Book review: "The Gotti Wars", by John Gleeson

Gleeson, a serious young man, was given a chance for redemption in 1992, now as a right-hand man in a Gotti retrial on charges dominated ...


Gleeson, a serious young man, was given a chance for redemption in 1992, now as a right-hand man in a Gotti retrial on charges dominated by murder and racketeering. This time, prosecutors built an airtight dossier, sealed with the help of a Gotti crime family underboss named Salvatore (Sammy the Bull) Gravano. He became what was at the time a rarity comparable to Halley’s Comet: a mob defector. Gravano, a cold-blooded killer who was himself indicted, understood that a conviction was likely and that he had better work with the feds and then be reborn in the witness protection program after a short time. from prison. As a witness, he excelled. Before long, the jury returned a guilty verdict and Gotti went to prison, where he died of throat cancer in 2002 at age 61.

Gleeson, a lawyer in private practice these days, is a capable storyteller, though readers may occasionally find themselves in the dense weeds of who’s who and who did what. This is perhaps hard to avoid, given that the author lists at the outset the vast array of sages, lawyers, investigators and politicians, nearly 200 of them, which will appear in his account. There’s the errant ugh-inducing phrase – using “hail of bullets” can be counted as a primary infraction – and at least one grimace-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, briefly, Harry Truman.

But the imperfections are more than made up for with shrewd insights and neat turns of phrase. “Anyone considering a life in the mob should consider their likely nickname beforehand,” says Gleeson. Sound advice. Of a defense lawyer in trouble, he observes, with some sympathy, that “at worst it could land him in the trunk of a car”. Along the way, he offers a primer on the challenges of bringing career criminals to justice, the inherent risks for “outsourced sages” forced to testify, the pros and cons of wiretapping, dealing with outrages as an unwarranted libel of him and a fellow prosecutor by a thug testifying on Gotti’s behalf.

Gleeson’s distaste for certain colleagues and adversaries is also evident. Territory battles between federal and state prosecutors could drive a teetotaler to drink. Rudolph Giuliani, Manhattan’s chief federal prosecutor in the 1980s, seems self-absorbed. Few people fare worse than a prominent defense attorney, Bruce Cutler, who might want to give this book a pass, portrayed as he is here as a screaming courtroom prompter, and not particularly competent at that.

On occasion, Gleeson does not spare himself. He clumsily handles his first indictment as a prosecutor. He may be vain, admitting to enjoying the attention he receives from his time in thoughtful Gotti fame. More importantly, he admits to not fully appreciating the sheer terror felt by ordinary citizens called upon to sit to judge a man like Gotti, a menacing presence at the defense table. Some would-be jurors were so pissed off that they “even burst into tears the moment they watched it.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Book review: "The Gotti Wars", by John Gleeson
Book review: "The Gotti Wars", by John Gleeson
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