The Chicago Syndicate: RFK
Showing posts with label RFK. Show all posts
Showing posts with label RFK. Show all posts

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Mafia Involvement in JFK's Killing Investigated in Assassination Theater

After decades of controversy, investigating the Kennedy assassination has earned a reputation as bad news for many reporters, a radioactive topic no one wants to approach.

“It’s one of the black holes of journalism,” said investigative reporter/playwright Hillel Levin. “It’s the sort of story reporters get sucked into and are never heard from again.”

That, however, hasn’t stopped him from spending seven years working on “Assassination Theater,” a theatrical investigation making a case for an organized crime conspiracy to kill JFK. The play debuts with a one-night-only staged reading Aug. 9 in the Arts Center of Oak Park.

Levin, an Oak Park resident and former editor of Chicago magazine, has made a specialty of true-crime books since co-authoring 2004’s “When Corruption Was King: How I Helped the Mob Rule Chicago, Then Brought the Outfit Down” about the ’90s Gambat trials exposing the Chicago mob’s rigging of the city’s legal system.

After that book and a 2007 Playboy article about the burglarizing of Chicago mafia boss Tony Accardo’s home (a movie version starring Robert De Niro will be shot this fall in Chicago), Zachariah Shelton, an FBI agent featured in that story, asked Levin why he didn’t write the real Chicago mob story. Namely, their active involvement in the Kennedy assassination.

“I admit that I cringed a bit when he said that,” Levin said. “But having leaned about the mob here, about their power and influence, I couldn’t easily dismiss it. And I could understand why they might have been motivated to do it, since they were very involved in building Las Vegas in 1963 with funds from the Teamsters Central States pension — and the Kennedys, especially Bobby Kennedy as attorney general, were threatening that by going after Jimmy Hoffa.”

Levin said he was never a believer in the official story that Lee Harvey Oswald had acted as a lone assassin, but he had never thought of the mafia as a likely suspect until Shelton showed him FBI evidence he had discovered by accident, along with corroborating evidence the agent uncovered in a private investigation. And even then, he wasn’t convinced until he’d spent years going over the official evidence, including medical reports and statements from witnesses unsealed in the ’90s.

His findings are dramatized by four actors in “Assassination Theater,” one playing himself, one playing Shelton and two playing various characters including Oswald, LBJ, Jack Ruby, autopsy morticians, mob figures and more. A large screen shows photos supporting their statements, including one purporting to show an assassin walking away from the grassy knoll immediately after the shooting.

“I’m not a zealot and I’m not saying everyone has to believe me,” Levin said. “But I think anyone who looks at the evidence with any attention will realize Oswald couldn’t have done it alone. My central thesis is that it was theater in a lot of ways and part of the show was putting the blame on only one actor, when in fact he was part of a much bigger production.”

Hence, in large part, Levin’s decision to present his findings on stage instead of writing a book. That, plus his belief that theater provides an immersive experience that will help people process the information and come to an understanding of it.

“The thing about the assassination I’d most like to dispel is people simply accepting the idea that this is a mystery that can never be known. I believe a great deal of it can in fact be known — that it is not unfathomable,” he said.

“That’s the way I hope everyone will feel when they leave the theater.”

Thanks to Bruce Ingram.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Top Five #Conspiracy Theories on JFK Assassination

As the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination draws nearer, the debate over who actually pulled the trigger rages on. Did Lee Harvey Oswald, as the Warren Commission concluded, use an Italian bolt-action Mannlicher-Carcano rifle to fire three shots from the Texas School Book Depository building, hitting President John F. Kennedy once in the neck and once in the back of the head? Or were there larger forces at work?

The belief that there was conspiracy to assassinate the president has only become more widespread with the passage of time.  As ABC News reports, the House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded in 1978 that Kennedy was “probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy.” A 2003 ABC News poll showed that 70 percent of Americans believed the JFK assassination was “not the act of a lone killer,” with 7 percent believing that Oswald was not involved at all.

So what is the truth? What really happened on Nov. 22, 1963, at Dealey Plaza in Dallas? We’ll probably never know, but we can continue to speculate. Below is a list of the top five JFK assassination conspiracy theories that have been bandied about over the years.

1.) The CIA Killed JFK

The Central Intelligence Agency has always been shadowy, mysterious organization, which lends itself perfectly to a conspiracy theory involving the JFK assassination. According to the Mary Ferrell Foundation, Kennedy made an enemy out of the CIA after the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in April 1961. As a result of that failed operation, CIA Director Allen Dulles (who would later serve on the Warren Commission) was forced to resign and many allegedly began to see JFK as a threat to CIA interests.

As the New York Post reports, author Patrick Nolan surmises that the CIA wanted “power, self-preservation and to stop the Kennedys’ plan to make peace with Cuba and the Soviets.” Nolan theorizes that a group of rogue CIA agents, including Richard Helms (who became CIA director a few years later), James Angleton, David Phillips and E. Howard Hunt (of Watergate infamy), used three shooters placed at different locations in Dealey Plaza -- the Book Depository building, the Grassy Knoll and the Dal-Tex building -- to pull off the assassination. In his book, “CIA Rogues and the Killing of the Kennedys,” Nolan uses physical, medical and film evidence, as well as eyewitness accounts, to reach his conclusion.

2.) The Mafia Killed JFK

The relationship between organized crime and the Kennedy family stretched back decades prior to the assassination, as President Kennedy’s father, Joseph P. Kennedy, allegedly engaged in bootlegging during the Prohibition era of the 1920s. As the Los Angeles Times points out, it’s also believed that Joseph Kennedy used his Mafia connections to help his son win the crucial state of Illinois during the 1960 presidential election against Richard Nixon. However, the mutually beneficial relationship between the Mafia and the Kennedy family would soon come to an end.

According to ABC News, one version of this theory posits that Mafia was angered with JFK after the botched Bay of Pigs invasion, as they had hoped to re-exert their presence in Cuba, which had been erased after Fidel Castro rose to power. Additionally, JFK’s brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, had become a crusader against the Mafia in his position as the nation’s top cop.

As the Post reports, Lamar Waldron, author of the book “The Hidden History of the JFK Assassination,” theorizes that the assassination was masterminded by New Orleans mob boss Carlos Marcello, with help from Santo Trafficante of Florida and Johnny Roselli of Chicago. According to the Waldron, Marcello used Italian hit men, smuggling them into the country from Canada, to commit the crime. Marcello reportedly bragged about pulling off the assassination to an inmate at a prison where he was serving time in 1985. “Yeah, I had the son of a bitch killed,” he allegedly said. “I’m glad I did. I’m sorry I couldn’t have done it myself.”

3.) Lyndon B. Johnson Killed JFK

If one wants a definitive answer as to who killed JFK, look no further than the man who benefited the most from his assassination. At least, that’s what author Roger Stone says in his new book, “The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ.” In an interview with Voices of Russia, Stone says that LBJ -- who was sworn in as president on a plane in Dallas just hours after the JFK assassination -- used longtime associate and hit man Malcolm Wallace to do the deed. As the Post points out, Stone alleges that Wallace’s fingerprints were found on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository Building, where the Warren Commission says Oswald fired his fatal shots.

According to Stone, Johnson insisted on both the trip to Dallas and the route through Dealey Plaza, where none of the buildings in the area were sealed off. Stone thinks LBJ both reduced the number of police officers on motorcycles on either side of the president’s car and ordered off the Secret Service agents that would have been riding on the rear bumper of the car.  In the interview with Voices of Russia, Stone believes that LBJ can be tied to as many as eight murders in Texas prior to the JFK assassination, in order to cover up his corruption, voter fraud and more.

4.) The Russians Killed JFK

To examine the theory that the Soviet Union killed President John F. Kennedy, one must look at the geopolitical situation in 1963. This was the height of the Cold War and the peak of anti-Communist sentiment in the United States. According to ABC News, conspiracy theorists frequently cite the notion that Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev was incensed at having to back down to JFK during the Cuban Missile Crisis the year before, and had the president killed by the KGB in retaliation.

Another interesting connection is Oswald’s time spent in the Soviet Union. In October 1959, Oswald -- a former Marine -- defected to the Soviet Union, where he met his future wife, Marina. Marina’s uncle was a colonel in the MVD, which is the Russian Interior Ministry service.

According to Stratfor, there are numerous anomalies about Oswald’s time in Russia, including how the two were able to get permission to marry (a requirement for any Soviet citizen marrying a foreigner), as well as why Marina, an upper-middle class woman with an uncle in the government, would agree to marry an American defector with little prospects whom she had just met one month before.

In early 1962, Oswald, Marina and their daughter left the Soviet Union for the United States. As Stratfor points out, Marina Oswald was granted permission to leave the the country with an American defector within weeks of her request, an extremely rare, if not completely unheard of, turnaround. Why? Conspiracy theorists point to questions like these as evidence of Soviet involvement in the assassination of JFK.

5.) The Cubans Killed JFK

There are two separate sub-theories surrounding Cuba and the JFK assassination. The first, as ABC News points out, is that Castro had JFK assassinated in retaliation for the numerous attempts on his life during the Kennedy administration, courtesy of both the CIA and the Mafia. In 1968, Johnson told ABC News that “Kennedy was trying to get to Castro, but Castro got to him first.”

During an interview with Bill Moyers in 1977, Castro said the theory was “absolute insanity.”

The second, perhaps more plausible, theory involves a mixture of militant anti-Castro Cuban exiles in Miami, the Mafia and the CIA. As the Mary Ferrell Foundation points out, the anti-Castro Cubans were enraged by Kennedy’s failure to provide crucial air support during the Bay of Pigs invasion. This could have been seen as emblematic of Kennedy’s “soft” approach to communism, a charge that had already been leveled at him after he chose not to invade Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Did anti-Castro Cubans, working in conjunction with the CIA and the Mafia, assassinate JFK?



