- Politics and Social Issues
Don't Blame Sammy "the Bull" Gravano for John Gotti's Conviction
As any mafia/organized crime buff knows, in 1992 mob boss John Gotti was convicted of racketeering and murder and sentenced to multiple life terms in prison.
The Teflon Don, as Gotti was nicknamed, was convicted and carted off to jail, thanks in part to the damning testimony of his right-hand-man and Gambino underboss Sammy "the Bull" Gravano.
Sammy "the Bull" Gravano, a short, stocky gangster was one of Gotti's most trusted and loyal henchman. His flipping and ratting out of John Gotti sent shockwaves through the underworld and elated federal prosecutors.
Gravano, in a move unprecedented at the time in the annals of organized crime, agreed to tell all on his boss and testify in exchange for a reduced sentence.
Over the course of nine days on the witness stand, Sammy bared his criminal soul: he described his own life of crime, the many murders he was involved in or committed (totaling 19 - yes, 19!), and the role of John Gotti as head of the Gambino family.
He described in vivid detail the murders that Gotti ordered, both to silence potential rats or informants within the family and to punish mafia members for various mob-related indiscretions.
As Gravano famously said at trial, "John was the boss, and I was the underboss. John barked, and I bit."
Most sensational of all the murders Gravano described was the 1985 slaying of former Gambino godfather Paul Castellano, who was shot to death along with his driver/bodyguard Tommy Billotti on a midtown Manhattan street directly in front of Spark's Steakhouse.
The murder, testified Sammy, was orchestrated by John Gotti himself and cleared the way for Gotti's coronation as Gambino boss!
Sammy's testimony was historic and damaging, and after the prosecution rested it's case, the jury took less than a day to return a guilty verdict that would doom John Gotti to prison for life.
But what gets lost by mafia revisionists and Gotti groupies is this: John Gotti incriminated himself on numerous FBI tapes.
In mine (and many people's view), John Gotti would have been convicted on the strength of the tapes alone.
Gotti admitted to some very bad things on those tapes, including multiple murders. The governments whole case against Gotti and Co. hinged on the contents of those tapes.
However, Sammy Gravano often gets unfairly blamed for bringing about the downfall of John Gotti. Many people act like if it weren't for Gravano's testimony, John Gotti would be walking the streets today (if he had lived).
But that's absurd.
Sure, Gravano turned "rat" and spilled the beans on his boss, and you can hate Gravano all you want for that.
But it was Gotti's big mouth, and not Gravano's testimony, that doomed the Dapper Don.
Those "Gotti tapes" were the basis of the governments case against John Gotti and Co. And it was because of those tapes that Sammy Gravano and Frankie LoCascio (Gotti's consigliere) were arrested and charged in the indictment.
So, logically, if a finger is to be pointed at anyone, it should be pointed at John Gotti. His were the loose lips that sank the Gambino ship!
Granted, Sammy Gravano did "flip" and decide to cut his losses and rat out his boss in a plea deal. But it was only after stewing in the Manhattan Correctional Center for over a year that Gravano decided to flip.
And during that time, the government played excerpts of some of their tapes that showed John Gotti criticizing Gravano for being too greedy, too vengeful, and too deceitful.
Of course, Gotti never broached his concerns with Gravano on the outside; it was only through government tapes that Gravano learned of Gotti's true feelings towards him.
So, in the end, Gravano decided to help himself by testifying against the very boss who was responsible for his own incarceration and likely life sentence.
And Gravano's testimony, while damaging, was not the sole basis for John Gotti's conviction. It was John Gotti's own words!