Federal prosecutors have soured on controversial FBI informer Lewis Kasman, the turncoat "adopted son" of the late John Gotti, as a trial witness in Gotti IV, the pending racketeering case against the Dapper Don's beleaguered son Junior. And a sudden cancellation of a court session in the case last week has Gang Land very suspicious that the feds may soon add separate murder charges to the indictment.
Until now, Kasman, a millionaire Garment Center businessman who sold out the Gottis for $51,000 in cash and $338,000 in FBI expense money from 1997 until 2008, has been viewed by the feds as a crucial witness in Gotti IV. Since his status as a snitch was exposed last year, authorities have told Gang Land and other news organizations that Kasman would put the lie to Junior's claim that he quit the mob in 1999 and would help the feds put the former Junior Don behind bars for life.
But in court papers filed with Manhattan Federal Court Judge P. Kevin Castel, prosecutors say that while they want jurors to hear tape recordings Kasman made while wearing a wire from 2005 to 2007, they have no intentions of calling him to the witness stand.
One tape they intend to play, say prosecutors Elie Honig, Jay Trezevant and Steve Kwok, is a June 6, 2007 discussion Kasman had with Junior's cousin, Peter Gotti Jr. -- the son of the crime family's convicted boss -- about an alleged extortionate loan that "is relevant to the government's case."
The conversation is about a loan that Junior gave his cousin years ago. It shows, write the prosecutors, "that, despite Gotti's claim that he withdrew from the mob following his guilty plea in 1999, Gotti continued in 2003 and beyond to engage in loansharking and maintained close personal contact with Gambino family associates who enforced his orders, with physical violence whenever necessary."
In order to get the tapes into evidence, say the prosecutors, they plan to call "cooperating witnesses who recognize Peter Gotti's and (Kasman's) voices and a monitoring agent who can testify about the authenticity of the recording."
Prosecutors occasionally use this technique to keep lowlife cooperating witnesses away from the eyes and ears of jurors. But unlike many of the turncoats who will finger Gotti for racketeering, drug dealing, and murder, Kasman has no dead bodies on his mob resume. The businessman's taint, however, may even be worse: after all, what would a jury make of an "adopted son" who wore a wire on the widow of his "adopted father"?
Then there's the little problem that Kasman, while secretly working for the FBI, ripped off a mob-connected businessman for $80,000, and then lied about the crime for months. Early this month, a Manhattan attorney accused him of stealing an additional $10,000 in FBI cash that Kasman claimed to have given to the lawyer in a sting operation.
Prosecutors declined to comment about the charge leveled by Manhattan attorney Joseph Bondy, or their decision not to call Kasman as a witness.
Defense lawyers Charles Carnesi and John Meringolo have asked Castel to stop the feds from using Kasman's disembodied voice on a courtroom tape player. The money in question, they say, was a "business loan" Gotti gave his cousin more than fifteen years ago, and has nothing to do with alleged Gambino family affairs.
The Kasman tapes motion is still pending.
Castel was scheduled to hear final oral arguments last week and lay out ground rules for Gotti IV with rulings on numerous outstanding pre-trial issues in the case. But the session was mysteriously put off until August 27, a little more than two weeks before trial is set to begin on September 14.
Gang Land would not be surprised if sometime soon prosecutors were to add a separate, stand-alone murder charge or two to the case in an effort to undermine the withdrawal defense the Gotti team used to stymie the feds in Gotti I, II and III.
The current indictment accuses Gotti of three murders from 1988 to 1991. Two were Queens slayings that were related to the drug dealing business that Gotti allegedly operated with former buddy-turned informer John Alite, and could conceivably be charged as drug-related slayings not connected to mob business that continued until 2003. Stay tuned.
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