Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Sammy 'The Bull' Gravano

Gotti's Woes and More Killings

In the wake of DeCiccos murder, Gotti appointed Gravano and Ruggiero, as co-underbosses and Joseph Piney Armone, a consigliere, to run the family. Gotti was in prison at the time, incarcerated after a RICO indictment initiated by Diane Giacalone, an assistant United States attorney from Brooklyn. In May 1986, Gotti was locked up in the Metropolitan Correctional Center with Wilfred Johnson. Against the wishes of the FBI, Giacalone revealed Johnsons status to defense attorneys in the case. These revelations would lead to Johnsons murder in August 1988, which Gravano helped plan.

In June 1986, Ruggiero approached Gravano with orders from Gotti to kill Robert DiBernardo. The reason being that DiB was talking behind the bosss back. DiBernardo, in addition to running a successful pornography operation, was involved in the labor unions as well as other legitimate businesses. Gravano, knowing that DiBernardo did not captain a crew and was not a violent man, wondered how he could pose a threat to Gotti.

When Gravano hesitated on carrying out the hit, Ruggiero came back and claimed Gotti was mad that his orders had not been carried out. Soon afterwards DiBernardo and Gravano had a scheduled meeting to discuss a construction project. At the meeting, one of Gravanos men put two bullets in the back of DiBernardos head. Gravano claims he later found out Ruggiero owed DiBernardo $250,000. Gravano also prospered from DiBernardos death when he took over the familys link to Local 282 of the Teamsters Union. Gravano boasted, I had control of the whole thing.

Gravano says he fell into the role of acting consigliere for the family when Armone came up with a hair brain scheme to take the media attention off Gotti. His plan was to kill Oliver North, the military officer involved in the Iran-Contra affair that was currently occupying the headlines.

Bruce Culter and John Gotti (AP)
Bruce Culter and John Gotti (AP)

When Gotti came to trial on the RICO charges in September 1986, Bruce Cutler represented him. The obnoxious defense attorney strutted around the courtroom like a peacock, later taking credit for the jurys not guilty verdict. In reality, Bosko Radonjich, a leader at that time of the Westies gang in New York City, had approached Gravano with information regarding a jury member, a long time friend of his, who could be bought. George Pape, the juror, was paid $60,000 to make sure that the trial would result in at least a hung jury.

Following the trial another Gravano loyalist, Joseph Paruta, died of lung cancer. Paruta had pulled the trigger for Gravano in the DiBernardo murder. Now, on his deathbed, Gravano received permission to initiate Paruta into the family. Paruta then had a request of Gravano. He wanted Sammy to kill him to spare him a painful and agonizing death from his disease. Gravano made the request through Gottis brother Gene, but Johns answer was no. Gravano decided to take matters into his own hands, but on the day of the planned mercy hit Paruta died.

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