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Gotti lawyers whack away at Alite's testimony

Defense lawyers for John "Junior" Gotti got star government informant John Alite to admit Wednesday that he had beaten "four or five women," including his wife, and opened up a significant discrepancy between the testimony of Alite and another prosecution witness on the details of a 1988 murder.

One day after former Gotti enforcer Alite admitted to the jury in Manhattan federal court that he had cheated on his wife and shortchanged her in their divorce, he also said he had "slapped and punched" nearly a half-dozen women. One was a girlfriend named Donna, in a bar.

"I punched her," a matter-of-fact Alite told defense lawyer Charles Carnesi during cross-examination in Gotti's murder-racketeering trial. "She went down. I knocked her out. . . . The next day she was back with me."

Alite, a former Gotti buddy and crime lieutenant who has said that Gotti ordered him to kill Queens cocaine dealer George Grosso in December 1988, also testified for the first time Wednesday that Gotti personally gave him the gun he used in the hit.

The handgun "came from John Gotti Jr.," Alite, 47, testified in his sixth day on the stand, telling Carnesi that his client "gave it to me prior" to the night of the shooting.

That appeared to contradict Phil Baroni, a former police detective who appeared earlier as a prosecution witness and said he was present in the car where Alite shot Grosso in the head. Baroni, who fell in with Alite's crew after retiring as an NYPD detective in the mid-1980s, testified that he saw another member of Alite's gang, Tommy Crisci, slip Alite the gun in a bar that night.

Gotti, the son of the late Gambino family boss John J. Gotti, is charged with the murder of Grosso largely on the basis of Alite's testimony that Gotti ordered the hit. Defense lawyers contend Alite acted on his own.

The discrepancy on the murder weapon doesn't directly discredit Alite's testimony, but it may hurt his credibility by suggesting to jurors that he is embellishing his testimony to make Gotti look worse. Baroni has not claimed any knowledge of who ordered the hit, and has no obvious motive to make up testimony about the gun.

Gotti, 45, of Oyster Bay, faces a possible life sentence on charges of racketeering and two separate murder counts. He was tried three times for racketeering in 2005 and 2006, and each case ended in a hung jury. Alite did not testify in those trials.

In other developments Wednesday, defense lawyers surprised Alite with a handwritten letter he apparently sent to Gotti in 1994, which appeared to contradict Alite's portrayal of himself as an important mob lieutenant who had made $10 million in the previous decade, but had become disenchanted with Gotti.

The letter was written after internal conflicts had led Gotti to banish Alite from Queens. Alite, sounding like something less than a multimillionaire, said he was doing construction work for a builder in Newark.

"It's not bad for a little extra cash," he said.

He closed the letter sounding desperate to get back in Gotti's good graces: "I miss ya. I'll always keep writing. I hope you at least read these before you throw them out."

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