NEW YORK — It was organized crime's version of a heart-to-heart talk: Jailed mob boss John Gotti warned his son that federal authorities would someday try to "lock you up for nothing."
"I hope that's not their intentions," the son, John "Junior" Gotti, responded during the tape-recorded conversation. "But if it is ... then I'm ready."
Nearly 15 years later, the prediction has come true, with the Gambino crime family scion facing a federal trial on racketeering, murder and drug charges backed up by a self-described "rat." And like his notorious father — whose penchant for beating prosecutions earned him the nickname "Teflon Don" — the son already knows his way around a courtroom.
Gotti, 45, has been tried three times in the same Manhattan court in 2005 and 2006 on charges he plotted to kidnap Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels crime-fighting group and outspoken Gambino gadfly.
All the trials ended in hung juries and mistrials after Gotti used the defense that he had quit the mob for good in the 1990s.
‘Here I am again’
This time, along with the Sliwa plot, Gotti has pleaded not guilty to charges that he was involved in three gangland slayings and that he trafficked cocaine. Opening statements in his fourth trial were set for Monday.
"Here I am again," Gotti said last week when introducing himself to prospective jurors.
The Gambinos have been the subject of a steady stream of federal indictments and prosecutions since the elder Gotti, also know as "Dapper Don," was sentenced to life in prison in 1992. The elder Gotti died behind bars in 2002.
Lawyers for his son were again expected to try to persuade jurors that their client had gone straight. They also have accused the government of relying on Mafia turncoats who have lied about their client to protect themselves.
Prosecutors will roll out a new star witness named John Alite, an admitted Gambino associate and former friend of Gotti who previewed his testimony earlier this year at another mob trial in Brooklyn.
In that case, Alite told jurors he grew up wanting to be a mobster. He said he won Gotti's friendship — Gotti was best man at his wedding — and allegiance by dealing cocaine and kicking up a cut of the profits to Gotti, even though drugs were considered taboo in the family.
During a "walk and talk," Alite said, Gotti — who rose through the ranks while his father ruled the New York mob in the 1980s and '90s — drafted him for a hit on an associate who had dared to ignore one of his father's orders.
"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 another mobster gunned down the victim in a parking garage at the World Trade Center 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.
The witness also explained that by taking the stand he was breaking one of the family's sacred rules: "Don't do what I'm doing — ratting."
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