Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Gotti started as a mob assassin and worked his way up to becoming captain of one of the most powerful groups in the Gambino family. His group, however, was caught selling drugs, against the rules of the family, and was about to be disbanded. To prevent this, Gotti and others organized the shooting of the Gambino family boss, Paul Castellano, on December 16, 1985. Castellano was shot six times outside Sparks Steakhouse in Manhattan and Gotti took control of the family. Following his ascension to the position of Gambino family godfather, Gotti became known as "The Dapper Don", appearing in public in expensive $2000 hand-tailored Brioni suits and reveling in media attention. Gotti was extremely popular in his Queens neighborhood, where he organized free lavish street parties and festivals, and had a reputation for keeping street crime out. The annual Fourth of July party he hosted in Ozone Park, a neighborhood in Queens, which featured an elaborate fireworks display, was a major media event.
Gotti was arrested several times throughout his career, and although he served time in both state and federal prison (including a manslaughter conviction in connection with the shooting death of a low-level Irish-American gangster in a tavern on Staten Island in 1973), in the 1980s he was referred to by the media as the "Teflon Don" as he avoided conviction on racketeering and assault charges. Gotti bribed or threatened jurors in several trials. He also made use of police informants to keep a step ahead of investigators.
Gotti became something of a celebrity, and would frequently shake hands and pose for pictures with tourists outside the Ravenite Social Club in Manhattan where he conducted business.
Gotti was long under intense electronic surveillance by the FBI. His club, phones, and other places of business were all bugged. To get around this, he held meetings while walking down the street and played loud tapes of white noise. Eventually the FBI caught him on tape in an apartment above the club discussing a number of murders and other criminal activities. The FBI also caught Gotti denigrating his underboss Salvatore "Sammy The Bull" Gravano. Angered and feeling he would be made a scapegoat, Gravano agreed to testify against Gotti. Despite having confessed to participating in 19 murders, Gravano was given only a five year sentence and then entered the Witness Protection Program.
Gotti and several associates were arrested in 1990. Gotti was convicted by a jury in the United States District Court in New York on April 2, 1992 for 14 counts of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, loansharking, racketeering, obstruction of justice, illegal gambling, and tax evasion; along with his consigliere Frank LoCascio. He was sentenced to life imprisonment without possibility of parole on June 23 later that year. It was assumed that Gotti would serve his sentence at the new federal "supermax" facility at Florence, Colorado, but instead he was sent to the older federal penitentiary at Marion, Illinois, where he was kept in a solitary-confinement cell 23 hours a day.
Gotti died of throat cancer at 12:45PM on June 10, 2002 at the United States Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri, to which he had been transferred once the cancer was diagnosed.
Following his death, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, New York decided that John Gotti would not be permitted a Mass of Christian Burial, or a Funeral Mass before burial. The Chancellor of the Diocese, Father Andrew Vaccari, had said that a Mass for the Dead would be permitted for Gotti at some point after the burial. The family was permitted to have Gotti buried at the mausoleum located at St. John's Cemetery in the Queens, New York. The Catholic Church in the past had denied funeral masses to other mobsters, such as Carmine Galante, and former Gambino boss "Big Paul" Castellano. But unlike Gotti and Galante, Castellano was also denied burial within a Catholic cemetery.
On March 6, 1962, Gotti married Victoria DiGiorgio, by whom he had five children: Angela (born 1961), Victoria, John, Frank and Peter. Frank Gotti died in 1980 in a car accident; John Favara, the neighbour who was driving the car that hit Frank, was abducted shortly thereafter and his body was never found.
In 2004, a new television show called Growing Up Gotti was aired on the A&E television network, which features Gotti's daughter Victoria and her three sons. Soon afterwards, The Smoking Gun website posted the videos made of Gotti and his family during a prison visit several years ago. Prison officials routinely videotaped all of Gotti's visits. The video, which was presented in five parts, was called Blowing Up Gotti.
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