Thanks to Andrew Berry.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

"The JFK Collection" On DVD - 8 Films Covering His Life, His Death and His Legacy

HISTORY presents The JFK Collection, an impressive 3-disc DVD set exploring one of America’s most legendary families available on October 22 from Lionsgate Home Entertainment. Chronicling the life and legacy of our nation’s 35th President John F. Kennedy, the 8-film collection arrives just in time for the 50th anniversary of one of the most talked about moments in American history.

Featuring hours of content celebrating his iconic life, The JFK Collection 3-disc DVD set will be available for the suggested retail price of $19.98.

Go inside the life of John F. Kennedy, a reckless rich kid who lived on the edge and became a WWII hero and a president who challenged the nation as it had never been before. This comprehensive family portrait also includes hour-long biographies of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Joseph P. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, John F. Kennedy, Jr. and Ted Kennedy.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Don't Miss it When @TheMobMuseum Hosts "JFK: An Inside Look at the Assassination of a President, 50 Years Later"

On Thursday, November 7, at 7 p.m., The Mob Museum, The National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, will host “JFK: An Inside Look into the Assassination of a President 50 Years Later” in its historic courtroom. Part of the Museum’s ongoing programming series, the evening will provide a look back at this historic event through the differing perspectives of three panelists.

Authors Patrick Nolan (“CIA Rogues and the Killing of the Kennedys,” due to be released on November 6), Gerald Posner (“Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK”) and G. Robert Blakey (“The Plot to Kill the President” and “Fatal Hour: The Assassination of President Kennedy by Organized Crime”) will address questions such as: Was Lee Harvey Oswald a lone shooter? What role, if any, did organized crime play in the assassination? Was government involved? Moderating the panel will be Tom Stone, senior lecturer in English at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, who has taught classes for the last 20 years on JFK’s assassination.




Patrick Nolan is a forensic historian who has dedicated his life to uncovering truths surrounding the JFK, MLK, and RFK assassinations of the 1960s. He’s been a journalist, a television news producer, and a professor at Hofstra University and St. John’s University. His groundbreaking book, “CIA Rogues and the Killing of the Kennedys:  How and Why US Agents Conspired to Assassinate JFK and RFK,” is based on world-famous forensic scientist Dr. Henry C. Lee’s conclusion that both Kennedy murders involved more than one gunman. Were the conspirators who assassinated the President the same perpetrators that killed his brother the Senator? In “CIA Rogues,” Nolan offers a fresh new look at the evidence and pieces together one of the most disturbing puzzles in American History. He claims an alliance involving a high-level CIA rogue element, led by Richard Helms and James Angleton, with mob support, had the motive, means and opportunity to carry out both assassinations and cover them up for nearly a half century.

At 23, Posner was one of the youngest attorneys ever hired by Cravath, Swaine & Moore. A Political Science major, Posner was a Phi Beta Kappa and Summa Cum Laude graduate of the University of California at Berkeley (1975), where he was also a national debating champion, winner of the Meiklejohn Award. At Hastings Law School (1978), he was an Honors Graduate and served as the Associate Executive Editor for the Law Review. Posner has worked as a freelance writer on investigative issues for several news magazines, and a regular contributor to NBC, the History Channel, CNN, FOX News, CBS, and MSNBC. He is the author of 11 books covering everything from Nazi war criminals to heroin trafficking to political assassinations to 9/11 and terrorism.  His 1993 book, “Case Closed,” was a New York Times bestseller and a finalist for the Pulitzer in History.  It received widespread critical acclaim. Typical was historian Robert Dallek in The Boston Globe, “Superb…The most convincing explanation of the assassination” and Jeffrey Toobin in the Chicago Tribune, “Utterly convincing…Fascinating and important…Case closed, indeed.”  In Case Closed, Posner concludes that Oswald alone killed JFK.

Blakey is a recognized expert on organized crime and an authority on the JFK assassination. In the late 1960s he campaigned for and helped write much of the anti-racketeering legislation (RICO Act) that had a major impact on fighting organized crime. As chief counsel to the 1977 House Select Committee on Assassinations, Blakey led the investigation into President Kennedy's assassination, reexamining the evidence with a new forensics panel. Blakey also worked as a Special Attorney at the Department of Justice in the Organized Crime & Racketeering Section from 1960 to 1964. Blakey is the co-author with Richard Billings of “The Plot to Kill the President” (1981). The book was reissued in paperback in 1993 as “Fatal Hour: The Assassination of President Kennedy by Organized Crime.”

Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. with a reception featuring light fare and a cash bar. The program will begin promptly at 7 p.m. in The Mob Museum’s historic courtroom. Following the moderator-led panel discussion, audience members will have a chance to ask questions and have their books signed by the authors. The evening will mark the first public signing of Nolan’s book. The program will conclude by 9 p.m.

Tickets for the November 7 event are $30 for non-members; Museum members will receive a 10 percent discount. To make reservations, please call (702) 229-2734 or visit http://themobmuseum.org/archives/category/events/.

Friday, August 30, 2013

MacArthur Foundation Expands Investment in Juvenile Justice Reform to $165 Million, Launches Resource Centers to Advance Reform and Improve Outcomes for Youth

Building on its nearly 20-year, $150 million investment in supporting juvenile justice reform, MacArthur announced an additional commitment of $15 million to the field, in part to establish the new Models for Change Resource Center Partnership. The Partnership will provide judges, prosecutors, defenders, policymakers, advocates, probation officers, and mental health and social service agencies with much needed technical assistance, trainings, tools, and resources to help advance juvenile justice reform across the country.

“Reforms like the elimination of life without parole for juveniles and raising the age at which people are tried as juveniles are examples of progress toward a system that is fair, just, and humane in its treatment of our nation’s youth,” said Laurie Garduque, Director of Justice Reform for the MacArthur Foundation. “There has been so much progress made over the past decade toward better outcomes for kids, their families, and their communities. But there is so much more to do and juvenile justice reform must continue.”

The Partnership is based on nearly twenty years of research, practice, and reform efforts that have reached more than 35 states, much of which was made possible by the Foundation’s Models for Change: Systems Reform in Juvenile Justice initiative. MacArthur’s juvenile justice work is grounded in the seminal research funded by the Foundation that showed that adolescents are fundamentally different from adults, and that treating juvenile offenders as adults, relying on incarceration, and failing to commit resources to rehabilitation and treatment is expensive, jeopardizes public safety, and compromises future life chances for young people in contact with the law. This latest round of funding by the Foundation will also support development of the Juvenile Justice Resource Hub, a comprehensive source of information on leading-edge juvenile justice issues and reform trends, among other initiatives.

The Resource Center Partnership will further the Foundation’s goal of protecting kids while making communities safer and improving the effectiveness, performance, and outcomes of the juvenile justice system. The new Partnership consists of four Resource Centers that will be fully operational by the end of 2013. The Centers will focus on areas critical to continued change in juvenile justice:


  •     response to mental health needs
  •     stronger legal defense for indigent youth
  •     interventions for youth charged with status offenses (activities that are criminalized for those under 18, e.g., truancy, running away, curfew violations)
  •     coordination of practices and policies for youth involved in both the juvenile justice and child welfare systems, and enhancement of probation system practices  


The newly launched Resource Centers include:

    The Mental Health and Juvenile Justice Collaborative for Change: A Training, Technical Assistance and Education Center: Led by the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice at Policy Research Inc., the Center will be a training, technical assistance, and education center designed to promote and support the adoption of new resources, tools, and program models to help those in the field better respond to youth with mental health needs in the juvenile justice system.
    The National Juvenile Defender Center: The Center will improve access to counsel and quality of representation for children in the justice system and will bolster juvenile defense by replicating field-driven innovations, facilitating adoption of new juvenile justice defense standards, and developing a corps of certified juvenile indigent defense trainers.
    The Robert F. Kennedy National Resource Center for Juvenile Justice: Led by the Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps, the Center will use proven models, frameworks, tools, resources, and the best available research to serve local, state, and national leaders, practitioners, and youth-serving agencies to improve system performance and outcomes for youth involved with the juvenile justice system. The Center will focus primarily on youth with prior or current involvement in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems (known as dually-involved youth) and on the review and improvement of juvenile probation systems.
    The Status Offense Reform Center: Led by the Vera Institute of Justice, the Center will serve as a resource clearinghouse and assistance center for practitioners and policymakers in juvenile justice, with a focus on encouraging and showcasing strategies to safely and effectively divert non-delinquent youth and their families from the formal juvenile justice system.

To help further enrich the tools and trainings offered by the Centers, as well as ensure that practitioners and policymakers who may benefit from the resources receive them, the Partnership also includes a strategic alliance of national experts and organizations. These strategic allies, including the National Conference of State Legislatures, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and the National Center for State Courts, among others, represent state leaders, local elected officials, law enforcement, prosecutors, corrections professionals, judges, court personnel, and justice reform advocates, whose willingness to coordinate and work with diverse partners on juvenile justice issues has been and will continue to be critical to advancing reforms.

“State lawmakers across the country are actively working to improve the quality of juvenile justice systems and outcomes for youth,” said Sarah Brown, Program Director of Criminal Justice for the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). “The MacArthur Foundation has been a strong partner with NCSL and state lawmakers to assist in these efforts, and the new Resource Center Partnership will provide legislators and practitioners in the field with enhanced resources, research, technical assistance, and support for effective implementation of juvenile justice reforms.”

Friday, August 02, 2013

Tomorrow, @PeterLance to Discuss #DealwiththeDevil at @TheMobMuseum, Details Greg Scarpa Sr.'s Relationship with the #FBI

On Saturday, Aug. 3, award-winning author Peter Lance will deliver a presentation and sign his book, “Deal with the Devil” at The Mob Museum, the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement. His presentation, to be aired as part of C-SPAN-Book-TV regular programming, will take place at 1 p.m. with the book signing scheduled to follow at 2:30 p.m.

Since 2001, Lance has been writing investigative books regarding the FBI’s counter-terrorism and organized crime track records. He is a five-time winner of the News & Documentary Emmy award and recipient of the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism award. In addition to “Deal with the Devil,” Lance has written three books for HarperCollins regarding international terrorism and the Green Berets.

