By Philip Newman
A renegade former New York City detective testified Tuesday that he was present when a Gambino crime family associate of John Gotti Jr. fatally shot and killed an alleged drug dealer 11 years ago.
Gotti Jr., the 45 year-old son of the late Gambino mob boss John Gotti Sr., is on trial in Manhattan federal court for the fourth time on racketeeringsince 2005.His first three trials ended in hung juries. He also is facing two counts of murder.
Philip Baroni, 57, told the court Tuesday he was with John Alite, a Gambino family member, George Grosso and others in a Queens bar on a December 1988 night a short time before Grosso was killed.
He said he had been previously unaware of any plan to kill Grosso.
Grosso’s death is one of the two murders with which Gotti Jr. is charged.
He said Alite shot Grosso, then cursed and spat on his victim.
Baroni has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to kill Grosso and said he is hoping his cooperation with authorities will result in a reduced sentence. The former detective told the court he met Alite in 1987 and that they conducted illegal gambling operations as well as a burglaries.
Alite was scheduled to be among the principal witnesses for the prosecution at the Gotti trial.
Earlier in the day, a city medical examiner discussed the fatal injuries of two young men, one of whom was stabbed in an Ozone Park bar where some witnesses said Gotti was present.
Dr. James Gill, a city deputy chief medical examiner, said Danny Silva, 24, died of at least four “cut and stab” wounds from an apparent knife attack at the Silver Fox bar in Ozone Park in 1983.
John Seidel, a retired telephone company employee, testified last week that Silva was severely slashed when a fight broke out and that he helped medical emergency personnel tend to the mortally stricken man. Seidel said Gotti left the bar before police or medics arrived, singing out a parody of Porky Pig’s line, “Tha-Tha-That’s all, folks.
Seidel told the juror that he never saw who was involved in the fight.
Gotti is charged with racketeering conspiracy, including drug deals, bribery, extortion and loan sharking from 2003 to 2008as well as two separate murder counts in the deaths of George Grosso and Bruce Gotterup, both alleged drug dealers.
Gill also gave details of an autopsy on the body of John Cennamo, 22, found hanged behind a Laundromat in Queens in 1984. Gill said the death had been ruled a suicide.
The prosecution suggests Cennamo might have been murdered because he said he was a witness to the fatal stabbing of Silva. The autopsy report said he had just broken up with his girlfriend and fired from his job and could have been depressed.
Charles Carnesi, Gotti’s defense counsel, acknowledged his client may have been a mob leader, but maintains Gotti quit the mafia before the period the U.S. government accuses him of being the don of the Gambino crime family.
The defendant’s father, John Gotti Sr., known as the “Teflon Don,” also avoided conviction for years until 1992, when he was found guilty of murder. He died in prison in 2002 while serving a life sentence.
Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at email@example.com or phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 136.