John Joseph Gotti was born into one of the poorest families in New York on October 27, 1940. His father was a sanitation worker, his Mother didn’t work. John was the youngest of five children. There was barely enough food to go around, and meat was a luxury, only to be eaten once a week. The only clothes he had, were hand-me-downs from his older brother (Davis 60-61). As a child John impressed his teachers as having an uncontrollable temper. A trait which he would someday value.
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He was constantly getting into fights with older boys who tried to take his lunch money. He soon got the reputation as one you didn’t cross for fracturing an older boys skull in a classroom. Gotti began running with smalltime gangs at the age of twelve, after noticing a mobster named Albert Anastasia. He soon joined a street gang called the Fulton-Rockaway Boys (Davis 61-63). At the age of 16 Gotti dropped out of school, and began to model his life after Anastasia. John got a job with the gang he had earlier joined, as a debt collector. He was required to bust a lot of heads to complete his job. This got him noticed by Angelo Bruno, who was a soldier under none other than Anastasia. John was required to do many odd jobs for Bruno.(Davis 63-64). In 1957 Carlo Gambino had Anastasia killed(Davis 72). Gambino took in Gotti as an apprentice at the age of twenty. John soon married Victoria DiGiorgio. The two later had four children. He now began to spend his life in and out of prison which was nothing new to him(Davis 125-126). In 1977 Gotti got his wish. He was formally inducted into the Gambino crime family.
John was inducted into the family by Neil Dellacroce under the authorization of “Big” Paul Castellano. Castellano was the new head of the family after the death of Carlo Gambino. Gotti was appointed his own crew, the Bergin-Hunt crew. His crew soon became the highest earning crew in the family (Davis 161-162). Gotti began enforcing the ban on selling drugs in his crew, and he rarely carried a gun. This earned him respect and power, greatest demonstration of his power occurred in 1980. John’s youngest son Peter was accidentally struck by a car and killed. Peter was riding his mini bike when a car came out of nowhere and hit him (Dorigo 104-105). John had the driver of the car, Frank Favara brutally murdered(Gross 76).
On December 16, 1985 Gotti had Castellano murdered. This was done by four men outside sparks steak house. John sat across the street to watch it done(Gross 73). The murder was very public. It was done at 5:25 p.m. while the streets were covered with shoppers. Though Gotti watched it all he conveniently had an alibi. As far as anyone knew he was at his Cape Cod home with his family(Silverman 23). On the evening of December 30, 1985 his lifelong dream would come true. In the basement of a lower Manhattan apartment complex the heads of New York’s five families would meet to decide who would now lead the Gambino family. It was unanimous “Johny Boy” was the new “Godfather”. Though Gotti now had the position he had dreamed of since childhood it would not be as easy as he had previously anticipated.
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The Mafia was not the only ones to hear of John’s newly acquire position. The state organized crime task force would also quickly find out about what went on. They would now place bugs everywhere. Not only was Gotti receiving more money than ever he was also receiving a lot of unneeded publicity from the press(Davis 245). Gotti was from a new breed of Godfathers. He was about to show the underworld something it had ever seen, nor would ever see again. John would mix the old styles with new to form his own style. He would take on the swagger of Anastasia, but double the ruthlessness. Gotti brought out a business sense that no one could ever compare to. He dressed like something out of a storybook.
The new Godfather wore two thousand dollar, hand tailored, double breasted, silk suits. With white, French cuffed dress shirts with matching silk ties and pocket handkerchiefs. His shoes were gleaming three-Hundred dollar Italian leather loafers. Anytime you would see him he would have a smile on his face and a diamond ring on his pinky. He would soon be known by the press as the “Dapper Don”. He was more flamboyant than any “Godfather” before him. Gotti’s only downfall would be the media attention that he had grown to love(Davis 245-250). In 1985 the “Daper Don” would find himself sitting in a courtroom for a federal RICO case, which would gain him even more publicity.
Even with all the evidence they had against him, one year later all charges were dropped. The “Dapper Don” would now be known as the “Teflon Don”. With Gotti beating the feds the FBI would crack down even harder. The “Teflon Don” must be stopped. Though he outwardly showed confidence he knew he would soon be busted for the Costellano hit. The majority of Gotti’s “Family” were now going to prison(Davis 250-275). Shortly after the RICO case Gotti would once again find himself back in the courtroom. This time the charges were for assault. This was a charge that even the Police found ridiculous. Everyone knew that you never took a man of Gotti’s stature to court over assault. The FBI no longer cared they just wanted “Johny Boy” behind bars. Once again the press turned out bigger than ever to see if he could beat the odds again. With the FBI’s non legitimate tapes and testimonies from convicted liars and killers, they barely had a case. In the end Gotti was found not guilty for the second time in a row.
The press got what they wanted. The “Teflon Don” had done it again, and he soon became invincible(Davis 284-314). The people now saw Gotti not as a mobster, but as a hero. He would give large sums of money to the churches charities. He was a modern day Robin Hood, or so they thought. On the fourth of July, which was Gotti’s favorite holiday, banners were flown throughout NewYork saying “We Love Gotti”. This made the FBI even madder. They couldn’t believe what was going on. They couldn’t stand seeing a crime boss become a public hero so they once again the cracked down even harder. The even bugged his son John Jr.’s wedding. they also knew that John Jr. had joined the family to follow his Father’s footsteps, which made his father very proud(Davis 315-317). On December 12 1990 the “Teflon Don” and his underboss Sammy “The Bull” Gravanno were arrested. This time it was for the Costellano hit. In 1992 the case went to trial. To Gotti’s dismay the FBI’s star witness was none other than Sammy Gravano(Davis 319 and 345)
A hush grew over the courtroom as Gotti’s underboss, Sammy Gravano, took the stand. Gravano confessed to 19 murders alone all ordered by Gotti. He also confessed to helping Gotti plan the execution of Costellano(Hewet 40-42). This was all the jury needed. The “Teflon Don” had been busted. The court found John Joseph Gotti guilty of all charges. He is now behind Bars serving life without parole in the Marion control unit of Illinois(Davis 413). To sum it up, the life of John Gotti is a perfect example of how one person with a little ambition can do anything. Even though he was born poor he became a millionaire, and even though he has lost his freedom, he hasn’t lost his pride. In his own words “Nobody rolls seven’s, an eleven’s forever”.
Davis, John. Mafia Dynasty the Rise and Fall of the Gambino Crime Family New York. Harper Collins, 1993. Dorigo, Joe. Mafia a Chilling illustrated History of Underworld New Jersey. Charwell books, 1992 Gross, Km. “Cold-Blooded King of a Hill Under Siege” . People 12,Nov 1991:76 Hewet, Bill. “Bad Fellas”. People 23,March 1992: 40-42 Silverman, Burt. ” Hitting the Mafia”. Time 29, september 1986:23