April 20, 2017
This Week in Gang Land
This week, veteran news reporter and author Gene Mustain looks back 25 years and recalls the racketeering/murder trial of John Gotti. For two months, Mustain squeezed into Brooklyn Federal Judge I. Leo Glasser's crowded courtroom with dozens of newsmen and women from around the globe and covered the trial, and the goings-on in the hallways and outside the court house from gavel to gavel for the New York Daily News. These days, as president of Gene Mustain Editorial Consulting (firstname.lastname@example.org), Mustain provides writing and editorial services for US and international clients. Back on February 3, 1992, he became, and still is, the only news reporter to interview the late Mafia boss, even though Mustain modestly called it an "extended journalistic discussion" in the Daily News story he wrote about it. That account is reprinted as the third item in this special report by Mustain about the most spectacular Mafia trial of Gang Land's generation, and maybe one or two more, a trial that turned out to be the end of the game for the swashbuckling Dapper Don.
John Gotti: Rise And Fall
It may have been the most dramatic pregnant pause in Brooklyn Federal Court history. "The government calls Salvatore Gravano," a prosecutor had just said, trying hard to sound matter of fact. A heavy blanket of silence then fell across a filled courtroom. One long minute slid by. Many eyes focused on a closed door next to the jury box, through which witnesses in custody entered to take the stand. Two minutes.
This was a quarter of a century ago. John Gotti, a Mafia legend of that time and in his mind, sat at the defense table, staring at the door, a smirk on his face, a serpent tattoo on a shoulder beneath his stony grey double-breasted suit. If convicted, his short noisy reign ends ignominiously; he goes to prison for life. The courtroom stayed pin-drop silent. Three minutes.
Beyond the door, in a room next to the judge's chambers, Gravano took his time, fighting jitters, preparing to take an alien oath to tell the truth. He was about to become the first Mafia underboss to testify against a boss and destroy an aura of Gotti invincibility fed by prior courtroom wins and circulation-and-ratings-minded coverage vulnerable to his manipulation. Four minutes.
The fourth John Gotti trial in six years exceeded expectation. It was a legal drama and carnival sideshow; part Broadway, part Hollywood. The judge presided while under a death threat. Bomb-sniffing dogs prowled hallways ringing with false fire alarms. It ended in a riot.
Having also just heard the judge liken me to a safecracker, I felt as much bond with John Gotti as I am ever likely to when I walked into a conference room yesterday and overhead Gotti discussing the First Amendment.
Unless you get really lucky, and find a copy squirreled away in the wrong section of your local bookstore, you won't be able to get a first printing of Mob Boss: The Life Of Little Al D'Arco, The Man Who Brought Down The Mafia. But there are still some second print versions of the hardcover available as gifts or for your own reading pleasure.
Because of the heavy demand, Thomas Dunne Books went to the well again for a second printing of Mob Boss, the book that The New York Times called a "gripping, novelistic biography – a bulls-eye."
The mass market, paperback version was published in 2015, however, and it is available online and at your favorite bookstores for about eight bucks. You still should be able to pick up a copy of the hard cover at your favorite bookstore, or, as Claude Raines might say to Humphrey Bogart, from any number of the usual online suspects: Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and BooksAMillion, as well as an independent book seller near you.
See why Mob Boss has been praised by Pete Hamill, Jimmy Breslin, Nicholas Pileggi, Mister District Attorney Robert Morgenthau – as well as readers everywhere.
Mob Boss is also available in a special BIG PRINT edition. And for those who would rather hear every word of the 406 page book read to them, Mob Boss is also available on an MP3 CD from Tantor Audio.