Fresh and full of energy, John "Junior" Gotti spent his first free day after his latest mistrial embracing life as a family man: fetching breakfast bagels, lounging around in leisure wear and toy shopping with several of his six children.
Wearing a black track suit and bright white sneakers, Gotti beamed at reporters gathered Wednesday morning outside his Oyster Bay Cove home, where clusters of yellow balloons were tied to the front gate.
"I'm doing very well," he said as he walked the grounds with an enormous German Shepherd mix he introduced as "Maximus, like the gladiator."
Gotti, 45, the son of the late Gambino crime boss John J. Gotti and the onetime Gambino family leader, said he has to be prepared for a potential fifth trial. Federal prosecutors will decide by Jan. 22 whether to retry him on charges of racketeering and the murders of two Queens men, Gotti said.
Wednesday, he didn't dwell on that. The morning after his release on $2-million bond, Gotti drove to Bagel Boss in nearby East Norwich about 9:30 a.m. and picked up a dozen assorted bagels, nine scrambled-egg sandwiches, cartons of juice and several newspapers, owner Ilene Potter said.
Gotti, who often breakfasted there with his children before being jailed 16 months ago awaiting trial, shook hands with workers and was friendly with everyone in the store, including a news cameraman filming in his face, she said.
"He was definitely happy," Potter said, though she noticed that his time behind bars had left him "much thinner." Gotti left a generous tip, though she declined to give the amount.
For Gotti, his wife, Kim, and their six children, he told reporters, "Today's a holiday."
"He is enjoying his family," his wife said. "He is enjoying every minute of it."
After breakfast? "I made a promise to bring them to Toys R Us," he said.
True to his word, he loaded up several of the kids, drove to the store in Carle Place and piled a shopping cart with toys as shoppers gawked. Among the purchases were a stuffed toy fox, an air hockey table and a plastic bowling set.
In a more reflective mood, Gotti talked about his months in jail awaiting his latest trial.
"For 13 of those 16 months, I have been in solitary confinement, and now I am in a house full of children," he said. "It's certainly not a jailhouse."
He said he didn't understand why the government had ordered him held in solitary, but added: "It's in the past. I don't hold any grudges."
Of the continued attempts to convict him, he said: "I think they were doing their job. The bottom line was I took a position back in 1999. As a result of that position, I've made enemies on the street, I've made enemies in the government.
"I'm just a man. I don't want a problem with anybody. I just want to move on, get past all of this. That's all I want."
As for living a life associated with the mob - and then, according to him, leaving that life behind - Gotti said: "I don't know if any of you understand this, but I was raised this way. . . . By the time I was 13, my father had already done nine years in prison. So my siblings and I, throughout our adolescence, our father was in and out of prison.
"So we would know my father, then not know him, and then we would know him again," he said. "It's a terrible way to raise your children. But this is the hand I'm dealt with, and I'm playing it the best I can."
Wednesday night, Gotti planned to dine with his family.
"We are all very happy," his wife said. "How couldn't you be?"
With John Valenti,
Anthony M. DeStefano and Jennifer Sinco Kelleher