Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Gotti trial to move from Tampa to New York

TAMPA — For four months, Tampa had him.

John Gotti Jr., son of Dapper Don, was set to stand trial at the federal courthouse downtown.

Tuesday, it all collapsed. U.S. District Judge Steven D. Merryday kicked a racketeering and murder case against Gotti back to his home turf of New York, where defense attorneys argued he could get a fairer shake.

"Welcome back, Gotti!" the New York Daily News immediately enthused.

The U.S. Attorney's Office indicted Gotti in Tampa after juries deadlocked three times during racketeering trials in Manhattan.

Prosecutors said the Tampa charges stemmed from Gotti's attempt to expand the Gambino crime family's reach into the bay area through a local valet parking business.

But defense attorneys called the latest case a tactical move by prosecutors, accusing them of venue shopping for a more conservative jury pool.

"We're extremely pleased that Judge Merryday has corrected the course of this case so that John can defend himself fully and properly, have access to his lawyers and the evidence that he needs," said Seth Ginsberg, one of Gotti's defense attorneys.

Ginsberg said that Gotti, 44, was "extremely happy" to hear the news. He has been in federal custody since his Aug. 5 arrest at his Oyster Bay, N.Y., home, and has been kept at the Pinellas County Jail since his arraignment Aug. 28.

U.S. Attorney A. Brian Albritton had no comment on whether it would prove harder to convict Gotti in New York. He said he hadn't yet reviewed the judge's ruling. He wouldn't say whether the government plans to appeal.

Thomas Ostrander, a Tampa Bay area lawyer familiar with the charges but not connected to the case, called the judge's ruling "a great victory for the defense."

"His chances on getting an acquittal have just improved 100 percent, because now he's going back to an area where the jurors have been desensitized to these types of cases," Ostrander said.

Charles Carnesi, another Gotti attorney, estimated it would cost at least $200,000 more to defend the case in Tampa. He said most witnesses and evidence in the case were in New York, where the bulk of the crimes charged in the Florida indictment allegedly took place.

It was unclear what effect, if any, Merryday's ruling could have on five other defendants — including James V. "Jimmy" Cadicamo of Tampa — who face similar racketeering charges in a separate local indictment based on the same investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Trezevant fought for Gotti's case to remain here, saying it grew from the work of Clearwater FBI agents. Local authorities were merely going after a New York man who committed crimes in the bay area, Trezevant said.

At a court hearing last month, he said Gotti visited and showed interest in the Tampa area around 1989. Prosecutors intended to call witnesses who had dinner with Gotti at Tampa restaurants, establishing his presence here.

But Merryday said he saw little difference between the New York indictments and the one in Florida. He called them nearly identical.

"The present indictment poses the troubling question whether after three unsuccessful prosecutions in New York on RICO conspiracy … the United States can, so to speak, just pull up by the roots the indictment the United States cultivated for years in New York and summarily repot the whole operation in Florida, hoping for more favorable conditions and a more favorable result and dismissing as inconsequential the resulting expense and dislocation visited upon Gotti," Merryday wrote in a 19-page ruling.

"Of course, the United States in this instance accompanies this repotting by flavoring the allegations with the details of some events in Florida," the judge wrote. "But the RICO conspiracy charged in the Florida indictment is unmistakably the same RICO conspiracy charged in New York, the alleged local incidents notwithstanding."

Albritton said Trezevant will likely travel to New York to prosecute the case.

Michael Seigel, former first assistant U.S. attorney in Tampa and a University of Florida law professor, said Merryday's ruling was "extremely rare," but added that a judge has discretion on issues of venue.

"I'm confident that the prosecutors did not make a mistake in charging this case in the Middle District of Florida," Seigel said. "It's almost unheard of to take a case that is properly venued in one place and just use your discretionary authority and have it moved somewhere else."

Seigel said Merryday traded "some inconvenience for the defendants for tremendous inconvenience for the prosecution."

"It is a disadvantage, obviously, to the prosecution," Seigel said. "Tampa, overall, has more conservative law and order people than perhaps the Southern District of New York. The odds of getting a more favorable jury pool for the prosecution are higher here."

Times staff writer Michael Van Sickler contributed to this report. Kevin Graham can be reached at kgraham@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3433.

Gotti trial to move from Tampa to New York 12/02/08 [Last modified: Monday, December 8, 2008 11:46am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Here kitty, kitty ...

    Blogs

    In a toned down version of the annual rookie dress-up day based on MLB's new anti-hazing policy, Rays rookie players and staff - plus second-year LHP Blake Snell - donned DJ Kitty onesies for the trip to New York.

    Rays rookie players and staff - joined here by Alex Colome - sporting their DJ Kitty onesies before the flight to New York.
  2. Pasco residents affected by Irma invited to town hall meeting

    Local Government

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Representatives from Pasco County Emergency Management and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will play host to a town hall-style meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday in the first-floor boardroom of the West Pasco Government Center, 8731 Citizens Drive, New Port Richey

    Sandra Cunningham assesses the damage a water oak did to her Church Avenue home when it crashed into her bedroom roof during Hurricane Irma.
  3. Lightning's Nikita Kucherov has a lot to say — about moving on to a much better season

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Nikita Kucherov sits back in his stall and smiles.

    Laughs a little, too.

    Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) prepares for a faceoff during the first period of Friday's  (9/22/17) preseason game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Nashville Predators at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  4. Clearwater man shot, seriously injured

    Crime

    CLEARWATER — A shooting Sunday morning in unincorporated Clearwater left one man seriously injured, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

  5. Mother of double amputee Ireland Nugent to lose her own lower right leg

    Human Interest

    Ever since Ireland Nugent lost both her lower legs in a lawn-mowing accident five years ago, the Clearwater girl has inspired her mother, Nicole Del Corpo-Nugent, with the courage she has shown in overcoming the tragedy.

    Nicole Del Corpo-Nugent, left, looked on as her daughter Ireland threw out the first pitch when the Tampa Bay Rays played the Houston Astros at Tropicana Field on June 22, 2014. Jerry Nugent held his daughter for the pitch. Now Nicole Del Corpo-Nugent is facing surgery to amputate her own lower right leg due to a rare infection. WILL VRAGOVIC  |  Times (2014)