Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

John Gotti, the Last Mafia Icon

Making His Bones

In all likelihood, Jimmy McBratney was identified as a member of the team that abducted Junior, and murdered because of his involvement. McBratney was obviously not an innocent, law-abiding citizen. He had committed armed robbery, kidnapping, and possession of illegal weapons, and – if his aim had been better – may have wounded or killed the Staten Island loan shark. However, it is certain that McBratney did not kidnap and murder Carlo Gambino's nephew, thus showing to be false the fabled notion that Gotti had taken vengeance on him for killing the nephew of the highly respected mob boss. This event, like so many others involving John Gotti, has been twisted to enhance the romanticized image of this popular mob icon, and to boost his popularity.

On the night of May 22, 1973 McBratney was sitting in Snoope's Bar & Grill on Staten Island. Around 11:00 John Gotti, Angelo Ruggiero and Ralph "Ralphie Wigs" Galione entered and surrounded McBratney. They tried to convince him that they were police detectives. The plan was to take him to the parking lot and kill him outside the sight of witnesses. Despite the fact that Galione aimed a gun at him and Ruggiero was holding a pair of handcuffs, McBratney wasn't buying the ruse. "Let's see a badge," he demanded.

With that, Galione fired a round into the ceiling. Bar patrons, who hadn't already run outside or into the cellar, were ordered to stand against the wall. It was now prison muscle against prison muscle, and although McBratney was stronger, he was up against two men, Gotti and Ruggiero. McBratney dragged the two thugs down past the end of the bar before Galione shot him three times at close range, killing him instantly.

In July, Ruggiero and Galione were identified from a police photo-spread by a barmaid and a customer from Snoopes, and the men were then apprehended. However, Gotti had not been identified. A month later, he was overheard by Willie Boy Johnson bragging about the killing. Johnson passed the information along to his FBI handlers. The FBI reported their information to the New York Police Department, which quickly dispatched a detective with Gotti's mug shot to show the witnesses. On October 17, Gotti was indicted by a grand jury for murder.

Gotti, who had been strutting around in the wake of the murder, immediately went into hiding. A little over a year after the McBratney killing, on June 3, 1974, he was finally arrested by FBI agents inside a Brooklyn bar and handed over to the New York Police Department. The information as to his whereabouts had been supplied by Johnson, who was secretly paid $600 for his betrayal.

John Gotti's in-laws were instrumental in putting up the collateral for his release on a $150,000 bail. Victoria's family, which had already provided John with a visible means of support, also purchased a home for the couple in Howard Beach. Once out, Gotti went right back to the Bergin to attend to the overseeing of the crew and his new holdings, which included a restaurant and motel. Gotti was also reported at the time to be the hidden owner of a Queens' disco.

On December 21, 1973, before Ruggiero and Galione could be tried for the McBratney killing, "Ralphie Wigs" was murdered in Brooklyn. When the state brought its case against Ruggiero the defense produced a host of witnesses who swore that Angelo was in New Jersey the night of the murder. The trial ended in a hung jury. Gotti hired Roy M. Cohn as his defense lawyer. A well-known attorney, Cohn handled many high-profile clients in New York, including Dellacroce. Gotti and Ruggiero were to be tried together in a second trial. Knowing that the earlier trial ended in a hung jury, Cohn surmised correctly that the prosecution might be willing to deal – and Cohn cut a great one. Gotti and Ruggiero pled guilty to attempted manslaughter.

On August 8, 1975, Gotti was sentenced to four years in prison and sent to the Green Haven Correctional Facility located 80 miles north of Queens. Joining Gotti there was Willie Boy Johnson, who, despite his FBI informant status, had been sent away on an armed robbery conviction. Gotti passed the time at Green Haven playing cards, lifting weights and attending courses on Italian culture.

He was released from prison on July 28, 1977, having served less than two years for the murder of McBratney.  It was ironic, since he'd once served three years for hijacking women's clothing. To celebrate his return the Bergin crew purchased a brand new Lincoln Mark IV for him. He soon found out that, while he was away, there had been a change in the leadership of the Gambino Family.


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