Born Oct. 27, 1940 - South Bronx, New York. Died June 10, 2002 - Springfield, MO.
Gotti, a dyed-in-the-wool gangster, is famous for taking control of the Gambino crime family in 1985 by assassinating then-godfather Paul Castellano. He became known as The Dapper Don for his flashy clothes and swaggering public persona, much like a modern-day Al Capone. With the help of uberlawyer Bruce Cutler, Gotti beat many cases against him, and just flat out bought his way out of others. Eventually, Gotti's impressive ability to escape conviction earned him a second nickname, The Teflon Don.
Castellano's rule over the Gambino family from 1976-1985 was cold and businesslike, so gangsters and civilians alike warmed up to Gotti's traditional, grinning wiseguy demeanor when he took over. Public support for Gotti was so great that entire neighborhoods in Little Italy would throw block parties with fireworks when he would win a trial. Gotti possessed the legendary gangster charm that made citizens temporarily forget that the same guy who was handing them a Thanksgiving turkey was also selling heroin to their children.
With loyal soldiers and a pit-bull lawyer, it seemed nearly impossible to convict The Teflon Don for anything significant until Gambino underboss Salvatore Gravano flipped and became a federal witness in a sweeping RICO trial against Gotti. The news of "Sammy The Bull" Gravano testifying against his own boss rocked the world of organized crime, leading to an immense public backlash against Gravano, as well as a price on Sammy's head.
Because of Gravano's betrayal, Gotti basically achieved martyr status among his supporters when he was sentenced to life without parole at maximum security Marion Federal Penitentiary on 6/23/1992. In 2000, Gotti was transferred out of Marion and into the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, MO for cancer treatment, where he ultimately died.