The Dapper Don
By Liz Goff
To the New York City Police Department and the federal government, John
Gotti was a thief and a murderer. He had the power to kill people, and
like a tyrannous monarch, Gotti periodically saw to the assassination of
But to many of his neighbors in Howard Beach,
he was a hometown hero who insured the safety of their neighborhood and
provided block parties, jobs and a sense of belonging and power.
the end, it was throat cancer that took out the Dapper Don, and
neighbors placed flowers on his
Bergin Hunt & Fish Club.
On Dec. 16, 1985, the sound of rapid gunfire
outside the Sparks Steak House spelled the end of an era for the Gambino
family, and the beginning of Gotti’s ascent to the top of the
“family.” Paul Castellano was dead.
Just one month after Castellano’s blood
spilled outside the steak house, Gotti was formally named “Capo di
Tutti Capi – Boss of Bosses,” head of the Gambino family. Federal
agents immediately began working to prove Gotti’s part in
The Family Man
Gotti, who listed “plumbing salesman” as
his official occupation, lived in a modest, two-story home on 85th
Street in Howard Beach. Gotti met Victoria Di Giorgio in 1960 and they
were married in March 1962. The Gottis had five children.
But it wasn’t always easy living near the
Take John Favara, who lived around the corner
from the Gottis until 1980, when he accidently ran over 12-year-old
Frank Gotti, killing him instantly. A day after the accident, Victoria
Gotti beat him with a baseball bat.
Several months later, witnesses at a Queens
diner said they saw two men shove Favara into the back seat of a car in
the diner’s parking lot. He was never seen or heard from again.
John and Victoria Gotti were vacationing in
West Palm Beach, Florida at the time.
The Man Behind The Legend
Gotti was born on Oct. 27, 1940 and was one of
12 brothers and sisters.
At age 16, Gotti joined the Fulton-Rockaways
The years that followed read like a police
blotter: May 1957, Gotti was arrested for the first time after a gang
fight; 1958, convicted of burglary, given probation; 1959, first arrest
as an adult, charged with unlawful assembly in a gambling raid, got 60
days suspended sentence; 1963, arrested in a car stolen from Avis
Rentals, jailed for the first time, served 20 days; 1965, arrested for
unlawful entry and possession of bookmaking records. In 1996, he was
arrested and jailed for the first time for associating with associates
of mob boss Carlo Gambino.
Gotti’s first mob-related prison sentence
followed his 1969 guilty plea in a federal hijacking case. He spent
three years at Lewisburg Federal Prison in Pennsylvania.
According to the record, the murders started
with a 1973 shooting in a Queens bar. He pleaded guilty in 1975 to
On Feb. 28, 1977, Gotti was released as a model
prisoner. In November 1977, he was formally “inducted” into the
The list of Gotti’s alleged – and convicted
– criminal offenses swelled between 1977 and 1985.
The feds continued to prosecute Gotti on
conspiracy, racketeering and attempted murder charges through 1992.
In early 1992, Gotti’s lawyer, Bruce Cutler,
was barred from representing him on the grounds that Cutler was acting
as “house counsel” for the Gambino crime family. That same year,
Sammy (the “Bull” - turned - “Rat”) Gravano, facing life behind
bars, switched his loyalties and testified against Gotti. Gravano’s
testimony provided the evidence that led to Gotti’s conviction on 13
counts – including conspiracy in the Castellano murder.
On June 23, 1992, Gotti was sentenced to life
in prison, without parole.
On June 24, Gotti was delivered to authorities
at the Marion Federal Penitentiary in Illinois. All attempted appeals
Gotti neighbors were also thrilled each summer
when Gotti hosted his July fourth fireworks extravaganza. For 20 years,
Gotti and his gang hosted the neighborhood outside and inside the Bergin
Hunt & Fish Club on 101st Avenue.
But in 1994, New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani
sent in troops of New York’s Finest
and skies were silent, as they have been ever since.
His Final Days
While incarcerated, Gotti developed throat
cancer. He succumbed to the disease on June 10, 2002.