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The Gotti Wars

Taking Down America's Most Notorious Mobster

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A riveting, decades-in-the-writing memoir from the determined young prosecutor who, in two of America’s most celebrated trials, managed to convict famed mob boss John Gotti—and subsequently took down the Mafia altogether.

John Gotti was without a doubt the flashiest and feared Mafioso in American history. He became the boss of the Gambino Crime Family in spectacular fashion—with the brazen and very public murder of Paul Castellano in front of Sparks Steakhouse in midtown Manhattan in 1985. Not one to stay below law enforcement’s radar, Gotti instead became the first celebrity crime boss. His penchant for eye-catching apparel earned him the nickname “The Dapper Don;” his ability to beat criminal charges led to another: “The Teflon Don.”

This is the captivating story of Gotti’s meteoric rise to power and his equally dramatic downfall. Every step of the way, Gotti’s legal adversary—John Gleeson, an Assistant US Attorney in Brooklyn—was watching. When Gotti finally faced two federal racketeering prosecutions, Gleeson prosecuted both. As the junior lawyer in the first case—a bitter seven-month battle that ended in Gotti’s acquittal—Gleeson found himself in Gotti’s crosshairs, falsely accused of serious crimes by a defense witness Gotti intimidated into committing perjury.

Five years later, Gleeson was in charge of the second racketeering investigation and trial. Armed with the FBI’s secret recordings of Gotti’s conversations with his underboss and consigliere in the apartment above Gotti’s Little Italy hangout, Gleeson indicted all three. He “flipped” underboss Sammy the Bull Gravano, killer of nineteen men, who became history’s highest-ranking mob turncoat—resulting in Gotti’s murder conviction. Gleeson ended not just Gotti’s reign, but eventually that of the entire mob.

An epic, page-turning courtroom drama, The Gotti Wars is a brilliantly told crime story that illuminates a time in our nation’s history when lawyers and mobsters dominated the news, but it’s also the story of a tenacious young man, in the glare of the media spotlight, who mastered the art of becoming a great attorney.

John Gleeson, currently a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton, has had distinguished careers as a federal prosecutor, federal judge, and practicing defense attorney. He was lead counsel in the successful racketeering-murder trials of John Gotti and Vic Orena, respectively the bosses of the Gambino and Colombo crime families, for which he received the Attorney General’s Distinguished Service Award. As a United States District Judge in Brooklyn, he presided over more than 200 civil and criminal jury trials. Gleeson currently teaches at New York University School of Law, Harvard Law School, and Yale Law School. He lives in New York City with his family.

“Vivid, evocative, and genuinely suspenseful…An impressively detailed account of what it was like in the late 80’s and early 90’s to be chasing a flashy, dangerous mobster who had morphed into a pop culture icon…. John Gleeson is one of the most gifted prosecutors ever to match up against the Mafia.  As I should have guessed, he is also an immensely gifted storyteller.” 
Mary Jo White, former Chair of the SEC, former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and former Acting US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York 

“John Gotti flashed an arrogance and audacity that became a gauntlet thrown down to law enforcement. To his credit, Gleeson shows, in this absolutely riveting memoir, that Hollywood’s image of a prosecutor who does it all by himself is pure fantasy. Ultimately, The Gotti Wars is a testament to the camaraderie that forms around any consequential prosecution. In these pages, you get to experience how touch and go it actually was.”
Eric Holder, 82nd Attorney General of the United States 

“A unique unveiling of the prosecutorial strategy that vanquished the American Mafia's most exalted late 20th century gangster. As a bonus, Gleeson offers candid views of the skills and shortcomings of his main opponents: the Teflon Don's battery of mob lawyers. Perhaps from his former perch on the bench his next book should pinpoint the frailties of our creaky criminal-justice system.”   
Selwyn Raab, New York Times bestselling author of The Five Families   

“Absorbing, even inspiring…Epicenters of media attention, the courtrooms in which the fates of John Gotti and his co-defendants were decided became—over a period of months and ultimately years—scenes of magnificent legal combat…. Second chair in the first case and lead prosecutor in the second, John Gleeson had to continually improvise to thwart defendants who would resort to any ploy, legal or otherwise, to gain their freedom.” 
David N. Kelley, former United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York