded to in books and whispered by government agents. If the government was going to prosecute womanizers, she said, "we should hang all our presidents."

It was another remark worthy of a Soprano, although Mrs. Gotti was coy when asked whether she ever watched the show. "I really would love to because I think it's an entertaining program," she said. "But if there's a really good movie on, or "20-20," or something on the Discovery Channel, I would rather watch that."

Thanks to Anemona Hartocollis

Friday, August 26, 2005

Sliwa describes 'nightmare' cab ride

Friends of ours: John "Junior" Gotti, Gambino Crime Family, John "Dapper Don" Gotti, Joseph "Little Joey" D'Angelo

A radio host known for mouthing off against the Mafia testified Monday about how a 1992 cab ride became a botched kidnapping that prosecutors say was ordered by John A. "Junior" Gotti.

Taking the witness stand at Gotti's conspiracy trial in federal court in Manhattan, Curtis Sliwa Curtis Sliwatold jurors that after hailing the cab, a masked gunman hiding in the front passenger seat "popped up like a jack-in-the-box," swore at him and began shooting. "I'm saying to myself, 'This has got to be a nightmare,"' Sliwa testified.

Wounded in the stomach and bleeding profusely, Sliwa discovered the stolen cab had been rigged so he couldn't open the back doors. He said he saved himself by throwing himself into the front seat and out the passenger window as the cab sped down the street.

He testified that he calculated, "I'll take my chances and become a human speed bump, but I have to get out of this cab."

Prosecutors allege Sliwa was targeted after angering the Gambino crime family with his on-air tirades against late mob boss John Gotti, who had been sentenced to life in prison for a racketeering conviction.

Sliwa recalled telling his listeners that the mob was fueling the city's violent drug trade, and labeled the elder Gotti "America's No. 1 drug dealer." After he was jumped and beaten with baseball bats in an earlier attack, he responded by turning up his anti-Gambino rhetoric.

Testifying last week as part of plea deal, the driver of the cab, Joseph "Little Joey" D'Angelo, quoted the younger Gotti as saying of Sliwa, "He's getting personal. I want us to get personal."

Gotti Jr.Gotti, 41, whose father died in prison in 2002, is accused of a conspiracy to silence Sliwa as part of racketeering charges that could keep him in prison for up to 30 years. He has said he had nothing to do with the attack.

During cross examination, Gotti's lawyer, Jeffrey Lichtman, sought to portray Sliwa as a con man who repeatedly lied to police and the media in the 1970s and 1980s to promote his Guardian Angels crime-fighting group. The witness conceded that he once concocted a story about personally fighting off a would-be rapist he described as a "6-foot-6 gorilla."

AngelsSliwa also admitted that he made headlines by falsely claiming that police, annoyed by the Guardian Angels, had kidnapped and threatened him. He later told reporters he wasn't surprised his credibility came under attack.

"Frankly, some of the things I did in the past, I deserved that line of questioning," Sliwa said.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Trial pits 'Angel' against son of 'Dapper Don'

Friends of ours: John "Junior" Gotti, John "Dapper Don" Gotti, Gambino Crime Family, Joseph "Little Joey" D'Angelo, Michael "Mikey Y" Yannotti

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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