JOHN GOTTI JR. TALKS ABOUT GROWING UP THE SON OF A FAMOUS MOB BOSS, SAYING HIS PROUDEST MOMENT WAS INITIATION INTO CRIME AS "A STREET GUY" "60 MINUTES"
In His First Extended Television Interview, Gotti Tells Steve Kroft That He Eventually Gave Up a Life That Included a Daily Fear of Getting Whacked
The proudest moment in the life of John Gotti Jr. was when he was "made," or formally inducted into the life of crime, an event he says must have made his father, convicted mafia boss John Gotti, feel like his son was named to the all-America team. Gotti talks to Steve Kroft in his first extended television interview about growing up with the infamous father whom he strove to please by living a life of crime but whom he eventually betrayed by leaving that life. The interview will be broadcast on 60 MINUTES Sunday, April 11 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET.PT) on the CBS Television Network.
Gotti didn't use words like Mafia or mob when discussing his role in the Gambino Crime Family for legal reasons during his three-hour interview with Kroft at his Oyster Bay, N.Y., home. Instead, "I was a street guy. I was in the streets," he tells Kroft, his lawyer, Charles Carnesi, beside him. Kroft asked him questions about his life in and outside of crime, including whether he committed murder and what it was like to be "made." He says his father embraced him after his induction. "And [he] looked at me as a street guy, as a knock-around guy, a bounce-around guy like himself. [It was] the proudest moment of my life...because I was slowly becoming like him," says Gotti. His father felt the same, he says. "I think he was very happy. I think he was as proud as a father would be if his son just made all-American."
The induction, while still in his mid 20s, was a dream-come-true for a kid who used to hang around his father's headquarters. "I'd go to the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club all the time and I would just watch...they'd be playing cards...hanging out...breaking balls...and laughing and commiserating," he recalls, "And you're right there and you're saying �this is where I belong.'"
Once he was in this "street" life, he engaged in gambling, loan sharking, extortion and tax evasion, he tells Kroft. As a "street guy," did he worry about being "whacked?" "Every day... there's a possibility that something could happen to you every day of your life...When you hang out in the streets, you're hanging with a different type of a person...you don't know what's going to happen," he says. "Tony's here today, then Tony's doing 10 years tomorrow. Billy's here today and then you never see him again...it's a volatile existence."
The volatility of the life caught up to his father, who was convicted of murder. Gotti says he doesn't think you can ever justify murder, but he explains to Kroft why he thinks his father was involved in it. "[My father] swore �I'm going to live and die by the rules of the street, the code of the streets' and everybody that John is accused of killing or may have killed or wanted to kill or tried to kill was a part of that same street," he says. "And my father ...always said in his mind, �You break the rules, you end up in a dumpster.'" Watch an excerpt.
The tabloids mocked him after he allegedly took over the Gambino Crime Family when his father went to prison in 1992. He doesn't accept the term "head" of the family; "a loyal son, that's my title," he tells Kroft. As for the barbed headlines, it was just business for the newspapers. "Every time the Gottis were in the tabloids on the first page, the sales would go up about eight percent...Who cares? I don't really care. �Dopey don,' who cares. Have fun with it."
In 1999, under indictment, Gotti was given permission to visit his dying father in prison to ask for his blessing on leaving the family business. He wanted to plea bargain. Gotti senior talked him out of it, but it didn't stick. When the trial process began, Gotti Jr. changed his mind. "I left the house that morning...and I saw my wife and I saw my kids...and I says �I got to try to end this.'"