After accusing John "Junior" Gotti of dozens of crimes in testimony for the prosecution that stretched over five days, John Alite faced defense questions about discrepancies in his estimates of how many people he shot as cross-examination of the mob turncoat began Tuesday in Gotti's murder and racketeering trial.
Gotti's lawyer Charles Carnesi, suggesting that Alite is imprecise under oath, started the cross out slowly by pointing out that when Alite first testified early this year at the trial of Gambino family hit man Charles Carnesi, Alite said he had shot 30 people in his criminal career. By the time of the Gotti trial, the number had risen to 45.
"I've committed crimes every day of my life for the last 20 years," responded Alite, 47, a former pal and top lieutenant to Gotti who began his testimony last week in the trial in federal court in Manhattan. "I'm not sure. I didn't keep a scorecard."
Gotti, 45, of Oyster Bay, was tried on racketeering charges three times in 2005 and 2006. Each case ended with a hung jury, but Alite did not testify at previous trials.
Alite is awaiting sentencing on a racketeering conviction that could land him in prison for life, and he is hoping for leniency. Cross-examination is expected to focus in part on defense claims that Alite is lying about Gotti to win points with the government.
Completing his direct examination Tuesday morning, Alite admitted that he wrote letters to some of the people he has accused of wrongdoing, asking them for money while he was in a Brazilian prison awaiting extradition from 2004 to 2006 and trying to raise funds to bribe his way out.
Prosecutors, outside the presence of the jury, also told U.S. District Court Judge Kevin Castel that in jailhouse notes to a lawyer, Alite indicated that prosecutors had been encouraging him to lie. The prosecutors asked the judge to restrict cross-examination on that issue.
At the close of Alite's direct examination, he said, without getting specific, that he had made up a lot of things in the notes, trying to get the lawyer who was representing him in his fight against extradition to the United States to explore how different scenarios might play out.
"It was different angles, lies, that I was trying to fight that . . . maybe they can twist or turn to fight extradition," Alite testified.
Cross-examination is continuing Tuesday afternoon.