Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

John Gotti, the Last Mafia Icon

Years in Layaway

John Gotti had been in prison less than a year before the government began investigating his son. Although not a true junior to his father, he still bore the nickname. In March 1993, a grand jury was probing Junior's role in the Gambino Family hierarchy. The younger Gotti, a power weight lifter, met with his crew on Wednesday nights at the Our Friends Social Club in South Ozone Park, Queens. During the investigation, about twelve gang members were subpoenaed. One of those called was Carmine Agnello, who was married to Junior's sister, author Victoria.

Agnello, who ran a scrap metal operation in Queens, claimed that "scar tissue near his brain has dulled his powers of recall so badly the feds might as well subpoena one of his rusted-out clunkers for all the help he would provide." While seemingly humorous, Agnello's memory problems were actually documented in sealed court papers filed with Judge Nickerson, who presided over the Giacalone RICO trial.

In August 1996, the HBO movie Gotti aired. Gotti was played by actor Armand Ansante while two future Sopranos stars had key roles; Vincent Pastore played Gotti sidekick Angelo Ruggiero and Tony Sirico was Gene Gotti. While Ansante made an excellent Gotti, little about the film was factually correct. The producers were set on portraying Gotti as a hero, with Sammy Gravano, played by William Forsythe, as the villain. They even had Gravano avenging the killing of Frank Gotti by shooting the John Favara character to death. Gotti, in his fourth year at Marion at the time, was not permitted to view the film.

During the mid-1990s many stories made the news regarding Gotti in prison. The fact that the mob boss was jailed for life did little to keep him, his family or his followers out of the newspapers and public eye. These stories discussed how many hours Gotti was in lockdown each day. Some reporters claimed he was allowed out of his cell for only one hour each day. Other reports had him being transferred to the new "super security" federal prison in Florence, Colorado. One story had Gotti being beaten to a bloody pulp after using a racial slur around another prisoner. A New York Times article in October 1996 said at a recent meeting of the Commission, members decided that, since Gotti had no chance of ever receiving a parole, he was about to "abdicate" his leadership of the Gambino Family. It was difficult to determine how much truth there was to these stories, because Bruce Cutler, now relegated to the role of mouthpiece for the Gotti family, denied every rumor and report.

Gotti's continued leadership of the Gambino Crime Family was the hot topic of discussion in the late fall of 1996. On November 24, Jerry Capeci, in his New York Daily News role, reported that his sources had confirmed that, "Under pressure from the Commission," Gotti was ready to relinquish control of the family. Supposedly, Junior Gotti was serving as acting boss of the family, with Peter Gotti, John "Jackie Nose" D'Amico and Nicholas Corozzo (a Gotti co-defendant in the Giacalone trial), serving as advisors. Capeci's sources stated that the new Gambino leader was to be Corozzo.

If Corozzo did indeed ascend to the throne of the Gambino Family it was a short reign. On December 18, Corozzo was indicted on racketeering charges in Florida that included attempted murder, loansharking and arson. Represented by his nephew, Joseph Corozzo, Jr., who would later represent Gotti, Nicholas "Little Nicky" Corozzo was held without bail. In August 1997, Nicholas Corozzo pled guilty to federal racketeering charges in Florida; he received a term of five to ten years. Later that year, he again pled guilty in a Brooklyn courtroom to charges of racketeering and bribing a jail guard.

While Gotti continued to waste away in prison, his one-time underboss Sammy Gravano was living the high life. Fresh from prison, after testifying and ending the three-trial win streak Gotti had held against law enforcement, the man who had admitted to taking part in 19 murders had co-authored a book.  He also had a movie deal in the works. At the same time relatives of Gravano's victims were preparing to sue him in a civil action, while a New York State victims' rights attorney was looking to separate Gravano from his profits under the "Son of Sam" law. Years later, a judge would rule against the victim's families, claiming the law was a state statute and Gravano had been convicted of federal crimes. In July 1997, Gravano would make his last appearance as a government witness by testifying against Genovese Family boss Vincent "the Chin" Gigante. Gravano's testimony helped convict the mob boss, known as the "Oddfather," who for years feigned insanity as a means of avoiding prosecution.

Vincent (Chin) Gigante in custody
Vincent (Chin) Gigante in custody (AP)

In April 1997 Judge Glasser shot down Gotti's last bid for a new trial. It was the fourth time that Glasser denied the Dapper Don's request. John Gotti was destined to die behind bars.


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