Lance’s book details how the government’s relationships with organized crime went all the way to the Kennedy presidency. In more than four decades as a violent gangster, Gregory Scarpa, Sr., served only 30 days in jail during the years when he was "closed" as an FBI source. For more than 30 of those years, a series of FBI agents intervened to keep the so-called Mad Hatter on the street. But that was not the most disturbing aspect of Scarpa's relationship with the government. In light of the 1,150-plus pages of the recently accessed FBI files on Scarpa, Sr., Lance argues the FBI's very playbook against La Cosa Nostra was defined and shaped by what the elder Scarpa fed them-particularly in the years from 1961 to 1972, when J. Edgar Hoover himself was on the receiving end of 34's Airtels. Drawing on secret FBI Airtels never before seen outside the Bureau, it is revealed how Gregory Scarpa, Sr., then a young capo for the Profaci crime family, led J. Edgar Hoover himself into the inner sanctum of the underworld. Once that alliance began, there seemed to be no turning back for the Bureau.

"They enlisted a hyper-violent killer to stop much less capable murderers," says Ellen Resnick, defense attorney, whose work helped expose this unholy alliance. "It was the ultimate ends-justify-the-means relationship."

The event is free with Museum admission but reservations are encouraged and may be made by calling (702) 229-2734 or via www.TheMobMuseum.org.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Bill O'Reilly's "Killing Kennedy" Released Today

Bill O'Reilly describes himself as a journalistic "watchdog" and a "champion bloviator."

He's not a historian — "not really. That's not my discipline," he says in his corner office at Fox News, home of The O'Reilly Factor, the top-rated show on cable news. But few history books can approach the popularity of O'Reilly's Killing Lincoln, which has sold more than 2 million copies since it was released a year ago. His new book, Killing Kennedy (Henry Holt), about the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, could be as popular. It goes on sale Tuesday.

Both books were co-written by Martin Dugard, who did most of the research, leaving the writing to O'Reilly, whose approach is to write "history that's fun to read" in a "populist way. No pinheaded stuff, just roar it through!"

It's history as fast-paced thriller, with dramatic foreshadowing in a you-are-there present tense. And, O'Reilly says, "it's all true!"

A few historians questioned details and a lack of documentation in Killing Lincoln. O'Reilly, a former high school history teacher, says any errors, corrected in later editions, are "picayune." The criticism, he says, is just jealousy.

"These guys toil in obscurity their whole lives, and a punk like me comes along and sells 2 million copies. They're not happy."

O'Reilly, 63, is to traditional history what best-selling novelist James Patterson is to literature. Neither gets much respect from academic types. Both say they don't care — all the way to bank.

They also share a collaborator. Dugard (whom O'Reilly calls "the best researcher I could find — and I talked to all the top guys") co-wrote Patterson's 2009 non-fiction bestseller, The Murder of King Tut, about a 3,000-year-old mystery.

O'Reilly says he didn't solve all the mysteries of the Kennedy assassination. He found no evidence of a conspiracy but stops short of ruling it out.

"I know that Oswald killed Kennedy. Now, was he pushed? Encouraged to do it by outsiders? Possibly. Possibly. Was he sitting down with Fidel Castro? No."

But he adds, "There were people around Oswald who shouldn't have been there." He cites George de Mohrenschildt, a well-educated Russian immigrant with possible CIA connections, who "had ties to some very, very important people. Why is he hanging with this loser (Oswald)?"

De Mohrenschildt pops up in other books on the assassination. He's even a minor character in Stephen King's best-selling novel 11/22/63. But O'Reilly has a personal connection.In 1977, as a Dallas TV reporter, O'Reilly tried to interview de Mohrenschildt, who also was a target of congressional investigators re-examining the assassination. As O'Reilly tells it, as he knocked on the door of de Mohrenschildt's daughter's house in Palm Beach, Fla., he heard a shotgun blast. Police later ruled that de Mohrenschildt committed suicide. "There were rumors he was murdered," O'Reilly says, "but I found no evidence of that." He adds, "I'm still working the story. There's something there. What it is, I just don't know."

O'Reilly's biggest surprises were "how crazy, and I mean crazy," Oswald was, and "how little the authorities did to protect Kennedy" in Dallas.

Two-thirds of the book deals with Kennedy's presidency and private life, including his extramarital affairs. It portrays Kennedy as a pragmatic and decisive leader who treated sexual risks as "his carpe diem way of living life to the utmost."

"I wanted to show the good and the bad," O'Reilly says.

He says his biggest break was getting FBI agents who flooded Dallas after the assassination to share what they learned about Oswald. He says that helped him understand the assassin, a former Marine who defected to Russia, then returned to the USA with his Russian-born wife, Marina.

For a taste of O'Reilly's style, consider his description of Oswald on the eve of the assassination as he visits his estranged wife.

As O'Reilly sets the scene, Oswald is undecided about shooting Kennedy as he begs his wife to take him back. "But if she doesn't, " O'Reilly writes, "Oswald will be left with no choice."

"That's how delusional Lee Harvey Oswald's world has become. He now deals only in absolutes: either live happily ever after — or murder the president."

O'Reilly may not be a historian, but his office walls are filled with historic artifacts, including the last South Vietnamese flag to fly over the U.S. Embassy in Saigon and the errant Chicago Tribune front page proclaiming "Dewey Defeats Truman."

He boasts, "Everything in here is an original," which could be applied to O'Reilly himself.

His love-him-or-hate-him personality is part of his appeal. To viewers who complain that he shouts, he says, "Turn down the volume. I don't really shout that much. I'm just a loud Irish guy."

He says that the liberal media "don't get me" — that he's not a conservative but a "traditionalist." In 2009, he supported President Obama's financial bailouts and economic stimulus, which, he says "led to a big brouhaha with (Rush) Limbaugh." Now, O'Reilly complains, Obama "has lost control of the economy." Mitt Romney, he says, can't connect with "the guy making $40,000 a year."

He writes popular history "to get people engaged with their country." He complains that few history books are fun to read: "Even the really good ones, by Robert Caro and these guys — I mean, they're brilliant guys, but to get through 800 pages, you either have to be retired or on vacation for six weeks."

For those keeping score, Caro's fourth book on Lyndon Johnson,The Passage of Power, is 712 pages, including 79 pages of footnotes and sources. Killing Kennedy is 325 pages, including seven pages about its sources.

The Passage of Power landed on USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list at No. 15 and spent seven weeks in the top 150. Killing Lincoln landed on the list at No. 3 and has been in top 50 for 42 weeks. It's now No. 38. (A kids' version, Lincoln's Last Days, landed on the list at No. 42 and is now No. 61.)

No history book has sold so well since David McCullough's 2001 biography, John Adams, which was adapted as an HBO miniseries. A two-hour version of Killing Lincoln, narrated by Tom Hanks, will be on National Geographic in February.

But beyond its commercial success, Killing Lincoln got mixed reviews. Its "narrative flair" was praised by University of New Hampshire historian Ellen Fitzpatrick in a Washington Post review, but she said it "offers no direct citations for any of its assertions."

Rae Emerson, deputy superintendent at Ford's Theatre, site of Lincoln's assassination, cited seven errors in the book — such as references to Lincoln in the Oval Office, which wasn't built until 1909.

O'Reilly says he invited anyone who challenged his facts to appear on his TV show, but no one would. Emerson didn't respond to questions from USA TODAY.

As with Killing Lincoln, Killing Kennedy doesn't always name names or cite its sources.

It describes a 1962 party at Bing Crosby's home and a rendezvous between Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe this way: "There is an intimacy in their movements that leaves no doubt they will be sleeping together tonight."

O'Reilly says that's based on an article in the British tabloid Daily Mail, confirmed by a federal agent who was at the party. "I don't want to sound defensive, but either you believe what we wrote, or you don't," he says. "I'm not writing a Ph.D. dissertation."

Douglas Brinkley, a Rice University historian and prolific author (most recently of the biography Cronkite), says that popular history often omits footnotes and that O'Reilly shouldn't be "held to a double standard because of his politics."

But Brinkley adds that the Kennedy assassination remains a heated issue, and "whatever O'Reilly writes, it will be picked apart. The lack of footnotes and details about its sources make it harder to find the book's frailties. But someone will find them — if they are there."

Thanks to Bob Minzesheimer.

Monday, July 09, 2012

The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy

Celebrated historian David Nasaw brings to life the story of Joseph Patrick Kennedy, in this, the first and only biography based on unrestricted and exclusive access to the Joseph P. Kennedy papers.

Joseph Patrick Kennedy—whose life spanned the First World War, the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, the Second World War, and the Cold War—was the patriarch of America’s greatest political dynasty. The father of President John F. Kennedy and senators Robert and Edward Kennedy, “Joe” Kennedy was an indomitable and elusive figure whose dreams of advancement for his nine children were matched only by his extraordinary personal ambition and shrewd financial skills. Trained as a banker, Kennedy was also a Hollywood mogul, a stock exchange savant, a shipyard manager, the founding chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and ambassador to London during the Battle of Britain. Though his incredible life encompasses the very heart of the American century, Joseph Kennedy has remained shrouded in rumor and prejudice for decades.

Drawing on never-before-published material from archives on three continents, David Nasaw—the renowned biographer of Andrew Carnegie and William Randolph Hearst—unearths a man far more complicated than the popular portrait. Was Kennedy an appeaser and isolationist, an anti-Semite and Nazi sympathizer, a stock swindler, a bootlegger, and a colleague of mobsters? Did he push his second son into politics and then buy his elections for him? Why did he have his daughter Rosemary lobotomized? Why did he oppose the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, the Korean War, and American assistance to the French in Vietnam? What was his relationship to J. Edgar Hoover and his FBI? How did he influence his son’s politics and policies in the White House? In this groundbreaking biography Nasaw ignores the tired old answers surrounding Kennedy, starting from scratch to discover the truth behind this misunderstood man.

Though far from a saint, Joseph Kennedy in many ways exemplifies the best in American political, economic, and social life. His rags-to-riches story is one of exclusion and quiet discrimination overcome by entrepreneurship, ingenuity, and unshakable endurance. Kennedy’s story deserves to be told in full, with no holds barred, and Nasaw’s magnificent The Patriarch is the first book to do so.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot

A riveting historical narrative of the shocking events surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and the follow-up to mega-bestselling author Bill O'Reilly's Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever.

