Brought Down by Associate 'The Bull'
SPRINGFIELD, Missouri (CNN) -- Convicted mobster John Gotti -- the
brutal but stylishly dressed New York Mafia chief with
hair who reveled in the public spotlight as the
"Dapper Don" -- died of
cancer at a federal prison hospital Monday at
An FBI spokeswoman said the death occurred about 12 p.m. (1 p.m. ET)
had no other details.
Gotti was serving a life sentence after being convicted of murder and
Gotti had been suffering from cancerous legions on his tongue, neck
ears. He had been imprisoned at the U.S. Medical Center for
in Springfield since 2000 when he was transferred
from a maximum security
federal prison in Marion, Illinois.
Gotti was a classic gangster straight out of central casting, with a
appeal that sprouted from a contradictory mix of
violent outbursts and
an uncanny ability to win the admiration of his
Queens neighborhood, where
he was known for organizing picnics and
The New York tabloids nicknamed him "Dapper Don," for his $1,800
suits and the air of importance he exuded as he walked
down 101st Avenue
to the Bergin Hunt and Fish Social Club,
headquarters for the Gambino crime
He also was called the "Teflon Don" because government charges in
trials failed to stick. Indeed, he seemed untouchable with his
dollar illegal operation that thrived on prostitution,
theft and drugs -- until his downfall in the
Climbing Gambino crime family
"John Gotti is a stone-cold killer. He is responsible for the deaths
scores of individuals. He's a very vicious and ruthless boss,"
FBI agent J. Bruce Mouw, who helped convict the
Gotti was born October 27, 1940, in the Bronx, into a large
family. His father was a sanitation worker.
* Profile of the last of the old-time gangsters
* Timeline of Gotti's
* TIME.com: Hitting the Mafia
* CourtTV's A Family Affair
A grade-school dropout, Gotti was arrested five times on various charges.
In 1966, he made the fateful move to Ozone Park in Queens. There, he
up with the powerful Gambino crime family, headed by Mafia
Gambino. Gotti quickly graduated from small-time
heists to big-time felonies.
In 1973, he earned his Mafia bona fides by taking on the assignment
kill James McBratney, a member of an Irish-American gang suspected
and killing Gambino's nephew.
"Carlo Gambino, who was then head of the crime family in the '70s,
him a very smart lawyer, Roy Cohn. And, somehow, he managed to
get a murder
in which there were two eyewitnesses reduced to
said Selwin Raab, a reporter who covered
organized crime for The New York
By the time Gotti finished serving a two-year prison sentence for the
slaying, Carlo Gambino had died. Paul Castellano, Gambino's
anointed head of the family.
At the time, Gotti was a rising star within the family, and
to Castellano, he was also a potentially deadly rival.
Mouw, the retired FBI agent, said the tension between the two groups
the family in the 1985 was a dispute over Gotti's alleged
Castellano didn't want to be involved in drug trade for fear there
be too much federal heat against the family, which was making
enough money controlling discreet businesses such as
construction and private
Brought down by the Bull
It was time for Gotti to make a move. He decided to kill Castellano
assume leadership of the Gambino family, authorities said.
On December 16, 1985, Gotti and a small band of Gambino family
waited for Castellano outside the Sparks Steak House
in Manhattan. Castellano
never made it out of his car before he was
pumped with bullets.
Within weeks, Gotti, with the consent of the various crew captains,
capos, of the Gambino family, was selected the new godfather.
Operating out of the Ravenite Social Club in Manhattan and the Bergen
in Queens, Gotti quickly consolidated his power.
He emerged unscathed from three criminal cases brought against him
in 1986. The charges ranged from assault to racketeering. In
the end, it
was Gotti's propensity for the limelight and public
exposure that would
bring about his downfall.
Before long, prosecutors were ready to file a new racketeering indictment.
Although Gotti had proved untouchable in past attempts to convict
this time the government had a secret weapon -- the testimony of
"the Bull" Gravano, second in command in the Gambino family.
Gravano, a suspected killer, cut a deal with the government, trading
testimony, which would clearly define the Gambino family crime
for a lighter sentence. The government also had tapes
proving Gotti could
be heard ordering mob hits, prosecutors told
On April 2, 1992, Gotti was convicted on charges that included five
He was sentenced to life without parole. The Gambino family
to be without a leader. In the Mafia, a boss either has to
resign or be
killed. Despite his prison sentence, Gotti was not about
From jail, Gotti appointed a committee that included his son, John
then 28, to run the Gambino family. Eventually, he named his son
boss of the family. And in time, older, more experienced
began to resent the younger Gotti.
On December 3, 1999, John Gotti Jr. copped a plea to federal
charges, leaving the Gambino family in the care of the
senior Gotti's brother,