Even if onetime acting Gambino family boss John (Jackie Nose) D'Amico had nothing to do with the murder he's charged with, the longtime John Gotti pal will likely decide that the feds just made him an offer he can't refuse: In exchange for a guilty plea to attempted assault, and a sentence of less than three years behind bars, the veteran mobster can put it all behind him.
Sources say that assistant U.S. attorney Miriam Rocah, the chief mob prosecutor for the Manhattan U.S. Attorney's office, has offered the 74-year-old D'Amico the sweet deal to cover his alleged role in the 1989 execution murder of businessman Fred Weiss, a former executive of the Staten Island Advance newspaper.
The feds have already nailed a slew of wiseguys in the shooting of Weiss in front of his home, including top members of the DeCavalcante family who carried out the hit as a favor to Gotti. The late Dapper Don turned to the New Jersey crew after his own minions failed to kill Weiss, botched efforts that included nearly a dozen underlings, including Jackie Nose and a feared family hitman, Joseph Watts, 68.
At the time, Gotti feared that Weiss, who also owned a recycling company, would cooperate with an ongoing investigation into the private sanitation industry and implicate capo James (Jimmy Brown) Failla - the family's member on the trade waste association that controlled the industry throughout the New York area - in criminal activity.
D'Amico, and Watts - who sources say has been offered a decidedly less favorable deal of ten years in prison - are scheduled for trial in September on the 18-month-old case.
Neither Rocah nor D'Amico's attorney responded to repeated requests for comment about the plea offer. But sources say that if Jackie Nose pleads guilty to attempted assault in aid of racketeering, a charge that carries a cap of three years, it would satisfy all charges against him in the murder and racketeering conspiracy indictment.
"The plea for Jackie is a no-brainer," said one defense lawyer not involved in the case. "He faces more than three years on the other stuff in the indictment," said the attorney, referring to extortion and money laundering charges that D'Amico is also charged with.
D'Amico's other alleged crimes are standard shakedown stuff: Starting in the early 1980s and continuing until 2008, according to the indictment, D'Amico "extorted restaurants and supermarket chains" for protection payoffs and forced the businesses "to place orders with suppliers" who were affiliated with the Gambino family.
As is often the case in mob shakedowns, the crime family, in the person of Jackie Nose, also received payoffs and other favors from the favored suppliers whose wares found their way into the eateries and groceries controlled by the Gambinos, according to the indictment.
From one key supplier, Big Geyser Inc., probably the city's largest distributor of bottled "juices, teas, waters and nutritional soft drinks," D'Amico received health benefits and a yearly stipend that reached $71,000 when the indictment was filed. He also secured a distribution route for the late Dapper Don's son, John (Junior) Gotti, when he was acting boss in the mid 1990s, according to the indictment.
In return, D'Amico gave Big Geyser "permission" to distribute its fine products - Poland Spring, Pellegrino, Perrier, Crystal Geyser and Saratoga Water to name just five - to Gambino family businesses. Back in the 1980s, Jackie & Company also helped Big Geyser's owner, Irving Hershkowitz (a.k.a. "Hal Irving"), distribute alcoholic beverages to the crime family's restaurants, according to the indictment.
When you factor in the ten months D'Amico has ready spent behind bars awaiting trial - he completed a two year prison stretch for racketeering last fall - and the 55 days a year good time off that all inmates receive, D'Amico would serve about 20 more months behind bars if, as Gang Land expects, he goes along with the deal.
Watts, who has been behind bars for one reason or another for about 12 of the last 15 years, completes a two year stretch in November for what he thought were secret meetings at a Brooklyn eatery with a Gambino capo following an earlier federal conviction.
The wealthy and violent gangster - he has made many millions of dollars as a loanshark and entrepreneur while serving as a hitman for three Gambino family bosses, according to court records - is not likely to consider any offer from the feds until Manhattan Federal Judge Colleen McMahon upholds the validity of the indictment against Watts.
In 1996, as part of a negotiated plea deal with federal prosecutors in Brooklyn - much like the one their Manhattan counterparts have proposed to D'Amico - Watts received assurances that they would not prosecute him for the Weiss killing if he pleaded guilty to another Gotti-ordered slaying of another potential witness against Jimmy Brown Failla.
In court papers, Watts claims that the feds are reneging on their deal: Charging him with the murder of Weiss in Manhattan 12 years later is unfair, he says, since it violates the double jeopardy protections in the Constitution, and violates the spirit - if not the letter - of the plea deal he made with federal prosecutors in Brooklyn.
Attorney Gerald Shargel declined to discuss any plea offer his client may have received, or the pretrial motions that are pending. "I'm preparing for trial, period," he said.