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 Gotti Jury Hears 'Boss' on Secret Tape

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vinny nip

vinny nip

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PostSubject: Gotti Jury Hears 'Boss' on Secret Tape   Gotti Jury Hears 'Boss' on Secret Tape Icon_minitimeFri Feb 06, 2009 11:07 am

Gotti Jury Hears 'Boss' on Secret Tape


Published: January 25, 1990

A Manhattan jury yesterday began hearing John Gotti's secretly recorded conversations - words that prosecutors contend prove he is the nation's top organized-crime leader.

The conversations, prosecutors assert, flowed from meetings Mr. Gotti had in 1985 and 1986 with close associates about running the Gambino Mafia family in New York City and reaping millions of dollars in illicit profits. Often drenched with obscenities, the tapes also included mundane details about the high cost of dining out in Manhattan, like three restaurant meals with champagne that cost the mobsters more than $3,000.

The 14 tapes were obtained through court-authorized electronic eavesdropping. They were played as evidence at a state trial in which Mr. Gotti is accused of ordering the shooting of a carpenters' union official in 1986.

Tapes Are Background Evidence

None of the conversations heard yesterday directly implicated the 49-year-old Mr. Gotti in the wounding of the union official, John F. O'Connor. But Justice Edward J. McLaughlin of State Supreme Court ruled the tapes were admissible as background evidence to support the prosecution theory that Mr. Gotti, as a Mafia boss, had the authority to order the shooting of Mr. O'Connor in retaliation for the wrecking of a restaurant in a union-hiring dispute. The restaurant was owned by an associate of the Gambino family.

Defense lawyers, in opening statements and through cross-examainations of technicians and investigators, have tried to show that the tapes are of poor audio quality and unclear and that they might have been altered by investigators to implicate Mr. Gotti falsely.

As jurors and lawyers, aided by transcripts, listened to the tapes on earphones, Mr. Gotti passed up the opportunity to listen in or to read the transcripts. Spectators in the courtroom could not hear the tapes.

Mr. Gotti, as is his custom, was regally dressed in a dark gray double-breasted silk suit and flaming red floral-patterned tie, with a matching lapel scarf.

'Cryptic References' Explained

During the three hours in which the tapes were played, Edward Wright, an investigator with the State Organized Crime Task Force, testified about what he described as ''cryptic references'' in the conversations to underworld activities. Mr. Wright also identified men nicknamed Tony Ducks, Joe Piney, Frankie Biz, Ralphie Bones, Mikey Gal and Joe Butch.

Testifying about what he said were references in the tapes to the Mafia chain of command, Mr. Wright said Cosa Nostra meant ''this thing of ours,'' another name for the American Mafia; the boss, the insulated head of a family, or ''bougata''; underboss, the second in command or street boss; consiglieri, a counselor to resolve disputes; skipper, caporegime or captain, the leader of a regime or unit, and soldier and good fellow, an inducted member of the Mafia.

Questioned by a Strike Force lawyer, Barbara A. DiTata, Mr. Wright testified that Mr. Gotti was a capo in the Gambino family until December 1985, when Paul Castellano, the previous family boss, died. In his testimony, Mr. Wright was forbidden by Justice McLaughlin to say that Mr. Castellano was shot to death in Manhattan because that might be prejudicial.

Mr. Wright said Mr. Gotti took control of the family in January 1986.

Gotti Portrayed as Boss

The central points that the prosecution tried to make with the tapes were that Mr. Gotti and others referred to him as ''the boss'' and that he purportedly described how he would reorganize the Gambino family.

The prosecution emphasized through the tapes that Mr. Gotti spoke about his and the Gambino family's relationship with the Westies, a violent Hell's Kitchen gang. The indictment says that members of the Westies shot Mr. O'Connor on May 7, 1986, as a favor to Mr. Gotti.

According to a transcript, in a conversation on Jan. 18, 1986, shortly after authorities assert that Mr. Gotti became the Gambino boss, he said, ''Get a year, gonna put this thing together where they could never break it, never destroy it.'' Later he said, ''Maybe after 30 years it would deteriorate, but it would take that long to (expletive) succumb.''

According to the transcript, Mr. Gotti told an unidentified man on Jan. 11, 1986, ''Me and you may socialize, but I can't socialize with these guys. I can't bring myself down. I'm a boss, you know what I mean.''

'Yous Still Part of Us'

On Feb. 26, 1986, according to another transcript, Mr. Gotti said he had told the head of the Westies: ''What do yous think, you're a separate society, like I treated yous as a separate society, you own gang? Yous still part of us, an integral part of us.' ''

The tapes stemmed from bugs installed in a private room next to the Bergen Hunt and Fish Club, a social club in Ozone Park, Queens, that authorities say was Mr. Gotti's headquarters until early 1986.

Mr. Gotti and a co-defendant, Anthony (Tony Lee) Guerrieri, 61, who authorities say is a soldier in the Gambino family, were indicted on state charges of assault and conspiracy.

The trial was recessed until tomorrow.
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