More than a million readers have thrilled to Bill O'Reilly's Killing Lincoln, the page-turning work of nonfiction about the shocking assassination that changed the course of American history. Now the anchor of The O'Reilly Factor recounts in gripping detail the brutal murder of John Fitzgerald Kennedy—and how a sequence of gunshots on a Dallas afternoon not only killed a beloved president but also sent the nation into the cataclysmic division of the Vietnam War and its culture-changing aftermath.

In January 1961, as the Cold War escalates, John F. Kennedy struggles to contain the growth of Communism while he learns the hardships, solitude, and temptations of what it means to be president of the United States. Along the way he acquires a number of formidable enemies, among them Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, and Alan Dulles, director of the Central Intelligence Agency.  In addition, powerful elements of organized crime have begun to talk about targeting the president and his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy.

In the midst of a 1963 campaign trip to Texas, Kennedy is gunned down by an erratic young drifter named Lee Harvey Oswald. The former Marine Corps sharpshooter escapes the scene, only to be caught and shot dead while in police custody.

The events leading up to the most notorious crime of the twentieth century are almost as shocking as the assassination itself. Killing Kennedy chronicles both the heroism and deceit of Camelot, bringing history to life in ways that will profoundly move the reader.  This may well be the most talked about book of the year.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI's Reputation Soared with High-Profile Arrests of Gangsters

It is fitting to begin in the heart of Washington D.C., where J. Edgar Hoover lies at rest.

He was a local kid who grew up on Capitol Hill, just a few blocks away.

He's buried in his family plot, but Rebecca Roberts, program director at Congressional Cemetery, says former FBI agents built the fence and added a bench - creating a memorial that draws new recruits. "Every now and then some young men in dark suits with little wires coming out of their ears come in the front gate of the cemetery, coming to pay their respects to the director," Roberts said.

The director for an astonishing 48 years, starting in 1924, J. Edgar Hoover became one of the most powerful men in American history - a man who collected secrets and knew how to use them.

He made the FBI a symbol of professional law enforcement and a source of pride for Americans: "The Federal Bureau of Investigation is as close to you as your nearest telephone," Lowell Thomas said in a 1930s newsreel. "It seeks to be your protector in all matters in its jurisdiction. It belongs to you." But Hoover also turned the Bureau into his personal fiefdom: "Presidents were afraid of firing Hoover," said author Ron Kessler. "Congress didn't want to do any oversight. The FBI was a law unto itself."

Kessler has written three books about the FBI. He says that, ironically, in the beginning Hoover, a young Justice Dept. lawyer, was charged with cleaning up a corrupt division. "Hoover emphasized the need for professionalism, not hiring people just because they were friends of someone or family members," Kessler said. "He established the fingerprint operation, he established the indexing system with files."

He also established the FBI Academy, to train agents in crime-busting techniques - making sure he got the credit. In fact, the Bureau's reputation (and Hoover's) soared with high-profile arrests of gangsters like John Dillinger. But out of the spotlight, the director was consolidating his power in another way - collecting dirt. "Hoover, for one thing, would tell for example the head of the Washington field office, 'I want material on Congressmen,' and that would include affairs that they might be having, or they were picked up for seeing a prostitute the night before," said Kessler. "And then he would make sure that they knew that he knew what they had done."

Hoover kept files on celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, John Lennon, Elvis Presley, and even Albert Einstein - "In part because he wanted to have little gossip items to impart to presidents," said Kessler, "or on the other hand, just to maintain his aura as being this powerful person who knew everything."

"That is complete fabrication," said Cartha "Deke" Deloach, now 91, who was one of Hoover's top lieutenants. He insists that if the FBI kept files on public figures, it was for legitimate reasons.

Case in point: The information that President John F. Kennedy was sharing a girlfriend, Judith Campbell Exner, with Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana. "That came to our attention because of a wiretap and microphone that the Attorney General approved, the White House knew about them, that we had on Giancana," said Deloach. "As a result, the White House sometimes would call Exner and it would be overheard by a wiretap."

As for the bugging of Martin Luther King Jr., who feuded with Hoover over the Bureau's enforcement of civil rights, the FBI's alleged justification for tapping King was an investigation into two of his advisers who were said to be Communists. But the taps ended up recording evidence of King's extramarital affairs.

"Hoover was outraged that King was having affairs and projecting himself as a minister, but at the same time Hoover also was jealous of King because he got the Nobel Prize, and that really infuriated Hoover," said Kessler. "Hoover just totally went after him. He would even write letters to people who wanted to give awards to King saying, "You know, we shouldn't do that.'"

Hoover may have amassed information on the sex lives of many prominent figures, but his own personal life has long been the subject of speculation. "There were for years reports and rumors that Hoover used to cross-dress," said Braver.

"Yeah, the rumor that Hoover cross-dressed and wore a red dress to the Plaza was a concoction of someone who actually had been convicted of perjury and was quoted in a book," said Kessler. "It didn't happen."

But how about Hoover's relationship with his top deputy, Clyde Tolson? "Tolson and Hoover would go on vacations together, would take adoring pictures of each other, would have lunch and dinner together almost every single day," said Kessler. "There is no actual evidence of a sexual relationship, but I believe he was homosexual, and that he had a spousal relationship with Tolson."

"Deke" Deloach says he never saw anything other than friendship between the two men, but that Hoover was aware of rumors. "He's actually said to have agents go and visit people and say 'I understand you're talking about the director,'" said Braver.

"I did," Deloach said. "I was told to do it, saying, 'You have made remarks concerning Mr. Hoover being a homosexual. Give me the evidence.' And they'd always back down."

Through the years, under eight presidents, Hoover became so entrenched that he was all but untouchable.

LBJ allowed Hoover to serve beyond the 70-year age limit. He signed an executive order exempting him from compulsory retirement for an indefinite period of time. And Richard Nixon didn't fire him, either. "Nixon was afraid to do it," Deloach said.

"Were people afraid to do it because they were afraid Hoover would go ballistic on them and start leaking out bad stuff about them?" Braver asked. "That was part of it. They were afraid of him."

Hoover died in 1972 at age 77.

His funeral was a state occasion. But shortly after his death, details began leaking of a controversial domestic spying program, known as COINTELPRO, and of Hoover's own personal abuses - for example, using FBI agents to work on his home.

"What do you think happened to Hoover along the way?" asked Braver.

"Hoover, being as powerful as he was and having all this adulation all the time, did think he was God," said Kessler. "Initially he was very far-sighted. He did create this great organization. But as time went on, he became a despot."

Shortly after Hoover's burial, Clyde Tolson, who inherited Hoover's entire estate, bought the closest available plot. And almost 40 years after J. Edgar Hoover's death, we are still wondering about his secrets - Those he used, and those he kept.

Thanks to Rita Braver

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy

In 1964, Jacqueline Kennedy recorded seven historic interviews about her life with John F. Kennedy. Now, for the first time, they can be heard and read in this deluxe, illustrated book and 8-CD set.

Shortly after President John F. Kennedy s assassination, with a nation deep in mourning and the world looking on in stunned disbelief, Jacqueline Kennedy found the strength to set aside her own personal grief for the sake of posterity and begin the task of documenting and preserving her husband s legacy. In January of 1964, she and Robert F. Kennedy approved a planned oral-history project that would capture their first-hand accounts of the late President as well as the recollections of those closest to him throughout his extraordinary political career. For the rest of her life, the famously private Jacqueline Kennedy steadfastly refused to discuss her memories of those years, but beginning that March, she fulfilled her obligation to future generations of Americans by sitting down with historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and recording an astonishingly detailed and unvarnished account of her experiences and impressions as the wife and confidante of John F. Kennedy. The tapes of those sessions were then sealed and later deposited in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum upon its completion, in accordance with Mrs. Kennedy s wishes. The resulting eight and a half hours of material comprises a unique and compelling record of a tumultuous era, providing fresh insights on the many significant people and events that shaped JFK s presidency but also shedding new light on the man behind the momentous decisions. Here are JFK s unscripted opinions on a host of revealing subjects, including his thoughts and feelings about his brothers Robert and Ted, and his take on world leaders past and present, giving us perhaps the most informed, genuine, and immediate portrait of John Fitzgerald Kennedy we shall ever have. Mrs. Kennedy s urbane perspective, her candor, and her flashes of wit also give us our clearest glimpse into the active mind of a remarkable First Lady.

In conjunction with the fiftieth anniversary of President Kennedy s Inauguration, Caroline Kennedy and the Kennedy family are now releasing these beautifully restored recordings on CDs with accompanying transcripts. Introduced and annotated by renowned presidential historian Michael Beschloss, these interviews will add an exciting new dimension to our understanding and appreciation of President Kennedy and his time and make the past come alive through the words and voice of an eloquent eyewitness to history.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Legendary Organized Crime Figure Frank Colacurcio Sr. Dies

Frank Colacurcio Sr., the strip-club magnate whose organized-crime exploits covered more than half a century and helped define Seattle's history of police corruption and reform, died Friday. He was 93.

Mr. Colacurcio had been in declining health for some time, suffering from congestive heart failure. His death was confirmed by his attorney, Irwin Schwartz. Mr. Colacurcio died at University of Washington Medical Center, said spokeswoman Leila Gray.

In keeping with his life story, Mr. Colacurcio was under indictment at the time of his death, facing allegations of racketeering and promoting prostitution.

"It is the end of an era, hopefully one that won't be repeated," former Seattle U.S. Attorney Jeff Sullivan said Friday.

Mr. Colacurcio died only a week after the final dismantling of his strip-club operations by federal prosecutors, 67 years after he was first sent to prison for what was then called carnal knowledge with a teenage girl.

As Seattle's longest-running crime figure, Mr. Colacurcio often was portrayed by law-enforcement officials and the news media as one of Seattle's most notorious racketeering figures.

