‘Get Gotti’ Explained: How Did John Gotti Die?


Get Gotti, the 3-part Netflix documentary, is the story of one of the last bosses of the Gambino mafia family who had achieved celebrity status in American society. The Justice Department, the FBI, and the OCTF (Organized Crime Task Force) were competing against each other, trying to find incriminating evidence against the mafia boss so that they could attain glory and prove their competency. This competition helped the mafia families, as they took advantage of the fact that the agencies wouldn’t ever act in unison. So, let’s find out how the FBI caught hold of John Gotti and whether they ever called it a truce with the OCTF.

What Happened During The Department Of Justice Hearing?

The FBI and the OCTF were trying to gather evidence on the infamous mobster John Gotti after they got to know that he was involved in the murder of the crime boss Paul Castellano. Both the agencies had started putting in efforts to find out some potential leads when they came to know that, out of nowhere, Diane Giacalone, assistant US attorney, had decided to initiate a federal case against Gotti. The FBI and the OCTF officials at that point in time felt betrayed, as the Department of Justice had kept them out of the loop even when they had been investigating the godfather for such a long time. Giacalone had decided to build a case against John Gotti under the RICO Act, and for that, she was heavily relying on the testimonies of the people who had committed crimes on the orders of the mafia family.

Giacalone had to prove that these crimes, for which many gang members had already been convicted, were not independent in nature. That was the best thing about the RICO Act—that the prosecutors would make use of earlier convictions to build their case and corroborate the primary evidence presented through it. But for lack of a better word, we can say that Diane Giacalone was delusional, as she was relying on the testimonies of people who were scared of the mafia boss, and she had clearly underestimated the kind of power that man had. He was the first mafia boss to be on the cover of Time magazine, and it was no small thing. The media had already made him a celebrity, and there was a reason behind that. John Gotti did have that kind of hold over the system that no other mafia boss probably had before him. Gotti’s lawyer, Bruce Cutler, proved in court that the testimonies of the gangsters were not reliable, and a case couldn’t be built on them. Diane came to know later that even one of the members of the jury had been bought by the Don, and probably that is why he was so sure throughout the trial that he wouldn’t get convicted. Gotti was given a clean chit by the jury, and it was the dawn of a new era where the Dapper Don was given celebrity status and roamed free with his head held high.

Was the OCTF able to indict John Gotti?

After Giacalone faced defeat, the OCTF (Organized Crime Task Force) started building their case using the recordings they had gotten from bugging the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club, where the capos used to meet on a regular basis in and around 1986. They had recordings where Gotti was heard accepting that it was on his orders that John F. O’Conner, the vice president of the carpenters’ union, had been murdered. The OCTF also had it on record that the mafia boss was involved in labor racketeering, drug smuggling, and all sorts of other illegal activities, but still, there was one catch. The recordings were not properly audible, and during the trial, the jury heard them multiple times to be sure about what was being said in them. This time, every OCTF official was pretty sure that they had caught hold of the Dapper Don. In fact, even John Gotti felt that he was going to be convicted, but the unfathomable happened. Probably, the jury was scared, or they were actually not able to make out what was being said in the recordings, but once again they came to the verdict that John Gotti was not guilty due to the inconclusiveness of the evidence. The OCTF agents didn’t understand how that could have happened because the man was clearly accepting everything on the tape. The Dapper Don was now being called the Teflon Don, and he went out and celebrated his victory as he had started feeling invincible.

How did the FBI convict John Gotti?

Diane Giacalone and the Department of Justice were told by the FBI not to reveal in court that one of the important members of the group named William Boy Johnson was the FBI’s informant. The FBI had promised Johnson that if he gave them information about Gotti, then they would protect his identity at all costs. George Gabriel, an FBI agent, and others didn’t appreciate what Giacalone had done, though she maintained the fact that she had to reveal the fact, as otherwise, her case would have looked weak. As soon as Gotti was acquitted of all charges, his men went and killed Johnson as expected, setting a statement that whoever went against the mafia kingpin would meet a similar fate. The message was loud and clear: either fall in line or fall by the wayside. The FBI knew that relying on the informants and thinking that people would come and speak against John Gotti was a waste of time, and nothing could be achieved through it. So, just like the OCTF, they made use of electronic devices to get evidence against Gotti and his men. The FBI bugged the Ravenite Social Club, but even after days of the devices being installed, not a single meaningful conversation could be captured on it.

The FBI agents came to the conclusion that there was a backdoor in the club which Gotti had his men use to go to an apartment upstairs where a lady lived who was the wife of a man who worked for the Gambino family when he was alive. They bugged that room, too, and that was when they started to get all the evidence, and they knew that this time, they would get him. The best thing that happened at this time was that the OCTF and the FBI decided to stop the unnecessary competition and combined forces to pin down the mafia family. Together with all the evidence that the OCTF had gathered, now the FBI had a very strong case in Get Gotti, and they were looking at approximately 105 years of prison time if they were able to convict him for the crimes they had put in their chargesheet. Additionally, at the end of Get Gotti, we saw that something happened that nobody had expected: Sammy Bull Gravano, the underboss of the Gambino family and the most trusted ally of John Gotti, decided to testify against him, and at first even to the FBI agents, the news felt too good to be true. But Sammy was not trying to trick anybody, and he genuinely wanted to help as he had realized that the reign of Gotti was over, and it was only through this way that he could save himself.

How Did John Gotti Die?

Finally, the operation “Get Gotti” was a success, and John Gotti was sent to prison, where he stayed until he took his last breaths in 2002. Gotti was kept in solitary confinement for most part of his sentence and in the year 1998 he had another setback when he got to know that he was suffering from throat cancer. Around 4 years after that Gotti succumbed to his illness at the age of 61 and the Teflon Don spent his last days in agony and pain. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that he employed tactics that proved to be detrimental for the entire Gambino family and had he not been so extravagant and flashy in his approach things might have been a little different. 

Sammy was released in 5 years as he had accepted to be a witness for the state. Statutes like the RICO Act played a huge role in the scheme of things, as they provided an opportunity for agencies like the FBI and OCTF to find evidence, put the criminal behind bars, and attain glory. This is how the law enforcement authorities were able to put an end to the mob era and reinstate rule and order in American society.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

Must Read

DMT Guide

More Like This