Gotti IV: Another week, another circus.
Victoria (Mama) Gotti yelled at the Judge. The Judge bounced two jurors. And a former prosecutor who spent four years in the organized crime unit of the prestigious Manhattan U.S. attorney's office testified that he had never heard of legendary mob capo John (Sonny) Franzese.
For good measure, John (Junior) Gotti, who had teased his lawyers, prosecutors, as well as the rest of us twice before by threatening to take the stand in his own defense, staged an encore performance. And as he did in Gotti I, and Gotti III, he decided that discretion was the better part of valor. Or, as they might say in Howard Beach, he chickened out.
His mother didn't bother taking the stand to speak her piece. Mrs. Gotti blew her stack last week as Judge P. Kevin Castel was in the middle of reading a long ruling explaining why he was dismissing the jurors, including Juror #7, a postal worker who had been viewed as pro-defense, from Junior's ongoing murder and racketeering trial.
"This is a railroad job," she shouted in an expletive-laden tirade as she jumped from her seat and pointed at the judge. "This is a sham. They should put your own sons in here."
"Please ma, please. It's fine" said Junior, who stood and turned to his mother. He thrust his hand out, signaling her to quiet down. "Please ma, I'm fine," he repeated, as he waved his hand up and down.
"They're trying to do to you what they did to your father," she yelled in an obvious reference to her late husband, John Gotti, who died in federal prison while serving a life sentence for racketeering and murder.
Mrs. Gotti, who has ripped the FBI and federal prosecutors as being obsessed with convicting her son, was escorted out of the courtroom and left the courthouse with family members.
"It probably lasted less than a minute but it seemed like she was waving her arms and yelling for an eternity," said one spectator.
Castel issued his ruling after prosecutors asked him to revisit the issue that arose a week earlier when Juror #7 was vilified anonymously by another juror in a letter to the judge, and again earlier last week when Juror #11 complained that Juror #7 had taunted her as a "hater" during a break.
Defense lawyer Charles Carnesi objected, arguing that whatever problem may have existed between Jurors 7 and 11 had been resolved by the judge's Twizzler solution -- Castel had given the jury a big jar of them Tuesday and told jurors to take their frustration out on the tasty red licorice treats rather than each other.
Carnesi argued that the problem juror who should be rooted out and thrown off the panel was the one who wrote what the lawyer described as a "racially motivated" anonymous letter about Juror #7, a black woman. The juror had then lied about it, he said, when the judge questioned each juror about the allegations regarding Juror #7 that were contained in the letter.
But Castel, who read most of his dismissal ruling from papers he had in front of him, was having none of that. He adjourned the trial until this week, when the defense will rest, and closing arguments are set to begin on Monday.
The uproar inside the courtroom was almost loud enough to drown out some excitement that emerged the old-fashioned way: From the evidence. In this instance, it was a blockbuster revelation: Three years ago, following the second Gotti trial, an FBI cooperating witness had reported that then-Colombo family underboss Franzese had authorized a mob contract on Junior Gotti because he had quit the mob.
Prosecutors reported the death threat to the defense in 2006, without supplying any details. During arguments on Wednesday about whether the defense could introduce testimony about it, Carnesi disclosed that the feds had just turned over three year old documents in which Franzese was quoted as saying that he had met with "the Howard Beach crew" and "gave his consent to having him killed if they felt it was necessary."
The evidence dovetails with the argument that Carnesi made during his opening remarks to the jury: While the mob may have a rule that you can't quit, there is nothing to stop someone from violating that rule and living with the consequences -- or dying because of them. Ironically, Franzese's son Michael is a turncoat capo who quit the mob and now preaches against his wiseguy heritage. And as Gang Land has reported, he had agreed to testify as a defense witness for the former Junior Don at his second trial, but was never called.
Over objections by the prosecutors, Castel ordered former assistant U.S. attorney Joon Kim, who had been involved in Gotti II and Gotti III, to testify about his receipt of the death threat, and his subsequent alert about it to the defense.
The former ace prosecutor promptly turned into a forgetful witness. On the stand, Kim, who worked in the Manhattan U.S. Attorney's office for six years, much of it in organized crime cases, said he could not recall how he learned about the threat, or any specifics about it. He recalled only that after discussing it with a supervisor, he notified Carnesi and another defense lawyer about it.
In an effort to refresh his memory, Carnesi showed him an FBI report which detailed that the threat had come from Franzese. It was no help. Kim testified that the document didn't help him remember the incident any better. And he added that he had no idea that Franzese -- one of the most renowned gangsters in New York history -- was the underboss of the crime family in 2006. For that matter, he didn't know anything about the mobster.
It was only mid-week, but there were already enough thrills to tucker everyone out. Castel adjourned the case for the weekend. But before doing so, he told prosecutors to find the FBI agents whose names were on the document and have them available to testify about it on Monday. When the circus, er, Gotti IV, resumes.