The reputation stemmed from convictions for tax evasion and racketeering that repeatedly sent him to prison. Adding to the lore were murky tales — involving corrupt cops and his cat-and-mouse dealings with law-enforcement officials — that no one could explain, except perhaps Mr. Colacurcio.

Despite his notoriety, Mr. Colacurcio wasn't flashy. He wore golf shirts, played cards and lived in a modest home in the Sheridan Beach neighborhood of Lake Forest Park at the north end of Lake Washington. His one indulgence was a 38-foot boat used for fishing in Alaska.

He benefited in the 1950s and 1960s when Seattle had rougher edges and police turned their eyes from vice and criminal activity in exchange for payoffs.

Eventually, he became a top target of federal and local law-enforcement officials.

For years, the feds and other investigators picked through his trash, eavesdropped on his conversations and recruited snitches. They finally got him in the 1970s, for racketeering and failing to pay taxes on money skimmed from his businesses. But their long-held suspicion that Mr. Colacurcio was involved in the execution-style slayings of several people who had crossed him never resulted in charges. In an interview a few years ago, Mr. Colacurcio dismissed the notion that he was involved in old killings or illegal activities. "They have been investigating me since the time I was born," he said.

Once considered Seattle's own connection to the Mafia, he more likely headed a homegrown organized-crime outfit, law-enforcement officials concluded.

"Mafia malarkey," he once complained, saying local investigators needed someone they could label as their own mob figure.

Yet he and his associates also seemed to enjoy the image. Five years ago, while he awaited a court hearing, a cellphone belonging to an investigator on his defense team rang. The ringtone: the theme song for the movie "The Godfather."

For some detectives, investigating Mr. Colacurcio was an obsession. They built dossiers with flow charts and pictures of his known associates. Once, they even rented a room next to his old SeaTac office to eavesdrop through an electrical outlet.

Mr. Colacurcio outlasted some investigators, who moved to other jobs or retired. One federal prosecutor who brought charges against him later became his defense attorney.

"I'll never be 'retired' retired," Mr. Colacurcio said in 1995. "Not until I'm in the grave."

He ran his operations from Talents West, a hiring agency and business office in a small building on Lake City Way. Its walls displayed photographs of scantily dressed women and a giant framed photo of Mr. Colacurcio leaving a courthouse.

Mr. Colacurcio was born in Seattle to immigrant parents on June 18, 1917. He quit school at age 15 to begin farming and started a produce-hauling business.

Beginning in the 1950s, he used thugs and threats to control Seattle's jukebox, pinball and cigarette-vending-machine business, competitors alleged. Those businesses historically had attracted organized crime because of their easily skimmed cash.

He also sought to expand into Portland, drawing the attention of a U.S. Senate committee investigating organized crime.

Under questioning by Robert F. Kennedy, chief counsel for the committee, James "Big Jim" Elkins, a Portland crime figure, told the committee that Mr. Colacurcio asked for Elkins' help in opening prostitution houses there.

"He wanted me to arrange so that he could take over three or four houses," Elkins testified. "I told him if he wanted the houses to go buy them."

Elkins described Mr. Colacurcio as a fellow racketeer and a "boy that had various things operating in Seattle."

In the 1960s, Mr. Colacurcio held an interest in several bars, restaurants and nightclubs in Seattle. He ran a beer garden at the Seattle World's Fair in 1962 and introduced go-go dancing to Seattle at the Firelite Room in 1965.

For years, the well-entrenched tolerance policy in Seattle and King County kept the police from bothering him until the payoff system crumbled, brought down by investigative reporters, Christopher T. Bayley, a reform-minded King County prosecutor, and Stan Pitkin, a hard-charging U.S. attorney in Seattle.

In a 1971 trial, Mr. Colacurcio was convicted of racketeering for bringing illegal bingo cards into the state. Federal prosecutors exposed a bribery scheme in which police were paid to ignore illegal gambling activities at area taverns. A nightclub owner testified that he paid Colacurcio $3,000 a month for police protection.

Around the same time, State Patrol investigators reported that Mr. Colacurcio had met in Yakima with Salvatore "Bill" Bonanno, the son of legendary New York Mafia boss Joseph "Joe Bananas" Bonanno, to discuss a business relationship. Mr. Colacurcio famously responded to a reporter that he and his family had gone to Yakima to pick hot peppers, "but I didn't pick no bananas."

Although he served prison stints for the 1971 conviction and a 1981 tax-fraud conviction, Mr. Colacurcio opened topless taverns and strip clubs — another cash business that allowed profit-skimming — throughout the Seattle area and beyond, eventually operating in at least 10 Western states.

Law-enforcement officials banded together in 1984, driving him out of many states.

For a period, Mr. Colacurcio almost faded into local lore. After a 1991 guilty plea to tax fraud and his 36-year-year marriage to Jackie Colacurcio ended in divorce about the same time, he and his son, Frank Colacurcio Jr., concentrated on running a smaller number of nude-dancing clubs.

The clubs, which years earlier had stopped selling alcohol to avoid state liquor inspectors, made their money from cover charges, high-priced soft drinks and charging a hefty per diem to the dancers. But Mr. Colacurcio and his son landed on the front page of newspapers in 2003 when the "Strippergate" scandal jolted Seattle City Hall.

For years, the Colacurcios had tried to expand parking at Rick's, a Lake City Way strip club, but were repeatedly rejected. When the parking plan came before the council again in 2003, Colacurcio associates contributed thousands of dollars to three City Council members, who helped form a majority that approved the plan.

Strippergate also cast a spotlight on the long friendship between Mr. Colacurcio and former Washington Gov. Albert Rosellini. Rosellini, who served as governor from 1957 to 1965 and is now 100 years old, played a role in pushing for the parking-lot rezone.

Their ties had gone back for years, dogging Rosellini during his political career, although there was never proof of illegal dealings.

In the Strippergate case, prosecutors charged Mr. Colacurcio, his son and two others with skirting donation limits by secretly reimbursing contributors. In 2008, Mr. Colacurcio, his son and an associate pleaded guilty to criminal charges and paid fines. The fourth defendant was dismissed from the case. But even before that case was resolved, the Strippergate case prompted FBI and local law-enforcement officials to launch a broader investigation, looking for evidence of prostitution at Colacurcio clubs.

Investigators also reopened old homicide cases, trying to link Mr. Colacurcio or his associates to the slayings of five people in the 1970s and 1980s: a rival strip-club operator and his fiancée, a bar owner in Central Washington, a mechanic in a murder-for-hire scheme, and a police informant.

Neither Mr. Colacurcio nor his associates were tied to those cases, and involvement in the Central Washington case has been ruled out.

The four-year investigation culminated with racketeering charges brought against Mr. Colacurcio, his son and others last year, alleging they allowed rampant prostitution at Rick's and three other clubs in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties that generated million of dollars in business.

Last week, Frank Colacurcio Jr., 48, pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy charge that will cost him $1.3 million and likely land him in prison for a year and a day. Four close associates of his father earlier pleaded guilty to prostitution- and racketeering-related charges.

As part of plea deals, the Colacurcios' four strip clubs have been shuttered, and the government seized the buildings and other property valued at $4.5 million. The final piece of property, Talents West, was forfeited by Colacurcio Jr. under his plea.

In a final interview a year ago, while sitting in a leather chair, a blanket draped over his lap, Mr. Colacurcio was asked what he wanted his legacy to be. He paused, mulled the question and replied, "I think my background speaks for itself."

Thanks to Steve Miletich

Friday, March 12, 2010

Biography of Sam Giancana

Born Gilormo Giancana, upon May 24, 1908, in Chicago, Illinois. Baptized Momo Salvatore Giancana and good well known as Sam, he grew up in a severe area upon the West Side of Chicago, as the son of Sicilian immigrants. As a teenager, Giancana led a travel squad called “The 42s,” who carried out low-level tasks for members of the absolute Chicago Mafia of the 1920s, led by the scandalous mafiosi Al Capone. Giancana got a pursuit as a “wheelman,” or driver, in the Capone organization, and was arrested for the initial time in 1925, for automobile theft. He shortly graduated to “triggerman,” and by the age of twenty had been the budding theme in 3 attempted attempted attempted murder investigations, though was never tried.

In 1933, Giancana tied together Angeline DeTolve; the integrate had 3 daughters. (Their daughter Antoinette published a memoir, Mafia Princess, in 1984.) Giancana climbed the host ranks via the rest of the decade, as the care in Chicago altered with the jailing of Capone in 1931 (he died in 1947). He initial served prison time starting in 1939, for illegally production whiskey. After his recover in the early 1940s, Giancana set out to take over Chicago’s bootleg lottery gambling operations, quite those in the city’s primarily African-American neighborhood. Through a heartless fibre of events, together with beatings, kidnappings, and murder, he and his associates won carry out of the numbers racket, augmenting the Chicago Mob’s annual income by millions of dollars.

A clergyman who interviewed Giancana during his Selective Service earthy hearing during World War II personal the mafiosi as a “constitutional psychopath” who showed “strong eremitic trends.” As a result, Giancana perceived 4-F standing and was unfit from troops service. He profited from the fight upon the homefront, creation a happening production tawdry allotment stamps. By the finish of the war, the Giancana family had changed from the city to a residence in the abundant Chicago suburb of Oak Park.

When Anthony “Tough Tony” Accardo stepped down as the conduct of the Chicago Outfit (as the city’s bend of the Mafia was known) in the mid-1950s, Giancana ascended to the tip spot. By 1955, he tranquil the gambling and harlotry operations, narcotics trafficking, and alternative bootleg industries in his hometown. Under his leadership, the Chicago Mafia grew from a comparatively small-scale pole to a bone-fide rapist organization. He after told an representative for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) which he “owned” not usually Chicago, though Miami and Los Angeles as well.

In 1959, FBI agents planted a microphone in a room at the Armory Lounge in the suburb of Forest Park, which served as Giancana s headquarters. For the subsequent 6 years, they were means to eavesdrop upon the workings of the Mafia and benefit hold of most rapist activities in Chicago and around the country. Though Giancana s power as Chicago’s preeminent crime trainer was already streamer towards the finish by the tighten of the 1950s, his trail in the 1960s would cranky with dual of America’s most absolute men: Robert and John F. Kennedy.

