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Closing arguments begin in Gotti trial

NEW YORK — A federal prosecutor Monday denounced John "Junior" Gotti as a drug kingpin and "violent street thug" who became "street boss" of the Gambino crime family, mocking the claim he quit the mob as closing arguments in Gotti's murder and racketeering trial began.

"He did it for two reasons — personal power and to make money," prosecutor Jay Trezevant told the Manhattan federal jury in a three-hour summation. "This defendant has lived the Mafia life since the early 1980s. He has made millions, and he has never, never quit that life."

Trezevant is an assistant U.S. attorney in the Tampa office, where the case originated, before it was moved to New York City.

Gotti's lawyer cast the prosecution witnesses as liars and criminals — headed by star informant John Alite, the former Gotti pal and lieutenant — who were all seeking leniency by offering to falsely implicate Gotti.

"All he has to do is add the tag line, 'John Gotti told me to,' " said defense lawyer Charles Carnesi. "That's the key. … Those few words wash away a multitude of sins. 'Oh, John told me.' "

Gotti, 45, is the son of the late Gambino family boss John J. Gotti. He was tried three times for racketeering in 2005 and 2006, but each trial ended in a hung jury. He faces life in prison if convicted.

The trial is in its eighth week. Prosecutors chronicled crimes dating back to 1983, when Gotti allegedly killed a man in a fight at a Queens bar. Alite, who was on the stand for seven days, testified Gotti headed up Alite's cocaine ring and tied his ex-boss to two drug-related murders — of George Grosso in 1988 and Bruce Gotterub in 1991.

Trezevant, in a methodical closing, mocked the defense's effort to distance Gotti from drug dealing and related crimes, using pictures of Alite and Gotti socializing and partying together to emphasize the close ties between the two men when they were young.

"You heard from witness after witness that Alite was under this defendant and was this defendant's most trusted crew member," the prosecutor said. "Is it possible that everyone knew John Alite was a big cocaine dealer but this defendant? Was everyone smarter than this defendant? Does that make any sense? Of course it doesn't."

Alite was the government's star witness, the bridge between the New York mob and its attempts to expand into Tampa through bars, clubs and the valet parking business.

Alite figured prominently in the trial of Ronald "Ronnie One Arm" Trucchio and three co-defendants found guilty of conspiracy and racketeering by a federal jury in Tampa in 2006.

Prosecutors said Alite ran illegal businesses, illegal gambling, extortion, drug trafficking, money laundering, kidnapping and murder. And he used Prestige Valet, a Tampa company, to infiltrate the local valet business.

Gotti contends he became disenchanted with gang life when he was imprisoned in 1999, as his father wasted away from cancer, and has not engaged in criminal activity since then. But Trezevant also ridiculed that claim, telling jurors that, among other activities, Gotti had taken in $1.4 million in real estate deals involving mob-funded properties since 1999.

"In the mid 1990s, this defendant suddenly awakened to the shocking realization that the Mafia was comprised of treacherous criminals who would do anything for a buck!" he said. "It just makes no sense. This defendant embraced the treachery and violence of mob life from the very beginning."

Carnesi reminded the jurors of contradictions between government witnesses on the details of Gotti's alleged murders, and hammered on the incentives informants have to lie.

Information from Times files was used in this report.

Closing arguments begin in Gotti trial 11/09/09 [Last modified: Monday, November 9, 2009 11:35pm]
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