- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 2, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) | A judge declared a mistrial Tuesday at the racketeering trial of John “Junior” Gotti after a jury failed to reach a verdict against the son of the notorious Gambino crime family mob boss — the case’s fourth hung jury in five years.

The anonymous jurors deliberated 11 days before notifying the judge they were hopelessly deadlocked over racketeering conspiracy and murder charges. Prosecutors accused Mr. Gotti of ordering gangland hits to settle scores and of secretly pocketing drug money despite insisting he’d gone straight.

Shortly after 3 p.m. Tuesday, the jury sent U.S. District Judge Kevin P. Castel a note that read: “Judge Castel, we cannot reach a unanimous decision on any count. We are deadlocked. There is not one member of the jury who believes that we can reach a unanimous verdict on any count.”

Judge Castel notified the jury that he was declaring a mistrial, and applause erupted in the courtroom among Gotti supporters. Once the jury left the courtroom, Mr. Gotti hugged his attorney. Whether he would be granted bail was to be decided at a hearing later.

Victoria Gotti, Mr. Gotti’s sister, tearfully said outside court: “We’re ravaged. We’re beaten down, but we’re not broken.”

Asked about a possibility of another trial, she said: “Just let it go. We’re no organized crime family. We’re a family. That’s all we are.”

Three previous trials in the same Manhattan courthouse — arguing that Mr. Gotti, 45, orchestrated a kidnapping and attempted murder plot against Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa — ended in hung juries in 2005 and 2006.

Prosecutors in the latest case renewed the Sliwa accusation and also raised the stakes by alleging that Mr. Gotti left behind a trail of bodies while following in the footsteps of the late John “Dapper Don” Gotti. Claims by the Don’s eldest son that he quit the Mafia in 1999 were preposterous, they said.

“It makes no sense,” Assistant U.S. Attorney James Trezevant said in closing arguments. “He never, never quit that life.”

In his closing argument, Mr. Gotti’s lawyer recounted how Mr. Gotti, while visiting his imprisoned-for-life father, confided that he didn’t have the stomach for La Cosa Nostra.

“It’s not working for me, and it’s not working for my kids,” attorney Charles Carnesi quoted his client as saying.

Mr. Carnesi also attacked the prosecution’s turncoat witnesses. He argued that they were willing to tell lies about Mr. Gotti to reduce their own prison sentences.

The government’s star witness was John Alite, a Gambino enforcer who testified about the younger Gotti’s rise through the family ranks, and about his violent temper. He said Mr. Gotti once shot a man for mocking the size of his handgun.

“Is this big enough?” Mr. Alite quoted Mr. Gotti as saying as he grabbed a nearby rifle and shot the man in the hip.

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