Book Review: ‘The Gotti Wars,’ by John Gleeson

Gleeson, a serious young man who got his chance at redemption in 1992, is now head of the prosecution in a new Gotti trial on charges of murder and fraud. This time, prosecutors built a closed, sealed case with help from a Gotti crime family named Salvatore (Sammy the Bull) Gravano. He became what back then was a rarity on par with Halley’s Comet: a crowd-turning jacket. Gravano, a cold-blooded killer who has been prosecuted by himself, understands that there is a possibility of a conviction and that he is better off working with the federales and then being reincarnated in the witness protection program. after a short time in prison. As a witness, he excelled. In brief order, the jury returned a guilty verdict, and Gotti went to jail, dying of throat cancer in 2002 at the age of 61.

Gleeson, a lawyer in private practice today, is a capable storyteller, though readers may find themselves wriggling in the thick weeds of who is who and who did what. Perhaps this is unavoidable, for the writer lists at the beginning of his activity a wide range of wise men, lawyers, investigators and politicians, almost 200 among them, who will appear in his story. There’s a stray ugh-inducing phrase – use “hail” could qualify as a predicate violation – and at least a wince-inducing error. Henry Morgenthau Jr., the father of longtime prosecutor Robert Morgenthau, was not John F. Kennedy’s Secretary of the Treasury, as Gleeson writes. He served Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman for short.

But imperfections are more than offset by insights and neat phrases. “Anyone thinking about living in a crowd has to consider their nicknames first,” says Gleeson. Sound advisor. To a defense attorney in a bind, he remarked, with some sympathy, that “the worst could get him in the trunk of a car.” Along the way, he offers a prologue about the challenges of bringing occupational criminals to justice, about the risks inherent to “relocating wise men” forced to testify. , about the pros and cons of wiretapping, about treating the insult as a gratuitous smear against him and a fellow prosecutor of a low life testifying on behalf of Gotti.

Gleeson’s distaste for some of his colleagues and opponents is also evident. Field battles between federal and state prosecutors can get a drunkard to drink. Rudolph Giuliani, Manhattan’s chief federal prosecutor in the 1980s, was very cocky. Less than a famous defense attorney, Bruce Cutler, who might want to give this book a pass, is portrayed as he is here as a courtroom lunatic, and not a notable authority on that.

Sometimes, Gleeson isn’t free. He handled his first job as a prosecutor clumsily. It may be in vain for him to admit to having enjoyed the attention he’s had since his time on Gotti’s reflected celebrity list. More importantly, he admits he hasn’t fully appreciated the sheer horror of ordinary citizens summoned to judge a man like Gotti, a menacing presence at the table. cure. Some potential jurors were so disgruntled that they “even burst into tears when they looked at him”.

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