U.S. News

John Gotti Jr. indicted on murder, cocaine charges

NEW YORK (Reuters) - John “Junior” Gotti, the accused Mafia boss who beat federal charges three times by having cases end in mistrials, was indicted again on Tuesday on conspiracy charges including murder and cocaine trafficking.

Accused mob boss John "Junior" Gotti speaks to the media outside U.S. Federal Court in New York, September 27, 2006. REUTERS/Mike Segar

A magistrate-judge denied Gotti bail after federal authorities arrested him at his Long Island home on suspicion of conspiracy to traffic cocaine and murder three men between 1988 and 1991. The indictment was unsealed in Tampa, Florida, on Tuesday, and Gotti could be moved there to face trial.

A defense lawyer denied the allegations and accused federal prosecutors of seeking revenge against Gotti for successfully fighting past charges.

Five other suspects were also indicted by a Tampa grand jury as a result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and local police in New York and Tampa, the Justice Department said in a statement.

Gotti, 44, three times escaped conviction on racketeering charges linked to his late father’s crime organization, the latest coming in 2006 when a judge declared a mistrial because jurors were deadlocked. Two previous trials also were voided when juries failed to reach a verdict.

In all three trials, Gotti said he had quit the Gambino crime family after taking control from his father. A defense lawyer reiterated that assertion on Tuesday and said Gotti has been law-abiding for years.

“At this point it seems to be more personal than professional,” defense lawyer Charles Carnesi told reporters of the prosecutors’ quest to convict his client.

“This is a case based on drug dealers who want to avoid going to jail,” Carnesi later told a magistrate-judge, referring to prosecution witnesses who have been convicted.

But federal prosecutors allege Gotti and the Gambinos, largely based in New York, have been involved in murder, kidnapping, bribery, extortion, gambling, jury tampering and other crimes nonstop from 1983 to the present.

“You have the Gambino crime family reaching out to Tampa, Florida,” U.S. Attorney Robert O’Neill told a news conference in Tampa, saying the indictments were the result of a nearly 10-year investigation.

The new charges allege Gotti has held several roles in the family including de facto boss.

“They’re old crimes but the defense he used the last time -- that he resigned from the mob -- doesn’t work in this case. There’s no statute of limitations on murder,” said Randy Mastro, a former federal prosecutor who is now a crisis management consultant.

His father, John J. Gotti, was known as the “Teflon Don” for escaping conviction three times. The elder Gotti was eventually convicted of racketeering charges and died in prison in 2002.

The latest indictment alleges the family publicly shot, stabbed, beat and murdered people in order to “create and maintain fear and dread in others.”

The other five defendants are a Tampa resident, a New York state prison inmate and three New York state residents who are suspected of cocaine trafficking, murder and other charges.

Additional reporting by Robert Green in Tampa and Edith Honan in New York; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by David Wiessler