Five of Krieger and Cardinale's intended six witnesses were ruled irrelevant or extraneous, leaving only Gotti's tax attorney Murray Appleman to testify on his behalf. The defense also attempted unsuccessfully to have a mistrial declared based on Maloney's closing remarks. Gotti himself became increasingly hostile during the trial, and at one point, Glasser threatened to remove him from the courtroom. Among other outbursts, Gotti called Gravano a junkie while his attorneys sought to discuss his past steroid use, and equated the dismissal of a juror to the fixing of the 1919 World Series.
John Gotti was born in the Bronx, New York on October 27, 1940. While his parents were both born in the United States, his ancestors came from San Giuseppe Vesuviano, in the province of Naples in Italy. He was the fifth of the thirteen children of John Joseph Gotti Sr. and John Sr.'s wife Philomena (referred to as Fannie), and one of five brothers who became made men in the Gambino crime family: Eugene "Gene" Gotti was initiated before John due to John's incarceration, Peter Gotti was initiated under John's leadership in 1988, and Richard V. Gotti was identified as a caporegime by 2002. The fifth, Vincent, was initiated in 2002.
It has long been a hard and fast rule in the Mafia that killing a boss is forbidden without the support of a majority of the Commission. Indeed, Gotti's planned hit would have been the first off-the-record hit on a boss since Frank Costello was nearly killed in 1957. Gotti knew that it would be too risky to solicit support from the other four bosses, since they had longstanding ties to Castellano. To get around this, he got the support of several important figures of his generation in the Lucchese, Colombo and Bonanno families. He did not even consider approaching the Genovese family; Castellano had especially close ties with Genovese boss Vincent "Chin" Gigante, and approaching any major Genovese figure could have been a tipoff. Gotti could thus claim he had the support of "off-the-record contacts" from three out of five families. He could also count on the complicity of Gambino consigliere Joseph N. Gallo.
Gotti met his Future wife, Victoria DiGiorgio, who is half Italian and half Russian-Jewish through her mother, in 1958. The couple were married on March 6, 1962. They had five children; Victoria, John Jr., Frank (b. October 18, 1967 k. March 18, 1980), Angela, and Peter. Gotti attempted to work legitimately in 1962 as a presser in a coat factory and as an assistant truck driver. However, he could not stay crime-free and, by 1966, had been jailed twice.
In February 1968, United Airlines employees identified Gotti as the man who had signed for stolen merchandise; the FBI arrested him for the United hijacking soon after. Gotti was arrested a third time for hijacking while out on bail two months later, this time for stealing a load of cigarettes worth $50,000 on the New Jersey Turnpike. Later that year, Gotti pleaded guilty to the North West Airlines hijacking and was sentenced to three years at Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary. Prosecutors dropped the charges for the cigarette hijacking. Gotti also pleaded guilty to the United hijacking and spent less than three years at Lewisburg.
Gotti and Ruggiero were paroled in 1972 and returned to their old crew at the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club, still working under Fatico. Gotti was transferred to management of the Bergin crew's illegal gambling, where he proved himself to be an effective enforcer. Fatico was indicted on loansharking charges in 1972. As a condition of his release, he could not associate with known felons. Gotti was not yet a made man in the Mafia due to the membership books' having been closed since 1957, but Fatico named him the acting capo of the Bergin crew soon after he was paroled. In this new role, Gotti frequently traveled to Dellacroce's headquarters at the Ravenite Social Club to brief the underboss on the crew's activities. Dellacroce had already taken a liking to Gotti, and the two became even closer during this time. The two were very similar—both had strong violent streaks, cursed a lot, and were heavy gamblers.
After Emanuel Gambino, nephew to boss Carlo Gambino, was kidnapped and murdered in 1973, Gotti was assigned to the hit team alongside Ruggiero and Ralph Galione in search for the main suspect, gangster James McBratney. The team botched their attempt to abduct McBratney at a Staten Island bar, and Galione shot McBratney dead when his accomplices managed to restrain him. Gotti was identified by eyewitnesses as a police Bergin insider and was arrested for the killing in June 1974. He was able to strike a plea bargain, however, with the help of attorney Roy Cohn, and received a four-year sentence for attempted manslaughter for his part in the hit.
