- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 28, 2006

NEW YORK (AP) — A judge declared a mistrial yesterday in the racketeering trial of former mob boss John A. “Junior” Gotti, the third time in 12 months a jury had been unable to reach a verdict in the case.

The jury sent out a note yesterday indicating it could not reach a unanimous verdict.

“Your honor, unfortunately we are deadlocked,” said the note, prompting U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin to declare the mistrial shortly after noon. A day earlier, the jury had sent a similar note to the judge.

It was the jury’s seventh day of deliberations. Two previous juries in the past year wound up deadlocked, with resulting mistrials.

A relieved Mr. Gotti hugged his brother Peter and other supporters, then wiped his eyes while sitting at the defense table.

“It was a tough one,” Mr. Gotti said. “This one drained the life from me.”

Mr. Gotti’s lawyers argued the second-generation Mafiosi had years ago severed his ties to organized crime. If convicted, the 42-year-old Mr. Gotti had faced up to 30 years in prison. He is free on $7 million bail, and there was no immediate word on whether the government would mount a fourth prosecution.

From the start, the key issue in the case has been whether Mr. Gotti quit the Gambino crime family, as he claims, before July 1999. If so, a five-year statute of limitations would have expired before prosecutors brought new racketeering charges in 2004.

Prosecutors say the jury should conclude Mr. Gotti continued to receive mob money after 1999, thus was part of a racketeering conspiracy.

His defense lawyers say Mr. Gotti paid a large fine when he pleaded guilty to a racketeering charge in another case in 1999 and was permitted to keep the property and businesses which remained, regardless of where the money originated.

Mr. Gotti was also accused of ordering two 1992 attacks on talk-radio host Curtis Sliwa, including one in which he was shot twice before escaping out the window of a taxi rigged to keep him trapped inside.

Prosecutors have said Mr. Gotti was retaliating for on-air attacks against his father, John Gotti, who was sentenced in 1992 to life in prison without parole. He died in prison in 2002.

Mr. Gotti’s defense team acknowledged his life in organized crime, but insisted their client had retired from the Mafia and had no role in the Sliwa attack. Mr. Gotti was indicted on these charges in July 2004, just two months before he was expected to be out of prison on a prior conviction.

Last September, a jury deadlocked 11-1 in favor of conviction. At his second trial, the majority of the second jury favored acquitting Mr. Gotti in March after his lawyers successfully argued their contention that he had quit the mob.

The trials were meant to resolve the 14-year-old question of whether Mr. Gotti ordered two assaults on Mr. Sliwa.

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