U.S. says it will not retry Gotti

Racketeering trials led to 3 hung juries

October 21, 2006|By Anthony M. Destefano | Anthony M. Destefano,Newsday

NEW YORK -- After escaping conviction on federal racketeering charges three times in roughly a year, John A. Gotti - the son of the late Gambino crime boss - will finally be able to pursue what he claims he has long desired: an ordinary life.

Yesterday, in a widely expected move, federal prosecutors in Manhattan dropped efforts to convict Gotti. He has been free on bail since the most recent mistrial last month.

"The government has concluded that a retrial of defendant John A. Gotti on the pending indictment is not in the interests of justice in light of the three prior hung juries in the case," said U.S. Attorney Michael J. Garcia in a statement released yesterday. Garcia said Manhattan District Judge Shira Scheindlin signed papers that ended the prosecution of Gotti.

"It was just wise to stop," said a federal law enforcement official who asked not to be named.

"It wasn't unexpected, but it is great to have confirmation," said Gotti's defense attorney, Charles Carnesi. "It was the right and responsible thing to do.

Carnesi said Gotti intends to move out of New York.

But more legal problems could lie ahead. Radio talk show host Curtis Sliwa has promised a civil suit against Gotti over his kidnapping in June 1992, which he alleges was ordered by the mob scion. Sliwa believes he was targeted for his incessant on-air criticism of the elder Gotti. He survived by diving out the window of a moving cab after suffering two gunshot wounds.

During his last trial, Gotti told Newsday that he planned to continue his college studies and work with children. With the dismissal of the indictment, Gotti's multimillion-dollar bail has been cleared.

Though Gotti could not be reached for comment yesterday, his sister Angel Gotti said he might explore the idea of going into a food business with her and sister Victoria.

"We are all relieved," Angel Gotti said. "Hopefully, they will leave him alone."

Gotti was charged with racketeering offenses, including conspiracy, extortion conspiracy and witness tampering. But in three trials between August 2005 and this year, the government failed to convince jurors.

The only unanimous decision came in a finding that Gotti was involved in the Sliwa kidnapping, jurors said. But the Sliwa charge was only one predicate racketeering act, of which two had to be proved to sustain a conviction. Gotti contends that he left the mob in July 1999, a date that would have put the indictment outside the statute of limitations.

Sliwa, who said he still suffers from the effects of being shot during the kidnapping attempt, vented his frustration in a statement released yesterday. "Today, John Gotti was given a gift he didn't deserve - release from federal criminal charges, which included his ordering of the plot to kidnap and shoot me in 1992," Sliwa said.

Sliwa said he plans to bring a lawsuit against Gotti "for the harm he has caused to me and my family" as well as "fear and abuse he heaped on law-abiding society."

But intentional tort claims are governed by a one-year statute of limitations, and unless Sliwa has some other legal theory, any lawsuit against Gotti would be time-barred, said Robert Kelner, a personal injury attorney in Manhattan.

Anthony M. Destefano writes for Newsday. Wire reports contributed to this article.

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