An Oceanside man who was a buddy of John A. "Junior" Gotti but turned government witness years later, testifying against the reputed Gambino mob heir, was sentenced Friday to 3 years' probation on his own racketeering conviction.

"I apologize for my actions and thank everyone for their support," Michael Finnerty, 45, said in federal court in Manhattan shortly before U.S. District Judge Denise Cote pronounced sentence. Afterward, he declined to comment.

Finnerty, a former member of Gotti's Howard Beach crew, could have received up to 20 years, or, under federal sentencing guidelines, prison time of 63 to 78 months - 6 1/2 years.

His attorney, Joseph Conway of Mineola, had asked the judge to consider that Finnerty's violent criminal actions occurred in the 1980s. Since then he's mostly been a working man and a family man, his lawyer said, especially since his 1991 marriage. Finnerty has three children, ages 12, 15 and 17.

Finnerty, who was a cooperating witness in the government's futile prosecution of Gotti, "worries about his safety" and has been "punished enough," Conway said.

The judge was persuaded.

"He changed his life," Cote said. "I'm basing the sentence on the life he has lived since then." She also fined him $12,500.

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In court filings, Finnerty admitted he turned to mob friends for help in 2000 when a Gambino family killer tried to extort money from Finnerty's business of building film sets. He began paying "tribute" to Gotti for help, and later supplied money to another former mob acquaintance, John Alite, when Alite was a fugitive in 2004. A sentencing memorandum filed by Finnerty's lawyer last week described the payments as "very bad judgment."

On Dec. 1, Gotti's fourth trial in five years on racketeering charges ended in a mistrial after a federal jury in Manhattan could not reach a verdict. Gotti, 46, of Oyster Bay, who was charged with racketeering and two drug-related murders, claimed he had quit the mob in 1999, before the five-year statute of limitations for racketeering.

Finnerty, after testifying about the $5,000 "tribute" payments, conceded under cross-examination that he gave them to an associate, not directly to Gotti.

After Gotti's mistrial, prosecutors decided not to try him a fifth time.