The Feds Vs. Gotti (Again)

The federal government apparently has made a decision that it won't be bested by John "Junior" Gotti. Once again, federal prosecutors have stacked up charges against him, charges that don't seem quite so overwhelmingly dispositive. I hold no particular brief for Gotti, though I have, in my brief encounters with him, found him quite interesting and borderline-charming, even. Here's an excerpt from my 1999 New York Times Magazine profile of Junior:

Junior, an ardent collector of Native American memorabilia, told me two weeks ago that he looks to Indian history for strength and for lessons about the abuse of government power.

"If you look at the history of the Indians, you see that they were oppressed by the Government," he told me during a brief conversation in an elevator at the White Plains Federal Courthouse in Westchester County, where he is to stand trial. "It's just the same with Italian-Americans. We're oppressed just like the Indians. It's history repeating itself."

In person, without benefit of tabloid magnification, Junior is a reasonably sized human being. He is not tall at all, and, after adhering religiously to the Atkins Diet--a lot of meat, no pasta--he is merely bulky. He is dressed for court in a black polo shirt buttoned to the collar and a black-and-white checked jacket.

He was especially keen that day to talk about the exploits of Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce Indians, who were the target of a particularly vicious Government campaign overseen by Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman. "Chief Joseph was an extremely dignified, intelligent leader," Junior said. The elevator, which was carrying us to a courtroom where prosecutors would soon ask a judge to revoke his bail, was stuck on the bottom floor, but Junior, lost in his reverie, didn't notice. "Chief Joseph was the main strategist for the Nez Perce," he said, the autodidact in him impossible to suppress. "But his brother was the field general. A lot of people don't know that."

We talked for a moment longer, about a book of Nez Perce history called "I Will Fight No More Forever," and he said, his voice full of enthusiasm, "I'm reading a book about Crazy Horse right now that's really--" Just then the elevator door opened. Standing there were the Ruggiero brothers, Angelo and John, sons of his father's closest mob ally, the late Angelo (Quack-Quack) Ruggiero. The Ruggieros were joined by several other friends, a few of whom, according to the text on their jackets, were affiliated with auto-salvage firms in Queens. As soon as Junior saw them watching us, he turned cold and mumbled, "We'll talk about this later."