Image: John Alite
John Alite, now star witness for the government in its case against alleged mobster Charles Carneglia, in a jail in Rio de Janeiro in 2004.
updated 3/3/2009 5:45:11 AM ET 2009-03-03T10:45:11

The murder trial of a reputed Mafia assassin has become an embarrassment for both the family of late mob boss John Gotti and police, thanks to sensational testimony by the government's star witness.

John Alite has linked his former best friend John "Junior" Gotti to a series of gangland slayings, boasted that he slept with reality television graduate Victoria Gotti and claimed two police officers were in on another hit. The defendant, Charles Carneglia, has dismissed the testimony against him as a betrayal by "rats" and "canaries."

Most of the singing at Carneglia's ongoing trial in Brooklyn has been done by Alite, a Gambino organized crime family associate who grew up wanting to be a made member but wasn't allowed to because he's Albanian, not Italian.

New York's Gambino family has been the subject of a steady stream of government indictments and prosecutions since John Gotti, the so-called "Dapper Don," was sentenced to life in prison in 1992. He died behind bars in 2002.

In several hours on the witness stand, Alite, 46, explained he was breaking a sacred rule by testifying: "Don't do what I'm doing — ratting."

He told jurors that he grew up in the Queens borough wanting to be a mobster, and won the younger Gotti's admiration in the 1980s — Gotti was best man at his wedding — by dealing cocaine and kicking up a cut of the profits to Gotti, even though drugs were considered taboo in the family. He also described how he and Gotti's married sister were "seeing each other on the sneak" — an allegation that prompted an angry denial by Victoria Gotti.

"He's an insect," the one-time star of "Growing up Gotti" told the Daily News. "He would hump a cockroach."

Claims two cops involved in hits
Alite also claimed that two lawmen — a current Suffolk County officer and a retired New York Police Department detective — gave him backup in the drive-by shooting of a rival drug dealer in 1988. He testified the former NYPD officer was "involved in crimes for 20 years" and made millions of dollars.

Suffolk County officials declined comment on Monday. The NYPD said it had no record of the officer named by Alite.

Alite's testimony at the Carneglia trial also offered a preview of the murder case against Gotti, who has pleaded not guilty to charges alleging he was involved in three slayings in the late 1980s and early 1990s and charges of possessing and trafficking more than 5 kilograms of cocaine.

Three previous trials in 2005 and 2006 ended in hung juries and mistrials after Gotti used the defense that he had quit the mob for good in the 1990s. His lawyers say the new allegations are based on cooperators who are lying to protect themselves.

Alite testified that a newly promoted Gotti drafted him for a hit on an associate who had dared to ignore one of his father's orders. The younger Gotti rose through the ranks while his famous father ruled the New York mob in the 1980s and '90s.

"It was his first job as a captain, and he wanted to get it right," the witness said.

Alite said he tried to track the target down in Atlantic City, N.J., but was pulled off the job when Gotti changed plans. Prosecutors say Carneglia gunned down the victim in the World Trade Center Parking lot in 1990.

The result left Gotti "elated," Alite said.

Alite also implicated Gotti in the other two killings prosecutors have charged he was involved in — the slayings of two men in Queens amid drug turf disputes in 1988 and 1991. Alite said they were carried out on Gotti's say-so.

Carneglia was one of 62 people arrested last year in what authorities described as one of the largest roundups ever of suspected members and associates of a New York crime family. Since then, 60 have pleaded guilty to lesser charges, and one case was dropped.

Prosecutors allege Carneglia gunned down a court officer to prevent the officer's testimony against him in a 1976 weapon possession case. They say the trail of bodies also included that of a rival mobster stabbed to death in 1977 during a fight outside a diner, a Gambino associate killed in 1983 during an argument over money and an armored car security guard shot in the back during a heist in 1990.

Gory details
The case has produced one of the gorier allegations to emerge recently in mob lore: that the body of John Favara — a neighbor killed for accidentally running over the elder Gotti's 12-year-old son — was dissolved in a vat of acid. Jurors have been allowed to hear testimony that Carneglia was involved in disposing of bodies, but not about the acid.

On Monday, a former NYPD detective who helped arrest Carneglia testified that the suspect ranted against cooperators saying, "I can't believe these rats and canaries," and fretted over possibly being put behind bars for life.

"I don't want to spend the next 30 years in jail," the witness quoted Carneglia as saying. "I'd rather get the needle."

Attorneys for Carneglia, 62, say the case against him hinges on flimsy, outdated evidence. They labeled cooperating gangsters such as Alite a collection of "thieves, murderers and liars."

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