There’s an overabundance of text written about John Gotti, which is kind of wild when one considers he reigned as the head of the Gambino Crime Family for barely five years. Hell, the man was even one of the last subjects of Andy Warhol’s legendary career. His bombastic, publicity-hunting personality made him the most compelling mobster in the public eye since Al Capone but if you subtract that context, he was an uninspiring thug in a bureaucrat’s job (albeit the bureaucracy of a criminal syndicate) who was basically begging to get caught.
One angle that hadn’t yet been captured in books is the legal quest to put Gotti behind bars. John Gleeson prosecuted Gotti at the beginning of his reign and led the final prosecution that brought him down. Gleeson takes the reader through the nuances of building each case, the challenges that came with prosecuting Gotti, and the mob by extension. Parts of it read like a compelling legal thriller; even when I knew what was going to happen, I was still gripping the page. Parts of it read like a law professor who’s not quite equipped to disseminate complex legal terms to layfolk such as I.
About 10-15% of it is griping either about the tactics of the defense teams or the constraints of the justice system. And it’s here, as in Boss of Bosses, that I have to call bullshirt. When the federal government decides they want to “fight crime,” they look at the biggest targets available, be they drug lords or mafia chiefs or torrent kings. It’s questionable whether or not this strategy works to actually mitigate crime. Certainly, the mafia is less profitable in the States than it used to be but it ain’t as if the same crimes they were doing haven’t been gobbled up by other gangsters, save maybe gambling.
And that leads to a bigger problem, kind of with this book but really with the System in general: I’ve downed a lot of mafia stuff lately. That’s on top of the stuff I’ve already read. And it’s really tough not to discern a WASP-driven bias against a group of people that are first/second/third generation immigrants. Of course, Italian-Americans, Greek-Americans and Jews were part of the Gotti prosecution and yeah, Gotti and his mob cohorts did a lot of objectively evil stuff. But the tenor with which they need to “get these guys”…I dunno. It just feels like a lot of public villainization as if this group of Italian-Americans are the source of most or all crime in America. And this book, while enlightening, still carries a whiff of that.
At any rate, it’s an interesting read and folks curious about the mob and/or criminal justice should check it out.