After Angeline s death in 1954, Giancana became scandalous for his decorated amicable hold up and visit womanizing. He was a crony of the thespian and singer Frank Sinatra, and reportedly used Sinatra as a go-between with Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, who was alienating the Mafia with his relentless debate opposite orderly crime in America. (The intervention was assumingly unsuccessful, as Robert Kennedy swayed FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to place Giancana’s home in Oak Park underneath 24-hour notice in 1963.) Giancana’s countless lovers enclosed Phyllis McGuire, of the McGuire Sisters singing group, and Judith Campbell Exner, an singer who would couple Giancana to an even some-more absolute man: President John F. Kennedy, with whom Exner became concerned when she was still saying Giancana.

Giancana’s assorted ties to JFK have prolonged been the theme of speculation. Many historians hold which list seasoned mixture in Chicago (then underneath the carry out of old-school Democrat Mayor Richard Daley) helped safeguard Kennedy’s choosing in 1960. Giancana himself reportedly claimed which he had helped run a vote-stealing fraud in Cook County, Illinois, a district which had been the determining cause in Kennedy’s victory. On the alternative hand, there have been additionally determined rumors of Mafia impasse in JFK’s 1963 assassination, maybe as punish for what they saw as the ingratitude of the Kennedys in the form of RFK’s electioneer opposite orderly crime.

Whatever Giancana’s specific couple to JFK was, the dual group had a nemesis in common: Fidel Castro, whom Mob leaders hated since he had taken over Cuba, with the endless gambling rackets. The Kennedy Administration, obviously, noticed Castro’s Communist system of administration as a hazard to inhabitant security, as evidenced by the barbarous Bay of Pigs advance in Apr 1961. The tie between Giancana and Kennedy would again be the theme of conjecture when report after flush which the Mafia and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had assimilated forces someday in the 1960s to tract Castro’s assassination.

In 1965, Giancana was put upon hearing for refusing to attest prior to a Chicago grand jury questioning orderly crime. He was condemned to a single year in jail. Upon his release, Giancana trafficked to Mexico, where he lived in self-imposed outcast until 1974. He was extradited which year by the Mexican authorities to attest prior to an additional grand jury. He was postulated shield from sovereign charge and appeared prior to which jury 4 times, though supposing small report of use.

Giancana was subsequent called to attest prior to a United States Senate cabinet questioning Mafia impasse in a unsuccessful CIA tract to attempted murder Castro. Before he was scheduled to testify, Giancana flew to Houston, Texas, and underwent gall bladder surgery. He returned to his Oak Park home upon Jun 17, 1975. Two days later, Sam Giancana was shot once in the back of the conduct and multiform some-more times up by the chin with a .22-caliber pistol whilst in progress in his basement. Though theories abounded as to who killed him (rival Mafiosi, CIA operatives shaken about his destiny testimony, a single of most former girlfriends), no a single was ever arrested in tie with the murder.


Thanks to Full Issue

Saturday, September 26, 2009

John Gotti, Father and Godfather

For the first time ever, John Gotti's children, Angel, Victoria and Peter, speak openly about a life shrouded in secrecy and reveal what they knew about the mafia in an exclusive interview with "48 Hours Mystery" correspondent Troy Roberts.

"I loved the man… but I loathed the life, his lifestyle," said Victoria Gotti. "Prosecutors say my father was the biggest crime boss in the nation... If you really want to know what John Gotti was like, you need to talk to my family. We lived this life…

"I think I realized early on that my family wasn't like other families…
Growing up, my parents tried to hide a lot of things from me…from all of us…

"I think you grow up scared, anxious all the time…" she said.

"I used to get up as a young boy and I used to get excited when I would go and see that my father was alive," said Peter Gotti. "When I would hear him snore, I’d know he made it home."

"We didn’t talk back to my father. We didn’t ask him, 'Did you kill anyone?'" said Angel Gotti.

"I didn’t know his life…I didn’t know his lifestyle," said Peter. "Honestly, I was just a kid that wanted to love his father."

"The public saw my father right out of central casting. He looked the part, acted the part… he was the part! The real life Godfather," said Victoria. "People treat him like he was the second coming of Christ!

"It was very difficult for me to look into these crimes that he was accused of committing… I was angry at everybody for lying to me," she said.

"Do I believe now that my father was this big boss? Yes, I do now," Angel concedes.

"Should I lie and say I don’t love him? We loved him. And that's really all we should have been held accountable for. We just wanna move on," said Victoria.

Now, their brother, John "Junior" Gotti, is on trial again. If convicted, he could face life behind bars.

"My brother John’s life is on the line…like my father. John was a player in that world… but John is not in that courtroom," said Victoria. "I believe that it’s the last name Gotti. It’s definitely Dad."

"It does not mean that a child has to answer for his father’s sins," said Peter.

"Now it’s time to set the record straight," said Victoria. "No one knows John Gotti better than his family does. Nobody. And we’re ready to talk about it. We’re ready to talk about him… finally.

They are images the public has never seen before: the private, treasured photographs and home videos belonging to the children of mob boss John Gotti - a man who once ran the largest organized crime syndicate in the country; a man convicted of multiple counts of murder.

"You don’t want to believe it. And when you love that person, it makes it so much more hard," said Victoria Gotti.

For the first time, the Mafia chieftain's daughters, Victoria and Angel, and his son, Peter, are talking openly about the life they’ve always kept secret… and no question is off limits.

"How difficult is it to accept that your own father either directly or indirectly killed people?" correspondent Troy Roberts asked John Gotti's youngest daughter.

"When you choose that life, I think you know what you're signing on for…," Victoria said. "I think he knew going in what was expected of him. What he would have to do. What it would cost him. And I don't think he cared. I think that all goes along with that life."

"Why do you call it the life?" asked Roberts.
"Because, mostly it’s called the life," Victoria replied.
"No one ever says, 'I’m in the mob?'" Roberts asked.
"No. It’s always the life."

Victoria has never spoken about "the life" publicly, but in her new book, "This Family of Mine: What It Was Like Growing Up Gotti," she's finally talking about what it was really like growing up Gotti.

When asked why she decided now to write a tell-all, she said, "It got personal. I woke up one day and said, 'Enough's enough.' There were so many things that had to be addressed as far as rumors, lies, gossip."

Victoria talked to her father about the possibility of writing a book before he died.

"'If you ever write that book,' he said, 'You write it as your life. One thing I ask that you do… Don't you ever look to make me out to be an altar boy, because I wasn't.'"

But when Victoria and her siblings were children, it's clear that John Gotti never wanted them to know that side of him.

"He just took everything to another extreme," said Gotti's youngest son, Peter. "I remember getting excited about going to see the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center. He would talk for a half an hour, 45 minutes, about how he just wanted to get them chestnuts. You can't even find roasted chestnuts anymore. But he was so excited he would talk like a little kid."

"He was a very funny. People don't know that. He was very funny," said Angel, Gotti's firstborn. But mixed in with the fun, were the lies - like what he told his children he did for a living. "He told me that he worked in a construction crew. I asked where he was going and he would say he was off to somewhere to build a school or a building," Victoria told Roberts.

They believed him, but the truth was that all John Gotti had ever wanted to be was a mobster. He had grown up one of 11 children - raised in Brooklyn by an abusive father and an overwhelmed mother. He quickly embraced a life of crime and violence, working for local gangsters and building a rap sheet.

"This is where he came from," Victoria explained. "These men were the men that were respected. This was something he saw early on and made up his mind that this was what he was going to do. This is what he was going to be. And he never saw anything wrong in that."

In 1958, the future Don was in a local bar where he met Victoria DiGiorgio. He was instantly smitten. Their affair produced a daughter, Angel, and in 1962, they were married. Gotti didn't earn much as a low-level mobster, and they struggled, "facing eviction month, after month, after month," according to Victoria.

Later that year, Victoria was born.

"Mom went into labor unexpectantly. I was early," she explained. "Mom, she said, 'They basically said to your father, "You can come back and pick up mother and child when you pay up the bill." At that time they didn’t have any monies. He comes back late, late that night - literally broke into the hospital. He scooped me up. He helped my mother down the stairs. They hobbled out. They had a good 13-block walk, it was freezing. They had no money for a cab or a bus ride and years later, my dad swore we bonded during that walk."

Two years later, the Gotti's son, John, was born, followed by Frankie. Despite the needs of his growing family, Gotti spent most of his time out of the house, getting into trouble. Victoria said her parents often fought over money and that her mother "was always fearful of the uncertainty."

In 1969, Victoria was just starting grade school, when her father was convicted for hijacking cargo from Kennedy airport and was sent to a federal penitentiary in Pennsylvania for three years. As strange as it sounds, his children had no idea their father was in prison, even when they went to visit him.

"We used to go to prison to see him, and my uncle would be in the same prison. And we really didn't know that he was in prison," Angel told Roberts.

She explained that her mother told the children their father was working. "I remember driving to Pennsylvania. And there would be the big, giant wall. And we’d say, you know, 'Why is that wall… Oh! He built that wall.' I said, 'Wow, he built that big wall.' [And we'd ask] 'And Uncle Angelo, too?' 'Yeah.' We believed it."

When they were home in Brooklyn, Victoria tried to be just like all the other kids. But at the age of 7, she finally found out the truth about her father.

"I went to school and we had to write an essay [about] who our heroes were. And most kids chose their fathers. And I wrote like the other kids, you know, my dad is a construction worker and he builds tall buildings. So I took my place in the front of the room and I started to read this report. And there was a young girl in the back. She yells out, 'Her father’s not, you know, a construction worker. Her father’s a jailbird. He’s in jail.' She had heard it from her parents at the dinner table. She blurted everything that she could out. The fact that he had gone to jail before, that he wasn’t coming home. I remember just standing there in front of that room. It was like, 'Wow - what is she talking about?'' But it made sense to me. And I remember the class laughing at me and I got so upset, so nervous that I just peed on the floor. I'll never forget the teacher. She made me, in front of the kids, get on my hands and knees and clean up the mess."

