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John Gotti Trial: 1992

Witnesses Weaken Prosecution

The main witness for the prosecution was James McElroy, a former "enforcer" for the Westies, a violent gang based in the Hell's Kitchen section of Manhattan. McElroy claimed that the Westies had done the shooting as a favor to Gotti, who wanted O'Connor "whacked," or killed. Gotti's combative lawyer Bruce Cutler argued that the Westies' leader was an admitted perjurer and murderer, "a lying bum" trying to bargain his way out of a 60-year prison sentence for racketeering.

Secret tapes which purportedly showed Gotti's desire for revenge were imperfect. Cutler admitted that they reflected Gotti's involvement in Gambino family business, but he argued that his client's promise to "bust "m up" referred to reorganizing Gambino "crews" and was not a description of what he wanted done to O'Connor. The issue was further confused when state and federal prosecutors gave jurors differing transcripts of the same secretly taped conversation between two Westies. The star defense witness was the victim himself, John O'Connor, who denied that he could identify his assailants.

Gotti's supporters and neighbors celebrated with a fireworks display at the news of his third acquittal. Media pundits transformed the stylishly dressed "Dapper Don" into "The Teflon Don," a criminal to whom charges would not stick. "He is a murderer, not a folk hero," replied U.S. Attorney Andrew J. Maloney, who handed down the long-awaited new set of RICO charges in December 1990. Gotti and his top associates Frank Locasio and Salvatore Gravano were arrested and held without bail for multiple felonies ranging from murder to tax evasion.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1989 to 1994John Gotti Trial: 1992 - Gotti Eludes Conviction, Witnesses Weaken Prosecution, Tide Changes For Prosecutors, Suggestions For Further Reading