Gotti was a Mafia superstar in the 1980s, always elegantly dressed and not the least bit camera-shy. Throngs of admirers lined up in front of the Rav-enite Social Club just to get a glimpse. Andy Warhol painted Gotti's picture for the cover of Time magazine. No murderous thug since Al Capone enjoyed the adulation of a perverse press and public. The government continued to go after Gotti, with no success, further cementing his dashing Robin Hood image.
From Teflon to Velcro
Gotti was a target from the moment he assumed control of the Gambino crime family in 1985. Even before that, he had been caught on FBI wiretaps over the years discussing all sorts of things, from criminal activities to complaining about his wife. Big Brother was monitoring Gotti.
Gotti beat his first rap as don in 1987. The government thought it had an airtight case and was stunned by the verdict. Gotti was acquitted again on another RICO charge. As is often the case with bureaucracies, in organized crime and the legitimate world, there were rivalries and infighting among the prosecution attorneys and the FBI agents who brought them the evidence.
Gotti was acquitted again, and as a result he earned another nickname, the “Teflon Don.” No matter what the feds threw at him, nothing stuck. Gotti was also acquitted on an assault charge in 1990. He had been accused of hiring a gang of “Westies” to shoot carpentry union boss John O'Connor. It was alleged that O'Connor demolished the restaurant of a man who had dared employ nonunion workers. The restaurant happened to belong to a soldier in the Gambino family. The Westies are an organization of Irish gangsters who operate out of a neighborhood once known as “Hell's Kitchen” on Manhattan's West Side. The Irish hoods shot O'Connor. If they were aiming for his head, they truly were the gang that couldn't shoot straight — he was shot in the butt. O'Connor told police that he had no idea who would want to take a shot at him. He knew that next time the marksman might take better aim if he squealed on Gotti.
Courtesy of AP Images/Richard Drew
Reputed mob boss John Gotti sits in New York Supreme Court in Manhattan, N.Y. on Jan. 20, 1990. Gotti listened to the opening arguments of his trial. He and a co-defendant were accused of ordering the shooting of a union official.
One of Gotti's trusted capos was Carmine Lombardozzi, known as the King of Wall Street. Carmine attended Apalachin as a representative of the Gambinos. By the time Gotti took over the top, Carmine was in the September of his years but still was respected.
Witnesses always tend to lose their memories when questioned about their relationship with John Gotti. The New York Post, always good for a clever headline, once ran “I Forgotti” on their front page about one such witness, a trucker who Gotti assaulted over a parking spot.
John Gotti's son John, known as Junior Gotti, made a mistake following in the family business. He lacked both the acumen and the dubious charm of his father. He eventually plead guilty to, among other things, lying on a mortgage application.