Victoria asked her mother for the truth.

"I said to her something like, 'Is Daddy really in jail?' She had said to me, 'Sometimes people do bad things. Sometimes they need to pay for these things that they do.' And I remember looking at her and saying, 'Where’s my father? Is he in jail or is he working?' And she looked at me and she said, 'He is in jail.' And those words, I remember they just haunted me for days, nights, weeks, months. All I kept hearing was my mother's words, 'He is in jail.'"

The charade was finally over.

Learning that her father was in jail was Victoria Gotti's first indication that he lived a secret life. "I would lay awake nights and cry a lot thinking, is my dad gonna come home? Is he gonna go to jail again? Is he going to get killed?"

She was right to be afraid. Outside the home, John Gotti lived in a violent world.

In 1973, Gotti was sent to do a personal favor for the Godfather himself, Carlo Gambino. His orders: find the man thought to be involved in the kidnapping and murder of his nephew. At Snoopes Bar in Staten Island, Gotti and his partners confronted James McBratney, who was shot and killed. Although he was not the triggerman, Gotti went to prison, this time for attempted manslaughter.

By the time Victoria reached her early teens, her father had been incarcerated or on the lam for nearly half her life. But the McBratney hit was a big break in Gotti’s career. When he was released from prison in 1977, he was officially inducted into "the life," becoming a made man in the Mafia.

"He had earned his way. He had earned his keep," Victoria explained. "And that really started the rise in that life."

Living that life meant more time spent out of the house, either in his headquarters, called a social club, or out on the town. Gotti’s wife, Victoria, didn't like it one bit.

"She would do crazy things, my mother. One time she sent his armoire to his club," Angel told Roberts.

"As if to say don’t come back?" he asked. "Yeah, 'Here's your clothes, take them.'"

When they weren't fighting, the Gottis were enjoying the fruits of his newfound status. They were now living at a house in Howard Beach, Queens. Angel was 18 when she first got an inkling of how others really saw her father.

"I was dating someone from Ozone Park. He says to me, 'You know - your father’s really, he’s feared. He’s the toughest guy in this neighborhood.' And I’m like, "OK."

All the Gotti children - even Peter, the youngest - would have a moment when they discovered their father had a reputation.

"I was 12 years old. I remember I had a crush and I asked her out. And she said, to me, 'I would love to go with you. But my dad said I'm not allowed. Your family are very bad people,'" he told Roberts. "And, when I had gotten home I had started to cry. My mother told me, 'Peter, I'm telling you right now, your father loves you more than life. You forget all the nonsense and things they're saying; you remember that man would give his life for you. OK? And don't ever forget that.'"

But John Gotti couldn't protect his family from tragedy. In March 1980, 12-year-old Frankie, who Gotti affectionately called "Frankie Boy," was struck by a car while riding a mini bike.

"My sister called me and said, 'Frankie Boy got hit by a car,'" Angel said, tearing up at the memory. "I said, 'Mom, stay in the house. I just have to go and check on Frankie Boy.' And then we went there. And you know, [he's] lying in the street in front of my friend’s house."

Frankie died later that night.

"Dad walked in and then I remember he sat down and I remember he cradled his head in his hands and he lost it," Victoria said.

The driver of the car was the Gotti’s backyard neighbor, John Favara. Victoria claims Favara hit Frankie because Favara was driving erratically.

"He didn’t stop. He had gone to the end of the block and the neighbors were screaming. And he got out of the car and he was very upset. And he started to scream, 'What the f - was he doing in the street to begin with. Whose f-in' kid is this?'"

Police called it an accident, but Victoria was furious with what she says she heard about Favara's callous behavior, and she spoke to her father about it.

"I looked at him and I said, 'You’re supposed to be a tough guy. How can you let somebody kill my brother?' And he just looked at me and he said, 'You know, honey, it was an accident.' And I said, 'No it wasn’t.' And Dad didn’t want to believe it. He looked at me and he said, 'You're wrong, you’re angry. You’re wrong.'

"For the first time, I was so angry at my father that his life - if he could ever be this man when I really needed it, when I really wanted it - I think if ever I could have him be this man that he said he was. It would have been the moment because…"

"You wanted revenge?" asked Roberts.

"I wanted revenge. I was so upset and I thought our lives would never be the same again."

The tragedy sent their mother into a suicidal depression that left her practically bedridden for a year.

That July, John Gotti tried to brighten his wife's spirits by taking the family to Florida. Just three days later, John Favara was abducted as he left his job at a furniture store. Witnesses say several men hit him over the head, forced him into a van and drove off. Favara was never heard from again.

"Four months after your brother was killed John Favara disappeared. Is your father responsible?" Roberts asked Victoria.

"No," she replied.

"How can you be so sure? Did you ask him?"

"I'm positive he wasn't responsible."

"I just can't imagine that this incident, this horrible, tragic accident that devastated your family and your father didn't want to exact revenge?" asked Roberts.

"No… he didn't."

"You were a teenager. Your mother attempted suicide," Roberts continued.

"I'm with you. I'm with you," said Victoria. "I couldn't understand why, either. It angered me."

"I know what my father said, that it was an accident," said Angel. "That's what he said."

When asked by Roberts if it ever entered her mind that perhaps her father was behind that disappearance she replied, "Sometimes. I'm being honest. Sometimes."

Victoria believes her father's mob associates took it upon themselves to exact revenge.

"Do I believe someone in Dad's circle did it? I do. Somebody did it and they thought they'd be celebrated."

Favara's body has never been found. And police never made an arrest in the case. In the years after Frankie’s death, the Gottis struggled to get back to a normal life. Angel met, and then married, her boyfriend.

A year later, it was Victoria's turn.

"I think I was just a kid in a hurry to get out of my father's house quickly," she said.

"You had 1,500 [wedding] guests," Roberts noted. "That's a lot of thank you notes."

"A lot of people to greet," she said. "I didn't know half of the people at my wedding. More than half. I didn't know them. They weren't there for me. They were there for Dad… and I remember thinking something's up."

Little did Victoria know, but the groundwork for her father's ascension to Boss of Bosses was being laid. She danced that night not just with her father, but with the future Godfather.

"He was gonna become a leader. He wasn't gonna be a follower. He was gonna rise to the top," Victoria Gotti said of her father's ambition. "He was gonna make it."

On Dec. 16, 1985, at 5:25 p.m., John Gotti did just that. In a hail of bullets, his fortunes - and the fortunes of his unsuspecting family - changed forever.

It was widely reported that Gotti orchestrated one of the most famous mob murders in New York City history - the hit on his boss Paul Castellano and Gambino No. 2 man Thomas Bilotti.

"Gotti showed a lot of sophistication in engineering almost a flawless assassination of Castellano," said Selwyn Raab, a reporter who has covered the mob for more than 40 years and is a CBS News consultant.

Within days of the murder, Raab said it was no secret John Gotti was the new Godfather.

"After Castellano's murder, Gotti showed up at one of the most important mafia hangouts in New York, the Ravenite Club in Little Italy. And people were kissing his hand. And people were going over and fawning over him."

But back in Howard Beach, Queens, the family had no idea had what was going on.

"And my mother says, 'You're not gonna believe this.' And she was laughing. And she said, 'They have your father now as the boss.' And I said, 'The boss?' And she said, "The boss of the Gambino crime family.' And we all started laughing," Angel said. "We really thought it was funny. I thought it was a big, like - 'Oh, my God - like what are they gonna say next?'"

Peter was in the fifth grade when he learned his father ran the Gambino crime family.

"It was 1985. I had gone to school one morning and we're sitting in class and current events came around. And there are my friends, kids I grew up with. They would parade up to the class, in front of the class, and talk about my dad as if I wasn't even sitting in the room," he told Roberts.

The kids were all talking about a story in the New York Daily News. The headline read, "New Godfather Reported Heading Gambino Gang."

"'John Gotti's the new boss of the Gambinos,' that's what the article said. And, needless to say," Peter continued, "I went on home and I cut that article out of a newspaper. Without my mother knowing. Without my dad knowing. Without anybody knowing. And I still… to this very day, have that article."

Even before John Gotti became the boss of the Gambino crime family, he had brought his oldest son, John Junior, into the family business. It was a secret not even his mother knew about.

"John saw dad driving the fancy car and having these guys look up to him like he was God," said Victoria. And on Christmas Eve 1988, in a secret ceremony, John Junior became a made man.

"I have to wonder if John saw this as a way to just get our father's approval or to somehow make him proud," she said.

The family business was doing pretty well. According to investigators, during the 80s the Gambino crime family grossed about $500 million a year and Gotti himself was getting a pretty big cut. The family says they didn’t see it.

"He didn't move, he didn't go out and buy a huge house somewhere," Victoria told Roberts. "I'm not saying he didn't have it, but he didn't spend it."

"Investigators say he made between $10 to $12 million," Roberts pointed out.

"Oh, yeah, and investigators also say that… he left us $200 million buried somewhere in the backyard," Victoria responded. "I'm still trying to find that money. Investigators say. You tell me where the money is. I'm still lookin'."

But one look at John Gotti told another story.

"He was now wearing custom-made silk suits. I mean, he had monogrammed socks, only cashmere coats," said Raab. "He was now going to the chic restaurants in New York, nightclubs."

Gotti often stayed out all night, had a reputation as a womanizer and was a compulsive gambler.

Peter said his father loved to gamble. ""His way of bonding with me was to watch a ball game with me. Here I was, seven, eight years old. He's askin' my opinion on who I liked to win a college football game."

"Did you help him win? Roberts asked.

"Obviously, not. Because he didn't win much," Peter said with a laugh. But John Gotti made sure his family life was always separate from his work life.

"It sounds odd to people, they don’t understand it," said Angel. "We're not like 'The Sopranos.' We didn’t sit at the dinner table and you curse… we didn't ask him, you know, 'Did you kill anyone?' We didn't ask him those questions."

But if the family didn't want to ask him any questions, the government certainly did.

