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Gotti Legacy was Laughable?

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  • Gotti Legacy was Laughable?

    Gotti, Gambino Families Destroyed

    Filed at 2:09 p.m. ET

    NEW YORK (AP) -- John Gotti sat in the cramped apartment in New York's Little Italy. He spoke to a trusted friend, wondering what would come of his rise from Queens hoodlum to head of the Gambino crime family.

    ``Is this what we're working for?'' he asked in December 1989, unaware of the government bug catching every word in his Mulberry Street hideaway. ``To leave a (expletive) mess behind?''

    The answer, it turned out, was yes.

    Back then, Gotti was still the boss of bosses, a movie star-style mobster with a lifestyle to match. The FBI made him public enemy No. 1 as Gotti laughingly dismissed attempts to jail him, beating three prosecutions -- one with the aid of a rigged jury.

    And then it all went bad.

    When Gotti died June 10 after a long battle with cancer, the mob boss was little more than an icon of another era. As he wasted away in a federal hospital, the family that Gotti had boasted would last for a century collapsed in less than a decade.

    That wasn't just the Gambino family. When Gotti died, two generations of Gotti men -- a half-dozen in all -- were in jail or facing trial in an increasingly futile battle to keep the foundering Gambinos afloat.

    ``What a legacy for your family,'' said Jim Kallstrom, former head of the New York FBI office. ``He brought his own flesh and blood into the crime syndicate, and perpetuated the downward spiral of crime and corruption.''

    Gotti's mob legacy was often more laughable than legendary. He violated virtually every precept of organized crime after ascending to the job by murdering ``Big Paul'' Castellano in 1985, mob experts said.

    Gotti courted publicity. He taunted law enforcement. He promoted a future snitch, Sammy ``The Bull'' Gravano, to underboss. His approach to business was more thuggish than thoughtful.

    Worst of all, Gotti was repeatedly caught talking on tape: Six hours of FBI recordings were introduced by prosecutors at his 1992 murder and racketeering trial. He admitted to three killings on the tapes.

    ``I was in jail when I whacked him,'' Gotti said about the hit on Gambino pornographer Robert DiBernardo. ``I knew why it was being done. I done it anyway.''

    Implicated by his own words and Gravano's testimony, Gotti went away for life. He was 51, and never spent another day outside federal custody. The feared mobster eventually spent more years in federal prisons -- 15 -- than he did running the Gambinos -- seven.

    ``This guy is not a noble man, not a lion, not a Robin Hood,'' said Bruce Mouw, one-time head of the FBI's Gambino squad. ``He was just a gangster and a cold-blooded killer.''

    In Gotti's absence, the family's leadership was decimated. Its latest reputed boss has more in common with fictional Tony Soprano than the actual Carlo Gambino. Arnold ``Zeke'' Squitieri, 66, lives across the Hudson River in New Jersey.

    Gotti's other replacements worked out disastrously, for both his families. His son, John ``Junior'' Gotti, was jailed for racketeering and gambling in 1999 to end a brief, unsuccessful stretch as boss.

    ``John Gotti did a lot of bad things, but that was the worst -- making his son acting boss, knowing full well he's either going to get killed or go to jail,'' Mouw said.

    Even other mob bosses -- including the reputedly crazy Vincent ``The Chin'' Gigante -- were appalled by Gotti's decision to bring his son into organized crime.

    There was no denying, though, that it was the family business.

    John Gotti's baby brother, Gene, is currently serving a 50-year prison term for heroin trafficking. Two other brothers -- Peter and Richard -- were indicted this month on racketeering charges.

    Richard's namesake son was named in the same racketeering indictment. And John Gotti permitted his son-in-law, Carmine Agnello, to become a made man in 1992 -- a move that turned law enforcement attention on Agnello, authorities said.

    Agnello is now an ex-son-in-law, currently serving his own nine-year jail term for racketeering and tax evasion.

    On Thursday, U.S. Attorney James B. Comey in Manhattan announced charges against eight alleged members of the Gambino family and six others. The charges were related to extortion, stolen property, loan-sharking and a 1988 murder.

    Gotti enjoyed one last blast of the limelight he embraced, with a mob funeral from the pages of Mario Puzo. A line of 75 black limousines drove past his old Queens haunt, the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club, accompanied by 19 trucks loaded with enough flowers for the Rose Parade.

    Even that was more style than substance.

    ``It wasn't a very well-attended mob funeral,'' said Mouw. ``Most of the New York mob families ignored it, and nobody from out of town came in. It was ignored by most everybody but Gotti loyalists.''