News

Book reveals how Sammy ‘The Bull’ Gravano turned on John Gotti

It was the biggest gamble of John Gleeson’s life.

In 1991, the federal prosecutor, gearing up for his second murder trial of John Gotti in four years, had gotten word that the Gambino crime boss’s underling and co-defendant, Sammy “the Bull” Gravano, wanted to meet — without his lawyer.

The only logical reason was that Gravano was ready to flip and testify against the “Dapper Don.” That, however, would be an epic betrayal of the Mafia’s code of silence and the most devastating blow ever delivered to organized crime, given that no one even close to Gravano’s level of power had ever cut a deal with prosecutors before. 

But deputy US Attorney Gleeson, the top mob buster in Brooklyn, was deeply concerned that if Gotti got wind of a meeting with his hitman underboss, Gravano would be targeted for death.

So the prosecutor arranged a secret pow-wow to see what Gravano had to say. They met privately in a jury room at the federal courthouse in downtown Brooklyn. After shaking hands, Gravano got right to the point:

“I want to jump from our government to your government,” he said

“Why?” Gleeson asked.

“I think if we manage to beat the case, John will try to kill me when we hit the street,” Gravano replied. “So if we do win, I’d have to kill him or be killed by him. If I kill him, I’ll have to kill his brothers Gene and Pete. And his kid, probably some others too.

“It would get complicated.”

Once closely-connected mobsters, Sammy "the Bull" Gravano (left) turned on Gambino crime family chief John Gotti (right) to help prosecutors finally put the organized-crime boss behind bars.
Once closely-connected mobsters, Sammy “the Bull” Gravano (left) turned on Gambino crime family chief John Gotti (right) to help prosecutors finally put the organized-crime boss behind bars.

This is just one of the shocking revelations in Gleeson’s new book, “The Gotti Wars: Taking Down America’s Most Notorious Mobster.” Out Tuesday, it focuses on the five years, from 1987 to 1992, when the prosecutor twice indicted the Gambino boss in a relentless and often frustrating effort to put him behind bars.

He writes how Gravano believed Gotti wanted him dead because of tapes the FBI had recorded of the big boss barking out orders, which had been played for the defendants in pretrial proceedings.

“The parts youse played in court sound like he’s trying to get Frankie [co-defendant Frank Locasio] to go along with whacking me,” Gravano said, according to the book. 

The Bull also made it clear that he felt comfortable dealing with Gleeson, a Bronx native, and two of the G-men in the room, Frank Spiro and Matty Tricorico, trusting them not to “double-bang me.”

Gotti had become known as the "Teflon Don" for skirting conviction so many times.
Gotti had become known as the “Teflon Don” for skirting conviction so many times.
Getty Images

Gleeson agreed he wouldn’t do that — even though he had no idea what Gravano meant by “double-bang.”

Their time that afternoon was limited, as they couldn’t raise suspicions or risk having someone walk in on them. But within an hour or so, the lawmen were agog at the litany of revelations from their new witness.

After quickly copping to half a dozen murders, including helping gunmen rub out longtime Gambino head Paul Castellano and his driver in 1985, Gravano was asked how many people he had killed.

“About eighteen,” he said. “I think it’s eighteen. Could it be one more or one less? Yes. I need to write them down, and you know I can’t do that in the MCC” — Metropolitan Correctional Center, the lower Manhattan lock-up where he was being held.

Gotti had evaded conviction twice before prosecutors sought to try him again in 1987. Their deal with Gravano to turn against his former boss was unprecedented in terms of scope, access and betrayal.
Gotti had evaded conviction twice before prosecutors sought to try him again in 1987. Their deal with Gravano to turn against his former boss was unprecedented in terms of scope, access and betrayal.
Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Writes Gleeson: “We all paused to reflect about the fact that he’d committed so many murders he needed a pencil and paper to do an exact tally.”

“Who else?” the prosecutor wanted to know. “Anyone special on that list? Jimmy Hoffa?”

“Debbie’s brother is on it,” Gravano replied matter-of-factly, referring to his wife’s younger sibling.

This was a shocker to everyone in the room. “We didn’t even know Debbie had a brother, let alone that Gravano had killed him,” Gleeson writes.

