NEW YORK – John "Junior" Gotti made millions of dollars leading the Gambino crime family for nearly a decade before claiming he had quit the mob so he could keep the money and dodge prison, a prosecutor said in her closing argument Thursday at his racketeering trial.
"Before he had ever been charged with a crime, Gotti was planting the lies that would one day be used in a courtroom like this one," Assistant U.S. Attorney Miriam E. Rocah told jurors at Gotti's third trial on the charge in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
Two earlier trials in the last year ended with deadlocked juries.
Rocah dismissed statements Gotti made in prison conversations in which he claimed he had quit the mob and wanted to move to Canada to start a new life. She said it was part of "a charade contrived by Gotti to get himself off the hook."
The statements at the start of closing arguments, which were to continue Friday, illustrated the government's strategy to prove Gotti continued to benefit from Gambino family crimes well after he claimed to have quit the mob before July 1999.
Defense lawyers convinced a majority of jurors at a trial that ended with a hung jury in the spring that Gotti had quit the mob and could not be held accountable for crimes that came to light more than five years after he left his old life.
The government countered that argument at the retrial that began last month by producing new evidence about the actions and statements by Gotti after he pleaded guilty to racketeering charges in 1999 and served a six-year prison sentence.
Rocah said Gotti in the 1999 plea admitted only a few isolated crimes before his best friend began cooperating with the government three years later, detailing a long history of Gotti's supervision of extortion, loansharking, gambling and fraud.
She said Gotti also ordered two 1992 attacks on radio show host and Guardian Angels crimefighting group founder Curtis Sliwa in retaliation for Sliwa's on-air criticisms of his father, John Gotti, who was sentenced to life in prison in 1992 for a racketeering conviction.
The elder Gotti died in prison a decade later. Sliwa recovered from gunshot wounds to resume his radio attacks against the mob.
The prosecutor said the younger Gotti, who has denied ordering the Sliwa attacks, was careful not to get too close to most crimes, relying on associates and soldiers to carry them out.
"He never got his hands too dirty," she said.
In fact, Rocah said, Gotti operated like the chief executive officer of a corporation, "raking in millions of dollars in the 1990s."
Rocah said Gotti developed a strategy to claim he had quit the mob after an uncle told him in prison that he was being demoted from his leadership role in the Gambino crime family and after he learned that his best friend was cooperating with the government.
The closings began a day after Judge Shira Scheindlin tossed out two new racketeering charges the government brought to try to prove Gotti continued committing crimes after he claimed to have quit the mob.
Gotti's lawyers were scheduled to present their closing argument Friday.
If convicted, Gotti, 42, could face up to 30 years in prison.