After Gotti's death, he was also identified by Massino as the killer of Vito Borelli, a Gambino associate killed in 1975 for insulting then-acting boss Paul Castellano.
Gotti was released in July 1977 after two years imprisonment. He was subsequently initiated into the Gambino family, now under the command of Castellano, and immediately promoted to replace Fatico as capo of the Bergin crew. He and his crew reported directly to Dellacroce as part of the concessions given by Castellano to keep Dellacroce as underboss, and Gotti was regarded as Dellacroce's protégé. Under Gotti, the crew were Dellacroce's biggest earners. Besides his cut of his subordinates' earnings, Gotti ran his own loan sharking operation and held a no-show job as a plumbing supply salesman. Unconfirmed allegations by FBI informants in the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club claimed that Gotti also financed drug deals.
In December 1978, Gotti assisted in the largest unrecovered cash robbery in history, the infamous Lufthansa Heist at Kennedy Airport. Gotti had made arrangements for the getaway van to be crushed and baled at a scrap metal yard in Brooklyn. The driver of the van failed to follow orders; rather than driving the vehicle to the scrap yard, he parked it near a fire hydrant and went to sleep at his girlfriend's apartment. The NYPD recovered the van and lifted the fingerprints of several perpetrators of the robbery, helping to unravel the heist.
On March 18, 1980, Gotti's youngest son, 12-year-old Frank Gotti, was run over and killed on a family friend's minibike by a neighbor named John Favara. Frank's death was ruled an accident, but Favara subsequently received death threats and was attacked by Victoria with a baseball bat when he visited the Gottis to apologize. On July 28, 1980, he was abducted and disappeared, presumed murdered. The Gottis were on vacation in Florida at the time, but Gotti is still presumed to have ordered the killing, an allegation dismissed by his daughter.
Gotti tried to keep most of his family uninvolved with his life of crime, with the exception of his son John Angelo Gotti, commonly known as John Gotti Jr., who was a mob associate by 1982.
In August 1983, Ruggiero and Gene Gotti were arrested for dealing heroin, based primarily on recordings from a bug in Ruggiero's house. Castellano, who had banned made men from his family from dealing drugs under threat of death, demanded transcripts of the tapes, and, when Ruggiero refused, threatened to demote Gotti.
In 1984, Castellano was arrested and indicted in a RICO case for the crimes of Gambino hitman Roy DeMeo's crew. The following year, he received a second indictment for his role in the Mafia's Commission. Facing life imprisonment for either case, Castellano arranged for Gotti to serve as an acting boss alongside Thomas Bilotti, Castellano's favorite capo, and Thomas Gambino in his absence. Gotti, meanwhile, began conspiring with fellow disgruntled capos Frank DeCicco and Joseph "Joe Piney" Armone and Soldiers Sammy Gravano and Robert "DiB" DiBernardo (collectively dubbed "the Fist" by themselves) to overthrow Castellano, insisting despite the boss' inaction that Castellano would eventually try to kill him. Armone's support was critical; as a respected old-timer who dated back to the family's founder, Vincent Mangano, he would lend needed credibility to the conspirators' cause.
When DeCicco tipped Gotti off that he would be having a meeting with Castellano and several other Gambino mobsters at Sparks Steak House on December 16, 1985, Gotti chose to take the opportunity. The evening of the meeting, when the boss and underboss arrived, they were ambushed and shot dead by assassins under Gotti's command. Gotti watched the hit from his car with Gravano.
Gotti was released on $100,000 bail, and was later acquitted at trial. It later emerged, however, that FBI bugs had apparently caught Gotti discussing plans to fix the jury as he had in the 1986-87 racketeering case. However, to the outrage of Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau and state organized crime task force chief Ronald Goldstock, the FBI and federal prosecutors chose not to reveal this information to them. Morgenthau later said that had he known about these bugged conversations, he would have asked for a mistrial.
