Both of Gotti's families brace for some difficult tasks ahead Jurors deliberated only 13 hours before finding mob chief guilty.

April 03, 1992|By Newsday

NEW YORK -- Now that the jury has rendered its guilty verdict on John Gotti, his family is faced with the prodigious chore of storing the don's immense collection of fancy suits and ties for what could be a lifetime.

But his other family -- the one that bears the name Gambino -- is faced with an even greater task: ridding itself of Gotti's brazen, stylish and ultimately suicidal image.

After a 10-week trial, jurors deliberated 13 hours before finding Gotti guilty on all 13 of the murderand racketeering charges against him. He faces possible life imprisonment. Sentencing is scheduled for June 23 in U.S. District Court.

Few law enforcement experts doubt that the Gambino family will thrive after the don's conviction, although all leave open the question of who will fill his place and whether the transfer of power from convict to capo will be peaceful or bloody.

But all agree that the mob is likely to return to its former reclusive ways, a style that was turned on its ear during Gotti's heyday.

"The Gambino family is not going to stop," said FBI special agent George Gabriel, who worked on the Gotti case. "And neither are we."

If that sounds like a cliche, something left over from the Eliot Ness school of prosecution, it might also signal a return to the days when the mob was run by older, undistinguished and low-key characters.

It failed frequently, of course, as attested by the number of mob chieftains jailed over the past decade, victims of the Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act.

But after prosecutors brought three unsuccessful cases against Gotti in the late 1980s, no one could argue that he had become their prime target.

It's not that Gotti's conviction will eliminate the mob, many law enforcement sources say. It will simply force its leaders to stay inside and be quiet in their social clubs and other hangouts, and to drop the pretense that they are involved in anything other than an illegal operation.

Gotti's flamboyance "symbolized the invincibility of the mob," said Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, whose office cooperated in the Gotti case.

That invincibility became a barb to the prosecutors, jabbing them on to bring case after case against him.

Gay Talese, the author of "Honor Thy Father," which chronicles a Mafia family, said Gotti was not a ruler modeled on the old-fashioned Sicilian gangsters.

Those men "never talked to the press, never posed for pictures, tried to be guarded and never tried to blend into society as if they were legitimate," he said.

But Gotti seemed almost to take pride in being a gangster, as if he were playing a film role.

"He was kind of a New Age Mafioso, who was untrue to the old image," said Talese. "And it obviously didn't work."

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