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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 667

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This is the grave of John Gotti.

Born in 1940 in The Bronx to immigrants from the Naples area of Italy, Gotti and his brothers were scumbags from the time they were young. In fact, 4 of his brothers were also made men in the Gambino crime family. They did grow up pretty poor, mostly in Brooklyn. His father was just a day laborer and by most accounts an honest man. This disgusted his sons, especially John. Gotti was a terrible student and also a known bully of other students before dropping out of school at 16. By this time, he was already in the mob, having started hanging out with these people in about 1952. After his marriage, he briefly did try to live without crime, working for a bit in the 60s in a coat factory and as a truck driver. But he kept getting arrested because he was a terrible human being.

Let’s be a bit more specific. In his teens, Gotti, his brother, and another guy were engaging in truck hijackings for the mob at JFK Airport. He was arrested in 1968 after signing for stolen merchandise. United Airline employees recognized him after the crime. He was out on bail when he was arrested for hijacking a truckload of cigarettes on the New Jersey Turnpike. He ended up getting a three year sentence for all of this. When he was paroled in 1972, he was right back at it, involved in gambling and as a mob enforcer. When he was involved in a killing in 1974, his good buddy Roy Cohn got him off with a light 4 year sentence and he was released in 1977 after only 2 years.

You can see that Gotti’s son died in 1980 and he is also buried here. The poor kid was run over by accident on a minibike. Gotti had the guy murdered three months later.

Gotti took over the Gambino crime family in 1985 when he issued the first unordered hit on a mob boss since 1957, killing Paul Castellano. This made Gotti the nation’s most famous mobster. Of course he used all the power he could to keep himself just clean enough that he wouldn’t be busted, all while pulling in 8 figures a year through his various operations. Gotti routinely intimidated those who might testify against him, leading to over the top ridiculous moments where someone would testify and just say that they couldn’t recall anything. This made Gotti known as “The Teflon Don” in the media that romanticized this scumbag way too much. He got off multiple times during the late 80s. Some of this was also around corrupt unions, in particular a corrupt Carpenters local whose idiot head had actually ordered an attack on Gotti’s crew. Gotti had him beaten severely. He got off then too.

In late 1990, Gotti was arrested again on a variety of charges, including racketeering and murder. Openly bragging to the cops on the way to the station that he would beat this too, this time he went too far. For the first time, he faced a fully sequestered jury that would not allow him to bribe or intimidate them. He was found guilty in April 1992 and sentenced to life without parole.

He was still a huge scumbag in prison. Mostly he was in solitary, but he was beaten in 1994 by a Black prisoner after calling him a racial slur. Gotti then tried to have Aryan Brotherhood members in the prison kill the guy. He was diagnosed with cancer in 1998 and died of it in 2002. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

Any connections made between the Trump and Gambino crime families are fully appropriate.

It’s interesting–as much as I love mob television and film, it sure is hard to reconcile any of it to the people who are actually involved in it. Of course this is true of the entire world of crime entertainment. OK, maybe this isn’t that interesting. But still.

John Gotti is buried in St. John Cemetery, Queens, New York.

If you would like this series to visit other mobsters who we can all agree we are glad are dead, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Al Capone is in Chicago and Bugsy Siegel is in Los Angeles. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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