Despite Cutler's defense and critiques about the prosecution's performance, according to mob Writers Jerry Capeci and Gene Mustain, when the jury's deliberations began, a majority were in favor of convicting Gotti. However, due to Pape's misconduct, Gotti knew from the beginning of the trial that he could do no worse than a hung jury. During deliberations, Pape held out for acquittal until the rest of the jury began to fear their own safety would be compromised. On March 13, 1987, they acquitted Gotti and his codefendants of all charges. Five years later, Pape was convicted of obstruction of justice for his part in the fix and sentenced to three years in prison.
Gotti's son, John Gotti Jr., was initiated into the Gambino family on Christmas Eve 1988. According to fellow mobster Michael DiLeonardo, initiated in the same night, Gravano held the ceremony to keep Gotti from being accused of nepotism. John Jr. was promptly promoted to capo.
On the evening of January 23, 1989, Gotti was arrested outside the Ravenite and charged with ordering the 1986 assault of labor union official John O'Connor. O'Connor, a leader in the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America Local 608 who was later convicted of racketeering himself, was believed to have ordered an attack on a Gambino-associated restaurant that had snubbed the union and was subsequently shot and wounded by the Westies. To link Gotti to the case, state prosecutors had a recording of Gotti discussing O'Connor and announcing his intention to "bust him up," and the testimony of Westies gangster James McElroy.
As early as 1990, Gotti was already such a prominent mobster as to be the inspiration for the character Joey Zasa, portrayed by Joe Mantegna, in The Godfather Part III.
The tapes also created a rift between Gotti and Gravano, showing the Gambino boss describing his newly appointed underboss as too greedy and attempting to frame Gravano as the main force behind the murders of DiBernardo, Milito and Dibono. Gotti's attempt at reconciliation failed, leaving Gravano disillusioned with the mob and doubtful on his chances of winning his case without Shargel, his former attorney. Gravano ultimately opted to turn state's evidence, formally agreeing to testify on November 13, 1991.
On April 2, 1992, after only fourteen hours of deliberation, the jury found Gotti guilty on all charges of the indictment (Locasio was found guilty on all but one). James Fox, Director of the New York City FBI, announced at a press conference, "The Teflon is gone. The don is covered with Velcro, and all the charges stuck." On June 23, 1992, Glasser sentenced both defendants to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole and a $250,000 fine. Gotti surrendered to federal authorities to serve his prison time on December 14, 1992.
Gotti was incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary at Marion, Illinois. He spent the majority of his sentence in effective solitary confinement, only allowed out of his cell for one hour a day. His final appeal was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1994.
On July 18, 1996, a fellow inmate named Walter Johnson punched Gotti in the prison recreation room, leaving him bruised and bleeding, because according to New York's Daily News, Gotti had disrespected him with a racial slur. According to the article, Gotti, desiring revenge, offered Aryan Brotherhood chieftains David Sahakian and Michael McElhiney somewhere between $40,000 and $400,000 USD to have Johnson killed. In August, McElhiney told two Brotherhood underlings to kill Johnson "if given the opportunity," according to a federal indictment charging him and thirty-nine other gang members with murder, attempted murder and racketeering. Johnson, however, was transferred to Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado. Despite this, it was said that the Brotherhood never intended to do the hit for Gotti. Gotti is also believed to have hired the Brotherhood for another aborted hit on Locascio after learning the disgruntled acting consigliere sought to kill him.
In 1998, Gotti was diagnosed with throat cancer and sent to the United States Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri, for surgery. While the tumor was removed, the cancer was discovered to have returned two years later and Gotti was transferred back to Springfield, where he spent the rest of his life.
Gotti's condition rapidly declined and he died on June 10, 2002, at the age of 61. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn announced that Gotti's family would not be permitted to have a Requiem Mass, but allowed a memorial Mass after the burial.
Growing up Gotti, a reality show on the A&E Network featuring John Gotti's daughter Victoria and her three sons, aired in 2004-2005.