After trials that stretched over five years and four hung juries, federal prosecutors in Manhattan announced Wednesday that they are giving up their effort to convict Gambino family scion John. A. "Junior" Gotti - the son of one of the most notorious mob bosses in New York City history - of continuing involvement in racketeering.
Gotti's lawyer, Charles Carnesi, said his client was "thrilled" and surprised when informed of the government's decision, disclosed in a terse statement issued by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara at 5:30 p.m.
"I always believed this would be the outcome," said Carnesi, who represented Gotti at three of his trials, including a three-month murder and racketeering case that ended with a deadlocked jury last month. "With it being his life that was on the line, John was not as optimistic that this would be the end."
Carnesi said he expected Gotti to finish some renovations of his house in Oyster Bay, and then look for a new life away from the mob and from New York.
"We are very excited," said Gotti's wife, Kim, the mother of his six children, in a telephone interview. "He is a free man, finally. We will probably start looking out for a house somewhere else and celebrate."
Gotti, 45, was tried three times in 2005 and 2006 on racketeering charges, and then again last fall on an overlapping indictment that also included two murder charges and accusations of extensive drug-dealing. The jury in his most recent trial split almost down the middle.
Gotti claimed at trial that he had quit the mob. He and his family charged that he was being persecuted because of his father, the late John J. Gotti.
"There are no winners here, only losers," Victoria Gotti of Old Westbury, one of Gotti's sisters, said Wednesday evening. "We are drained mentally, physically and financially. He should never have been tried in the first place."
The government took more than a month after the end of the last trial to announce its decision - one that forced the FBI to give up after only one effort to convict Gotti of the murders of drug dealer George Grosso and bar bouncer Bruce Gotterup, and left those two murder charges unresolved.
Typically, the government tries serious crimes at least twice before throwing in the towel. But lawyers said that after four trials of Gotti, it had become clear that prosecutors' extensive reliance on informants with violent criminal pasts made it almost impossible to get a unanimous verdict.