NEW YORK – For years, radio talk show host Curtis Sliwa (search) routinely denigrated late mob boss John Gotti (search) and his cohorts as murderers, drug dealers, degenerates. His tone was so strident, prosecutors say, that Gotti's son ordered an attack on the motormouthed founder of the Guardian Angels (search).
Make it personal, the younger Gotti allegedly told his gunsels.
Thirteen years after Sliwa took two bullets in a botched hit, he will finally get face-to-face with John "Junior" Gotti (search) in a courtroom. Sliwa, who's rarely at a loss for words, was expected to testify Monday in Gotti's federal racketeering trial.
"I've been waiting 13 years for justice," Sliwa said before the trial started last month. The courtroom showdown was expected to provide the trial's most drama: the head Angel testifying against the ex-head of the Gambino crime family.
Both native New Yorkers, they share an Italian heritage and a penchant for making headlines — but that's about all they have in common. There's no love lost between the son of the infamous "Dapper Don" and the son of a merchant seaman.
It was Sliwa's on-air slagging of the elder Gotti that allegedly prompted an angry Junior to order the June 19, 1992, attack.
Prosecution witness Joseph "Little Joey" D'Angelo, a mob turncoat, testified that Gotti went as far as taking him on a tour of Sliwa's Manhattan neighborhood to pick out a spot where the attack should occur.
D'Angelo said that Gotti's directions were very specific: "He's getting personal. I want us to get personal." He said Gotti specifically mentioned Sliwa's cracks about his father, who was serving a life term on a racketeering charge.
Gotti allegedly only wanted Sliwa to take a beating when two mobsters inside a stolen cab picked up the radio show host. But the process was botched and mobster Michael "Mikey Y" Yannotti wound up shooting him, said prosecution witness D'Angelo. Yanotti then tossed the wounded Guardian Angel out the cab window.
Gotti has denied any involvement in the Sliwa shooting. D'Angelo testified that Gotti paid him $5,000 for the job.
Gotti, whose father died in prison in 2002, is accused of a conspiracy to kidnap Sliwa as part of racketeering charges that could jail him for 30 years.
While the attack was intended to shut up Sliwa, it's had the exact opposite affect. Sliwa, who co-hosts a morning radio show with liberal lawyer Ron Kuby, only increased his vitriol toward Gotti and the Gambino family after the shooting.
Long before Junior's indictment, Sliwa was publicly putting the blame on the Gambinos. He did stop talking about the case briefly when Gotti was finally charged with the crime.
Sliwa, quite dramatically, then went into hiding over fears that he would be targeted for retaliation by the Gambino family.
He wasn't, and was soon back to his old ways on the radio.