Skip to comments.'To this day, my father is a god to me'
Posted on 06/27/2006 3:16:09 AM PDT by JR0tten
In the first of a series, John A. (Junior) Gotti gives his first ever in-depth interview to Daily News staff writer Thomas Zambito
He has tried to renounce the life, walk away from the Gotti legacy of greed, intimidation and murder.
Yet even as John A. (Junior) Gotti says these things, he still cannot separate his newfound perspective on the Mafia from his love and respect for his father.
"To this day, my father is a god to me," he said.
Gotti has kept his relationship with the press to a few stray quotes and the occasional news story. But for the first time ever, he sat down with the Daily News for more than an hour to talk about his relationship with his father, John (Dapper Don) Gotti, how he strove to follow in his footsteps - and how he would do anything to make sure his own sons do not do the same.
And in a remarkable outpouring of emotion, he talked about how:
He was inducted into the mob.
He infuriated his father when he told him he was going to take a plea deal in 1999.
His children are being treated as the offspring of a mob scion.
He plans to leave New York if he is cleared of racketeering charges. Through the entire interview, held Friday at the eighth-floor terrace at the Manhattan Federal Courthouse, Gotti seemed calm and focused. He was wearing an olive-colored jacket, which he quickly removed to reveal a short-sleeved white dress shirt and arms still beefy from years of weightlifting.
He was clean-shaven, perhaps a physical metaphor for the clean slate he would like to have - if a jury sees it that way.
Two federal juries have deadlocked on his guilt on racketeering charges; Manhattan federal prosecutors are preparing for a third trial, scheduled to begin in August.
To win, he'll have to convince 12 jurors that he's out, that he's put "the life," as he calls it, behind him.
Central to Gotti's defense is that he withdrew from heading the Gambino crime family in the mid-1990s. Prosecutors say he continued to profit from his crimes even after that.
He says he's done his time - five-plus years for a separate racketeering conviction - and is financially ruined from legal bills and a government freeze on his properties.
If he wins, he'll leave. To California maybe. Or Virginia. Or Florida.
"I can't stay in New York," he says. "I'm alone in this world. I'm a man without an island." He's got few regrets about the life he says he's left behind.
"There are men dying in prison for that life," he says. "It's like a religion. But it's their religion, not my religion."
Now 42, the father of five - soon to be six - is in a desperate bid to reverse the legacy handed him by his father, the murderous crime boss whose brief but bloody tenure as head of the Gambinos made the Gotti name as synonymous with organized crime as Capone.
And his children are a prime motivating factor.
He has seen signs that trouble him, hints that his own 13-year-old son John is beginning to emulate the image he had of his own father - the powerful, no-nonsense mob boss feared by everyone.
"He was proud of the fact that I was a hood," Gotti says. "But I told him I was just a punk kid."
A few months back, Gotti's son John made an off-color remark that his elementary school teacher didn't much appreciate.
"Are you gonna be a little Don like your father and your grandfather?" the teacher asked young John.
Worse has come out of the mouths of radio hosts, but Gotti decided to pay the teacher a visit.
The teacher apologized, claiming the comment was foolishly made in jest.
"I asked her how could she say something like that," Gotti says, shaking his head in disbelief.
And then two weeks ago, his 12-year-old son walked away crying when lunchtime conversation among parents at the boy's horse-jumping competition turned to his aunt Victoria's reality television show, "Growing Up Gotti."
One parent said it was made with mob money.
"This kid's an A-student," his father said. "But this is what the rest of the world thinks. This is what these kids have to live with. My sister's kids hear the same things. They're in college. Come on."
Gotti was around his son John's age when he entered the New York Military Academy in Cornwall-on-Hudson, where they taught discipline and loyalty.
"I could have done other things," he said, his lawyers, Seth Ginsberg and Charles Carnesi, standing nearby. "I went to a military school. I was captain of the boxing team."
Instead, Gotti was inducted into the Gambino family on Christmas Eve, 1988, the same night that Michael (Mikey Scars) DiLeonardo - who would later betray Gotti - was inducted.
Gotti ascended to the top spot in 1990 after his father was sent to prison. And in June 1992, prosecutors say he ordered thugs to beat up Curtis Sliwa for his repeated on-air comments about his father and the rest of the Gotti clan - one of the allegations in the current racketeering indictment.
In 1999, he was about to plead guilty to racketeering charges - something his father had never done.
"I took a plea and he couldn't get past it," Gotti said. "I told him I got children. I got a son named John Gotti Jr. What can he expect to be in this life?"
As he talked about his family, especially his father, his tone grew passionate.
"My father, he was the consummate tough guy," Gotti said. "If he saw Charlie [Carnesi] shake hands with prosecutors like he did [Friday], he wouldn't shake his hand. He'd say you do that again and I'll throw you off this building."
Over time, Gotti said his father understood his son's devotion to his family, his need to coach his son's peewee football team.
"John," he told him during one of their last conversations, "You're 10 times the man I ever was."
He remembers reading an interview with another scion named John - John F. Kennedy Jr. - when he was starting the political magazine George more than a decade ago.
Kennedy was asked if he would someday go into politics, and he said he might since most of his family had. But had there been doctors in his family, he might have gone to medical school.
"There are no doctors in my family," Gotti said, reflecting on his mob lineage. "But I am a Democrat."
Maybe being a Democrat explains why he didn't choose a more honest line of work like a doctor.
And in June 1992, prosecutors say he ordered thugs to beat up Curtis Sliwa for his repeated on-air comments about his father and the rest of the Gotti clan - one of the allegations in the current racketeering indictment.
Five years for this is enough? Any crime involving gang or mob activity should get life with no parole, if violence is involved death penalty.
No,Junior...your father was the consummate filthy,thieving,murderous psychopath.Hate to burst your bubble on that particular point.
The devil is god to many.
Oh boo hoo. Guess what, Junior? We all have garbage in our family that we have to live with and overcome. Once we stop whining about it and actually decide to do something productive, we find that it makes us a better person in the end.
You're nothing special, Junior. Just another member of humanity. Welcome to the planet.
He's God to a lot of other people, too, most of whom he had murdered. Only God has the right to make that decision.
The way I heard it, Sliwa was shot. In several places.