“What was his name?”

“Nick Scibetta.”

Did Debbie know he was involved in his death?

Book author — and former federal prosecutor — John Gleeson (left) with Gotti associate Sammy Gravano.
Book author — and former federal prosecutor — John Gleeson (left) with Gotti associate Sammy Gravano.
Courtesy of John Gleeson

“No, and I will never testify about it and it can’t ever come out.”

Scibetta, it seemed, had been a low-level Gambino associate and once insulted the daughter of a family captain before he was whacked in 1978 on the orders of Castellano. Only an arm was ever found.

A few days later, once the deal was signed, agents spirited Gravano out of MCC in the middle of the night and drove him to a motel in Floral Park, NJ — not far from where the New York Jets practice facility is now located, according to the book.

On the drive, Gravano made yet another astonishing admission: He’d “fixed” the murder conspiracy and racketeering trial of Gotti in 1987 by enlisting Gambino associate Bosko Radonjic to bribe one of the jurors, a friend of the Serbian gangster who agreed to take $60,000 to scuttle the case.

FBI Director William Sessions became an unlikely "landlord" of sorts during the process to bring Gotti to justice.
FBI Director William Sessions became an unlikely “landlord” of sorts during the process to bring Gotti to justice.
Universal Images Group via Getty Images

This infuriated Gleeson, who was second chair during that trial, which ended in an across-the-board acquittal for Gotti. The perplexing thumbs-down verdict would be the first of three unsuccessful attempts to put Gotti away, leading to a new nickname for the slippery wiseguy: The Teflon Don.

For the moment, there was nothing Gleeson could do to address what had been a humiliating defeat. Besides, he had an immediate need: to find a safe house to stash Gravano during the three months it would take to prepare him for trial.

Enter FBI director William Sessions, who offered up his own living quarters at the training academy in Quantico, Va..

FBI headquarters at Quantico, Va., where Sessions provided his own accommodations to house Grazano while he awaited trial. Grazano spent weeks working with Sessions to prepare his crucial testimony.
FBI headquarters at Quantico, Va., where Sessions provided his own accommodations to house Grazano while he awaited trial. Grazano spent weeks working with Sessions to prepare his crucial testimony.
AP

“It was government swanky,” Gleeson told The Post of the digs, where he and Gravano would spend weeks going over testimony in comfort.

Turning Gravano was a “seismic” moment in the annals of the American Mafia, Gleeson notes in the book. But to make it happen, he had to put his career in jeopardy.

“I sure near got my butt fired,” Gleeson told The Post.

That was because he’d agreed to see Gravano without the mobster’s lawyer, going against laws and legal ethics for protecting the rights of defendants, and because he didn’t tell his own boss, then-US Attorney Andrew Maloney, what he was up to — including having met with Debbie Gravano to convince her husband to come forward.

In a recorded conversation in the apartment above the Ravenite Social Club on December 12, 1989, Gotti said Gambino soldier Louie DiBono was “gonna die because he refused to come in when I called.
Louis DiBono was shot and killed in 1990, ordered gunned down by Gotti. In a recorded conversation, Gotti said DiBono was “gonna die because he refused to come in when I called.”
Courtesy of the FBI

Debbie turned out to be critical to the case. She negotiated details of her husband’s deal with Gleeson before the two men even met and had to pretend to be shocked and angry that he’d flipped so as to protect her own life, according to the book.

The arrangement was “serious cloak and dagger,” Gleeson told The Post.

He justified cutting out Gravano’s attorney, Ben Brafman, because the Bull didn’t trust Brafman not to rat him out to Gotti. After all, the lawyer repped both mobsters.

A family photo of Gravano with his wife, Debbie, son Gerard and daughter Karen at her first communion party. Gravano, it seems, was not as kind to his entire family and admitted to killing Debbie's brother, Nick Scibetta.
A family photo of Gravano with his wife, Debbie, son Gerard and daughter Karen at her first communion party. Gravano, it seems, was not as kind to his entire family and admitted to killing Debbie’s brother, Nick Scibetta.

“He thought he would be killed if he told his lawyer what he wanted,” writes Gleeson.