Raab said, "He was an emperor, he was a titan. He had this attitude, 'Come and get me if you can.'"

In the first five years of his reign, John Gotti was put on trial three times: for assault, for racketeering and for ordering the shooting of a union boss. And in each of those trials, Gotti beat the rap. What no one knew was he had bribed a juror, intimated a witness, and had a crooked cop on the inside.

Gotti's celebrity grew with each victory.

"They just couldn't seem to get enough of him," said Victoria.

John Gotti became a celebrity attracting celebrity. In an Italian restaurant in Little Italy, the Gambino Godfather met actor Marlon Brando, the Hollywood Godfather, and invited him to his social club across the street.

According to Victoria, "Brando was telling jokes all night and doing magic tricks. Dad was doing what he does best, telling stories. And they just enjoyed each other's company."

John Gotti's growing fame was a double-edged sword: he had become the most notorious mobster since Al Capone and he put himself squarely in the sights of the FBI.

"This is going to be very bad," Victoria said. "I was always terrified."

"I think he saw there was no happy ending," Victoria Gotti told Troy Roberts. "I think he knew that one day he was either gonna spend the rest of his life in jail or he was gonna end up dead."

John Gotti knew the FBI was never going to let up. He suspected they had bugged his headquarters in Little Italy, the Ravenite Social Club.

"He didn't trust the atmosphere in general, so he would get up and walk outside, and constantly walk around the block with someone. He didn't want to be recorded," Victoria explained. But someone was listening.

The FBI had placed bugs everywhere-in the club, in the apartment Gotti occasionally used upstairs, and even on the street. They gathered hundreds of hours of recordings of mob business.

The tapes led to Gotti's arrest in December 1990. He faced a litany of charges, including the murder of Paul Castellano.

"There's no question the government had a strong case," said reporter Selwyn Raab. "It was his own words. He talks about five murders. About Castellano, Bilotti. He talks about three other people and the reasons why they were killed."

But the government didn't just have tapes - they had a star witness: Gotti's right-hand man, his underboss in the Gambino crime family, Sammy "the Bull" Gravano.

"Sammy Gravano, you know, dots the I's and crosses the T's," said Raab. "Gravano was the icing on the cake. He made it easier for them."

Sammy Gravano, a self-confessed mafia hit man who admitted to taking part in 19 murders, turned on his former boss and made a deal with the government. He took the stand and told the court that John Gotti planned and organized the hit on Paul Castellano and that he and John Gotti were actually there went it went down.

"Sammy told a lot of lies," said Victoria.

Roberts asked her, "Did your father orchestrate the assassination of Paul Castellano?"

"Absolutely not," she replied. "No one man is that powerful in this organization. Not one man."

In her book, Victoria claims the assassination was a plan agreed upon by mafia bosses.

"I'm not arguing that he had no part in it, and I'm not arguing and saying he wasn't the boss after it. He was. Nobody can stand there and tell me that he did it alone."

But that's not what the jury said. On April 2, 1992, John Gotti was found guilty on all counts. And he was the only person ever tried and convicted for the murder of Paul Castellano.

Seventeen years ago, as a local reporter in New York, Roberts talked to Victoria just hours after her father was convicted.

"Victoria what did you think of the verdict?" Roberts asked in 1992.

"My father is the last of the Mohicans. They don't make men like him anymore, and they never will," she replied.

"I knew that I've lost my father. I knew that was it," she tells Roberts in 2009. "It was as if somebody had told me my father had died. And that's how I felt that day."

John Gotti was sent to the Federal Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois, for life.

"The man was never coming home," said Peter Gotti. "I believed the day would never come where I would be able to hug my father again, you know. I had trained myself to believe that that's it. I'm gonna visit my father behind glass for the rest of my life."

Peter was 18 years old when his father was put in solitary confinement.

"My dad had 6,000 meals alone. Ain't never ate with… he ate meals in his cell. And again, I’m not justifying anything. Just saying… he paid. He paid the piper."

Roberts asked Peter, "I'm curious to know why you did not follow in your father's footsteps. You're the only Gotti man to not do so."

"Did it ever dawn on you that my dad shielded me from it? And my brother enforced it even more. He did everything he can, he did everything he can to prevent me. Everything he can. He tried to screen every person I'm socializing with."

At the same time he was protecting Peter, John Junior was rising in the ranks of the Gambino crime family, becoming the acting boss when his father went to prison.

"When did you learn that your brother was in the mafia? Roberts asked Angel Gotti.

"When he got arrested," she replied.

John Junior was arrested in 1998, for extortion, loan sharking and gambling. His mother was caught completely by surprise. For 10 years, her oldest son had been a mobster and then acting boss of the Gambino crime family. And she never knew it.

"You know, John is her life. And she was not standing for it," Victoria said. "And she had such distaste for the fact that Dad was involved and now her son."

Mrs. Gotti believed her husband had lied to her, betrayed her trust and put John Junior in grave danger.

"She wasn't speaking to my father when he was in prison for a while." Angel said, "It caused a lot of problems for all of us."

John Junior was in grave danger; he was facing 20 years in prison and he was thinking of making a deal.

In a prison tape recorded in February 1999, and obtained exclusively by "48 Hours Mystery," John Junior asks his father's permission to take a plea.

"I don't love you John, I adore you," John Gotti told his son.

"I know you do," John Junior replied. "You understand my circumstance."

After some discussion, the Godfather reluctantly consented.

"John, I am not saying don't take this plea if you get what you want. As a father... I want you to be happy," John Gotti said. But John Junior wanted more from his father. According to Victoria, he also asked for permission to quit the mob. And Victoria says her mother decided to get involved.

"Mom goes to see Dad and Mom threatens Dad. And she says, 'Either you release him or… I'll never speak to you again. I won't be here anymore. You'll never see me in your life again.'"

When John Junior went to prison in September 1999, Victoria claims he left the mafia. Federal prosecutors didn't believe it. But her brother wasn't the only one Victoria says had secretly joined the mob. Her husband was also a Gambino member.

It was yet another secret she says her father had kept from her.

"I was angry at my ex-husband, at my father. I was angry at everybody. This isn't what I wanted for my life, for my kids," she said. But her anger would fade with time as her father grew gravely ill.

"He just looked at me and said, 'I'm never gonna be around forever.' And, of course, I knew that. And I said to him, "Yeah, I know, Dad. You know, whatever." But then he looked at me again and he said, 'I think it's time.'"

Ten years into his life sentence, John Joseph Gotti, the Godfather of the Gambino crime family, father of five and grandfather of 15, died of cancer. The last days of his life were spent in a prison hospital with his son, Peter, at his side.

"I watched this for six months. He never admitted or denied anything," said his youngest child. "That's what was funny about his personality. You know… his was [a] 'Hey, hey, hey, you mind your business,' type of personality. 'Let me pay with God.' And he did… In the end, he did."

To his family John Gotti was a fallen hero, to the public he was the last Don, but for his mob family he was a disaster. At the end of his reign, the Gambino crime family was decimated - more than half of the leadership was either dead or behind bars.

"I think about the devastation that this life has had on your family, on the Gotti men. Your father, your brother, three uncles are all incarcerated," Roberts said to Victoria.

"Yep. And a husband," she added. And "the life" continues to take its toll on the Gotti family.

John Junior Gotti is back in court facing a new round of charges. But Victoria says the government's case is about the past, not the present.

"My brother is not in that courtroom. It is my father, always, all over again, day in, day out. It's about John Gotti. That's what it's about."

The Gotti family claims the government is persecuting John Junior and that he quit the mob years ago. The government says John Junior is a killer and that he did not quit.

"They don't want to believe it," Victoria said. "John's attitude is, 'I paid for what I did in that life. I gave them my pound of flesh.'"

Now divorced, Victoria's life is focused on her three sons. They were the infamous bad boys of the TV show "Growing Up Gotti."

Today, the boys are all in college and Victoria isn’t worried that they will take up "the life."

"If they wanted to break my heart, they can do that. They know that. But, they know better."

For years, there have been questions about the multimillion-dollar mansion that Victoria and her sons still live in. Where did she get the money to buy it?

"My ex-husband certainly started this family, helped to build this house. Everything I own to this day came from me. Never my father," she told Roberts. "It came from legitimate money. I'm not in the mob, you know?"

Prosecutors investigated whether the house was bought with mob money, but found no evidence that it was.

Victoria is determined that her sons will not follow their father - and her father - into the mafia.

"Never a discussion about that," she said. "If they wanted to break my heart and go against everything I stand for, they can do that. They know that. But they know better."

John Gotti's grandchildren have decided, it seems, they don’t want to remember the Godfather… just their grandfather.

"I love my grandfather to death. He taught me everything I need to know," said John Gotti Agnello. Victoria's middle child, named after his grandfather, made him a promise just before he died. Could law school be in his future?

"You know what? I promised my grandfather a long time ago that I would do it. I wrote a personal letter to him on his funeral. I put it in his pocket that I would do it for him."

Carmine, Victoria's oldest son, is an aspiring musician who wrote a song about his family.

"I've been recording now in the studio for the past two and a half - almost three years. I mean, it's been a lot of work. Five days a week throughout the year. Everything's comin' together."

But John Gotti's children are still trying to figure out what it all meant-their father’s mob life; the death of their brother; the disappearance of their neighbor; the hit on Paul Castellano; the trials; prison; brothers and husbands in jail.

At the end, Peter Gotti says, his father was refusing medical care.

"I believe in my heart that it went around a full circle, 'cause I believe in the end, that he was punishing himself for the things he may have done. And… I feel for anyone if there was pain caused by him or not. I feel regret and sadness for that."

Hear more from Peter Gotti

For Victoria, the circle closed at her father's funeral.

"I remember sitting there. I was the last to get up. And I remember getting so angry and so angry and so angry. And just saying to him, 'What was this all for? What did you do? Look at you. Look at the life that you lived. Look at us. You loved us most in the world. Look at us. What was this all for?' And I walked out of there so angry. And I'm still angry. I don't understand it and I guess I never will."

Thanks to 48 Hours

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