Shawn Baldwin  /  AP file
John A. "Junior" Gotti, the son of late mob boss John Gotti, leaves federal court in White Plains, N.Y., in this Feb. 1999 file photo.
updated 7/27/2005 6:50:53 PM ET 2005-07-27T22:50:53

In a surprise on the eve of trial, a prosecutor announced in court Wednesday that the son of late mob boss John Gotti is no longer charged with conspiracy to murder radio talk show host Curtis Sliwa.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael McGovern said John A. "Junior" Gotti also was no longer charged with aiding and abetting the attempted murder of Sliwa, though a charge of conspiring to kidnap Sliwa will remain when the case goes to trial next month.

Prosecutors had earlier included the charges relating to Sliwa in an indictment that accused Gotti of leading the Gambino organized crime family after his father was put behind bars. Charges in the indictment included fraud and extortion.

But a centerpiece of the indictment was the charges relating to the attack on Sliwa, who was shot on June 19, 1992, as he hailed a cab in Manhattan. Prosecutors alleged Gotti tried to arrange Sliwa’s death because Sliwa criticized his father on the show.

The radio host recovered and has spoken frequently about the shooting on his show.

Sliwa ‘absolutely stunned’
McGovern did not explain why the government has decided not to proceed with the murder conspiracy charge against Gotti.

“I’m stunned, just absolutely stunned,” Sliwa said after he was told of the announcement. “But then again, this is a case the feds never wanted, the police never wanted.”

Sliwa said he suspects the government was not pursuing the charge because it was not certain the evidence would result in a conviction.

“What do they want, slam dunks here?” he asked. “Let a jury of my peers make that determination because I’ve been waiting 13 years for justice.”

Gotti’s lawyer, Jeffrey Lichtman, said the action by prosecutors showed that the defense has been accurate.

“We’ve been saying this for a year. He was not responsible for a plot to kill Curtis Sliwa,” Lichtman said.

May still face prison time
Despite the change, Gotti may still face up to 30 years in prison if he is convicted of the conspiracy of kidnap charges, though Lichtman said he believed any potential sentence would be reduced without the murder conspiracy charge.

Lawyers in the case Wednesday began analyzing 300 questionnaires filled out by prospective jurors for the trial scheduled to begin Aug. 8. Among questions the prospective jurors were asked was whether they listen to Sliwa’s radio show.

The younger Gotti has been in prison for more than five years after pleading guilty to racketeering in an earlier case.

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