Gleeson, meanwhile, was concerned that Maloney, a regular at a university club in Midtown, would blab to his pals about Gravano flipping. So he revealed his plan only to the judge in the case, Leo Glasser, who instructed him to keep the whole thing a secret.

He later came clean with Maloney, who objected mildly but gave his blessing. But Maloney’s deputy, Mary Jo White, was furious.

“I kept this to myself because he sees those guys for drinks almost every night,” he told her, according to the book. “And I figured if I told you, you’d have to tell him.”

“Of course I would have told him!” she snapped.

Author John Gleeson helped lead anti-Mob efforts in Brooklyn during the height of the Gotti years. Gleeson worked with Gravano's wife, Debbie, to secretly structure the deal that helped bring Gotti to justice.
Author John Gleeson helped lead anti-Mob efforts in Brooklyn during the height of the Gotti years. Gleeson worked with Gravano’s wife, Debbie, to secretly structure the deal that helped bring Gotti to justice.
Rick Kopstein

On the eve of the trial, the pressure to finally get a win was huge, Gleeson recalls in the book.

Another acquittal and “I’d be forever known as the guy John Gotti beat twice, the lawyer who on two occasions had failed to prove that the most flamboyant and public mob boss in history had committed even a single crime.”

In the end, it all worked out splendidly for the government.

“Gravano was an almost unimaginably good witness,” Gleeson writes.

“He made no effort to minimize his crimes, and was aided in his attitude by a deep-seated belief that they were all justified by ‘the life.’ Even the murders; ‘they broke our rules,’ he testified of his victims, and by breaking the rules of the life they’d chosen they had it coming.”

The Gravano family in court during Salvatore Gravano's sentencing for drug charges in 1994. Despite helping put 39 mob members behind bars, Gravano was ordered to serve five years behind bars. His victims' families were outraged.
The Gravano family in court during Salvatore Gravano’s sentencing for drug charges in 1994. Despite helping put 39 mob members behind bars, Gravano was ordered to serve five years behind bars. His victims’ families were outraged.
The Republic-USA TODAY NETWORK

After being the key to convicting Gotti and Locasio, Gravano went on to help put away a total of 39 mobsters, including Vincent “the Chin” Gigante, the head of the Genovese family, along with bosses or underbosses of the Colombo, Lucchese and DeCavalcante clans.

Gravano was sentenced to five years in prison in 1994, but by then he had already been in the slammer for four years so he was free by 1995. 

The relative wrist-slap enraged the loved ones of Gravano’s murder victims (in the end, it turned out there were 19 of them). It’s also something that Gleeson still regrets, saying in the book that he too quickly agreed to a 20-year prison cap during that first meeting with him.

Gravano ultimately spent just one year in prison since he'd already served most of that time prior to sentencing. Today, he remains a key part of Mafia cultural lore via his podcast "Our Thing."
Gravano ultimately spent just one year in prison since he’d already served most of that time prior to sentencing. Today, he remains a key part of Mafia cultural lore via his podcast “Our Thing.”
The Republic-USA TODAY NETWORK

“I’d left at least five years on the table,” he writes.

Radonic’s juror pal, Greg Pape, got convicted six months after Gotti went down, and Gleeson became a federal judge before eventually leaving for private practice.

Following his release, Gravano famously bolted witness protection, only to spend 15 years in an Arizona jail for drug dealing. Debbie, who eventually learned the truth of her brother’s death but still stuck by her husband, ultimately split from him in 1996.

The Gotti Wars

A free man for the last five years, Gravano, now 77, continues to make bank from his mob days, doing interviews and telling stories of his Gotti glory days on the “Our Thing” podcast.

But Gleeson’s pride in having turned him, which led to a “tsunami” of fresh betrayals and convictions — a crippling blow to the mob — comes through in the book.

“Captains and made guys lined up to cooperate,” he writes. “My life in crime had paid off.” 

https://nypost.com/2022/04/30/book-reveals-how-sammy-the-bull-gravano-turned-on-john-gotti/ Book reveals how Sammy ‘The Bull’ Gravano turned on John Gotti

JACLYN DIAZ

USTimeToday is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – admin@ustimetoday.com. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Related Articles

Back to top button