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Monday, 10 June, 2002, 19:41 GMT 20:41 UK
John Gotti: The Teflon Don
John Gotti
Dapper gangster with a ruthless streak

He was dubbed The Teflon Don, because the combined might of America's law enforcement agencies could not make a charge stick against the Mafia boss, John Gotti.

But on 2 April 1992, at the US District Court in Brooklyn, Gotti, the head of New York's notorious Gambino crime family, was stuck with convictions that included murder, extortion and obstruction of justice.

He was sentenced to 100 years in prison and sent to the maximum-security penitentiary in Marion, Illinois, where he was to spend 23 hours a day alone in a small cell.

Not for the first time in the bloody annals of Mafia history, the breakthrough in efforts to bring a suspect to justice had been finally secured through the testimony of his former right hand man.

Salvatore Gravano
Gravano's evidence puts Gotti in jail
Salvatore Gravano, aka "Sammy The Bull", said Gotti had been involved in 10 murders and told how in 1985, outside a Manhattan steakhouse, he and Gotti had watched the killing of Paul Castellano, the then head of the Gambino family.

Gravano, who admitted involvement in 19 murders, was later released after five years in prison.

Ironically he was later convicted of peddling drugs in Arizona after being betrayed by a "rat" within his own organisation.

Attracted to the mob

John Gotti was not pre-destined for a life of crime, but his childhood in the South Bronx of New York did not offer attractive alternatives.

Although he had eleven sisters and brothers, his father rarely worked and spent much of the little money the family had on gambling.

When the family moved to central Brooklyn, young John became aware of the Cosa Nostra and was quickly attracted to its prospects.

He ran errands for the Mob, although his first serious brush with the police impressed no one; he tried to steal a cement mixer and it fell on his feet, causing an injury that affected his gait for the rest of his life.

Gotti with his attorney
The Teflon Don with his attorney
He became the leader of a local gang through his dominant personality, his readiness to fight and his hot temper.

In 1962, at the age of 22, he married Vicky DiGorgio, with whom he had had a child the previous year.

Vicky bore him four more children, despite a tempestuous relationship in which she took violent objection to Gotti's life of crime, his drinking, gambling and eye for other women.

Taste of jail

Gotti had his first experience of incarceration in 1968 when he was jailed for hijacking trucks. When he got out in 1972, he met Aniello "Neil" Dellacroce, right-hand man to Carlo Gambino, and improved his Mafia status.

He successfully took on the task of killing James McBratney, who had kidnapped and murdered Gambino's son.

Gotti and two other men dressed as police officers and shot McBratney in a bar in front of several witnesses. Gotti was arrested and although a lawyer managed to get the charge reduced, was jailed for manslaughter.

John Gotti, in overcoat, smiling
Gotti escaped at least two seemingly watertight prosecutions
Released again, he came into conflict in the 1980s with Paul Castellano, who had become the boss of the Gambino family after the death of Carlo Gambino, his brother-in-law.

The power struggle ended with Castellano's murder, leaving Gotti to assume the throne of the Gambino family.

In his new role, Gotti also became a prime target for the FBI, but he loved his new, questionable, celebrity.

Dapper to Teflon

The man sometimes known as The Dapper Don because of his meticulous appearance and snappy suits, created a public image of himself as a legendary rogue with almost heroic qualities.

He acquired his other tag, the Teflon Don, after beating prosecutions in two seemingly watertight cases.

In one, a man complaining he had been assaulted by Gotti "changed his mind" after someone tampered with the brakes of his truck; in the second, Gotti was acquitted after he allegedly bribed the jury foreman.

A smiling John Gotti Jnr
John Gotti Jnr now also behind bars
But Gotti could not beat cancer. And while one of his children, Victoria, has capitalised on the family name, as an author of mystery novels, his son, John Junior, as the designated successor as head of the Gambinos, became a new focus of FBI attention, and was jailed for racketeering and extortion. He remains behind bars.

It seems the reign of the Gottis is over.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Former gangster Henry Hill
"John Gotti was a vicious, brutal man"
Ex-NY's organized crime strike force, Ed McDonald
"Once he took over the family, I think he proved himself to be a very unsophisticated boss"
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