THE BLOG
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Gotti IV Becomes A Farce

And in the seventh week, Gotti IV became a farce.

It happened on the day that the defense began its case. This was last Tuesday, which coincidentally, would have been the 69th birthday of the late Mafia Boss John Gotti, the onetime Dapper Don who died in prison, the same place that federal authorities would like to see his son John (Junior) Gotti meet his end.

It was during the afternoon session, after the second of two federally protected cooperating witnesses contradicted important testimony about two murders that were the focus of much of what key prosecution witness John Alite had to say while he was on the stand.

That's when the fourth trial of Junior Gotti turned into a three-ring circus. Of course it had nothing to do with the evidence or the testimony. Instead, as the New York tabloids dutifully reported, it was about how one of the jurors had sent an anonymous letter to Manhattan Federal Court Judge P. Kevin Castel attacking a black woman juror as a foul-mouthed, self-impressed, petty cheapskate who is making other jurors "very uncomfortable" by "creating a hostile environment" in the jury room.

Last week, after the jury had been treated to lunch at a local Italian restaurant, the letter writer said that the vilified juror - known as Juror #7 - had the audacity to use the court's tab to order fried calamari "to go" and take it home for dinner. "This just goes to show you she got some nerve," the letter said.

Juror # 7 only has eyes for the defense team, in particular lead attorney Charles Carnesi, whom she refers to as "her man," according to the jury-room snitch. She remarked that he looked "very handsome on one particular day," said the letter, which is available in its entirety on both the New York Post and Daily News websites.

Probably the most bizarre aspect of the letter, is that the writer misidentifies lawyer Carnesi - who has painstakingly introduced himself to every witness he has questioned - as Gambino family gangster Charles Carneglia, whose name has come up several times during trial testimony.

"A juror thinks the guy representing me is a five-time murderer. What shot do I have?" cracked Gotti, after the letter had been circulated at the defense table.

The letter stated that the juror, a postal worker who once attended John Jay College of Criminal Justice, had violated an order to not repeat individual discussions the judge had with each juror earlier in the case. Castel discussed the letter, which had been mailed to his chambers anonymously, with both sides. Then he decided to ask Juror #7 only about that issue, something that could lead to her being bounced from the case.

Juror #7 denied it, and when none of the 15 other jurors and alternates - whom Castel questioned one at a time - repeated the allegation, the judge convened the entire panel, told them to be "respectful" to each other, to follow his instructions, and not to discuss the case with anyone.

Castel did not ask any jurors if they had written the letter in question, and none volunteered that they had. Carnesi, co-counsel John Meringolo and prosecutors Elie Honig, Jay Trezevant and Steve Kwok all declined to discuss the matter. But the prevailing wisdom is that the letter writer is a white woman, and is more inclined to be pro-government, than favor the defense.

There was no mention of the letter, or the possible ramifications the remainder of the trial week, during which the defense continued rebutting accounts that jurors had heard earlier from Alite.

One witness, convicted drug dealer Joseph O'Kane, who is serving a life sentence for racketeering and murder, contradicted several aspects of Alite's testimony, notably that he never knew that drug money from his partnership with Alite was funneled up to Gotti. He also testified that he had been visited by the lead FBI agent in the case, Theodore Otto, and promised an early release from prison if he would testify against the former Junior Don.

"I probably would be home with my family and son" by now if he'd accepted the deal, he testified.

Before testimony was suspended to deal with the jury-room dispute, turncoat Kevin McMahon, who took part in a 1990 mob hit that Junior allegedly supervised for his father, testified that neither Alite nor the mob scion had any role in it. The second witness, Peter (Bud) Zuccaro, who was involved in the 1996 murder of a drug dealer, said Alite, not Gotti, was behind it.

But it's hard to fathom if any of that really matters now, or whether the trial can possibly end in a final verdict. In light of the obvious tension between at least two jurors in the case, and the impact it has already had on the panel, and will have on deliberations, Gang Land thinks Castel should thank everyone, declare a mistrial, send them all home, and start it all over again.

That is very unlikely to happen, of course, so the defense team will carry on in court, and with any luck, the case just might go to the jury this week, although next week is more likely. Gotti's brother Peter is expected to take the stand this week.

Meanwhile, Junior's family, friends and minions will continue with their out-of-court efforts to sway public opinion - including the jury - in his favor.

In addition to the daily in-court support from his devoted mom and sister Angel, Junior's nephews, a son, and some of their friends have begun wearing, and distributing "Free John Gotti Jr." hats, T-shirts and posters that paint Junior as a loving father and uncle, and caring family man.