NEW YORK – Gambino crime family scion John A. "Junior" Gotti dodged a legal bullet for the second time in eight months Friday when a federal jury deadlocked on racketeering charges against him, leading to a mistrial.
U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin excused jurors after they said they were at an impasse despite less than two full days of deliberations. Prosecutors quickly said they intended to try Gotti, 42, a third time, and the judge indicated she would set a new trial date Monday.
"I'm happy," said Gotti, who hugged his mother after leaving the courtroom. "I'm financially ruined, but what are you gonna do?"
The mistrial came after jurors sent out a note that further deliberations would be fruitless. "We are completely DEADLOCKED," the note said. "More time will not change the views in this room."
The note continued, "P.S. We want to leave ASAP."
In an earlier note, the jury said it could not agree on Gotti's claims that he quit the Gambino organized crime family before July 22, 1999, meaning the five-year statute of limitations would have expired on racketeering charges.
His attorney, Charles Carnesi, told reporters outside the courthouse: "We're a little disappointed, but we'll do better next time."
Gotti, who remained free on $7 million bail, then looked back at reporters and said, "Better than sleeping in the MCC" — the Metropolitan Correctional Center, a federal lockup. He faced up to 30 years in prison if convicted.
Gotti's defense team acknowledged his life in organized crime, but insisted their client had retired from the Mafia and had no role in attacks on Curtis Sliwa, a radio host and founder of the Guardian Angels. Gotti was indicted on these charges in July 2004, just two months before he was due out of prison on a prior conviction.
"The federal government has assured me that whether April, May or June, he's going to go down for the count," Sliwa said Friday.
Gotti was charged with ordering two attacks on Sliwa back in 1992. The second one almost killed Sliwa, and authorities charged that Gotti ordered Sliwa's kidnapping to silence his daily on-air verbal assaults on the Gotti's late father, Gambino boss John Gotti.
"He's getting personal," Gotti allegedly told one of Sliwa's attackers. "I want us to get personal."
Sliwa once again testified for the prosecution about the morning of the shooting, when he hailed a taxi on his way to work at a Manhattan radio station. The cab was rigged to keep Sliwa from escaping, and a masked gunman was crouched in the front seat, he said.
The botched June 19, 1992, kidnapping ended with a critically injured Sliwa diving to safety through the window of a moving taxi as his blood poured from a pair of gunshot wounds.
Gotti's first trial on the charges ended in a mistrial in September. Notes on a verdict sheet showed that jury to have been 11-1 in favor of convicting Gotti on racketeering and extortion.
While most retrials become a rehash, the two weeks of testimony in this case offered some unexpected twists.
Sliwa's current WABC-AM co-host, attorney Ron Kuby, was called as a defense witness in a courthouse version of their morning drive-time program. The liberal lawyer, who provides the broadcast counterpoint to Sliwa's conservative banter, testified that Gotti told him eight years ago that he was "sick of this (mob) life."
And in a revelation that sparked tabloid headlines, key prosecution witness Michael "Mikey Scars" DiLeonardo testified that the late mob boss John Gotti had a child with a mistress. "Dirty government politics as usual," sniffed the widow of the "Dapper Don."
DiLeonardo, once Junior Gotti's best friend and an admitted three-time murderer, cut a deal with authorities to testify against his ex-pal.
According to authorities, the younger Gotti assumed control of the powerful Gambino family after his father's 1992 conviction on racketeering and murder charges. The former "Teflon Don" died 10 years later inside a federal prison.