By Howard Koplowitz
John Gotti Jr. scored a major victory in the federal racketeering case against him Tuesday when a Florida federal judge agreed to Gotti’s request that the case be tried in Manhattan instead of Tampa.
Gotti, the son of the late Gambino crime family boss John Gotti Sr., was indicted in August by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida on racketeering and conspiracy charges. Junior Gotti, as he is known, inherited the leadership of the Gambinos when his father was imprisoned in 1992.
The younger Gotti, who ran the Gambino family operations when his father was sent to prison in 1992, maintains that he left organized crime years ago. The Gottis are from Howard Beach.
The indictment contends Gotti took part in an illegal drug operation organized by the Gambinos that trafficked five kilograms of cocaine through New York, New Jersey and Florida. He also is facing racketeering conspiracy charges for allegedly conspiring to murder George Grosso and Bruce John Gutterup.
Gutterup was killed Nov. 20, 1991, on the Rockaway boardwalk and Grosso was killed Dec. 20, 1988, in Queens.
Gotti was also charged in connection with the murder of Louis DiBono, who was killed Oct. 4, 1990, in the parking garage of the World Trade Center, according to Florida prosecutors.
He faces life in prison if convicted of the latest charges.
In the ruling issued Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Steven D. Merryday said there was little reason for prosecutors to charge Gotti in Florida, arguing that the feds were “forum shopping” in an attempt to convict Gotti. He has been tried three times in Manhattan, with all three cases ending in mistrials.
Merryday criticized prosecutors for not putting “a single charge indigenous to Florida” in the indictment.
“The Florida crimes, apparently known to and putatively provable by the United States, appear nowhere in the indictment as a charged offense but appear only as allegations in support of the overâˆ’arching RICO conspiracy, a crime charged and tried repeatedly in New York — with results frustrating to the United States,” he said in his ruling.