August 28, 2008 / 8:21 PM / 11 years ago

Gotti Jr. pleads not guilty of U.S. murder charges

John Gotti Jr. arrives at the Federal Court in New York for jury selection in the retrial for racketeering charges, in New York February 13, 2006. Accused Mafia boss John Gotti Jr. pleaded not guilty on Thursday to federal murder and racketeering charges in Florida, and his sister predicted he would beat the charges for the fourth time. REUTERS/Chip East

TAMPA, Florida (Reuters) - Accused Mafia boss John Gotti Jr. pleaded not guilty on Thursday to federal murder and racketeering charges in Florida, and his sister predicted he would beat the charges for the fourth time.

Gotti, 44, was arrested on August 5 in New York after he and five other men were indicted by a federal grand jury in Tampa. Federal prosecutors said they were members of New York’s Gambino crime family who were trying to expand to Tampa.

Gotti did not speak during the five-minute court hearing. His attorney, Charles Carnesi, entered the plea for him.

The trial is scheduled to take place in Tampa but no date has been set. Gotti remains in federal custody and could get life in prison if he is convicted.

The indictment says he conspired to traffic cocaine and murder three men between 1988 and 1991, killings it says were aimed at creating and maintaining “fear and dread.”

Gotti’s sister, Victoria, who attended the hearing with her brother, Peter, told reporters afterward that she and her family were angry at the government for prosecuting her brother again after three previous efforts ended in mistrials.

“The whole case is ridiculous,” Victoria Gotti said. “He’s definitely not a mobster. He’s changed his life. He tries to live like the average Joe.

“I still have faith in the jury. He can win this case and I’m confident he will,” she added.

Gotti’s arraignment came one day after his 96-year-old grandmother, Philomena Gotti, died in New York. She was the mother of Gotti’s father, John Gotti Sr., the “Teflon Don” who also escaped conviction several times. The elder Gotti was eventually convicted of racketeering charges and died in prison in 2002.

Editing by Jane Sutton and Xavier Briand

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