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The Nation

Gotti Plot to Kill Turncoat Alleged

August 20, 2003|John J. Goldman | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — It has been more than 11 years since Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano took the witness stand in a hushed Brooklyn federal courtroom and delivered crucial testimony that convicted John Gotti, the leader of the Gambino crime family.

Now, in a coda to the case, federal prosecutors have charged Peter Gotti, 63, the late mob leader's brother, with plotting to kill Gravano.

Details of the plot were sparse in an indictment filed by the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan.

Court papers made public Monday charged that Gotti and two co-defendants, Edward Garafola and Thomas Carbonaro, "and others known and unknown, unlawfully, willfully, and knowingly conspired to murder" Gravano in 1999 and 2000.

The media-savvy John Gotti was known as the "Teflon Don" because of his ability to win courtroom acquittals.

But as Gravano riveted spectators with admissions of his participation in 19 killings (including that of his brother-in-law) and tales of the inner workings of the Gambinos, it became clear the jury would convict Gotti -- and revenge eventually would be sought against the turncoat for breaking omerta, organized crime's code of silence.

When the verdict came, on April 2, 1992, Gotti left court with a smile in a show of bravado. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the charges that included five murders, and he died on June 10, 2002, of cancer at age 61 in a federal prison hospital.

The turncoat witness had been expecting such an attempt and had even dared former associates to try.

"They send a hit team down, I'll kill them," Gravano said in Vanity Fair magazine. "They better not miss, because even if they get me, there will be a lot of body bags going back to New York."

At the time of his fighting words, Gravano was living in Arizona.

As part of his deal to testify in the Gotti trial and make court appearances in other organized-crime cases, Gravano served only five years in prison on charges of racketeering.

For a time after his release from prison, he was shielded by the federal witness protection program. Eventually, Gravano found the program too confining, quit and assumed the role of a legitimate businessman in Arizona who installed swimming pools.

He had another occupation, it turned out: In June 2001, he pleaded guilty to running a ring that sold the drug ecstasy and was sentenced last year to 20 years in prison.

The indictment against Peter Gotti, who is in federal custody awaiting sentencing on a racketeering conviction, also charges him with participating in the affairs of the Gambinos as the boss and as a member of its ruling panel.

If convicted, Gotti faces up to 70 years in prison.

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