Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Sammy 'The Bull' Gravano

'The Bull" Becomes "The Rat'

Gotti explained away his words to the effect that he was just letting off steam. But Gravano knew there was more to it. Gotti then told Gravano and Locascio that they would not be permitted to hear anymore of the tapes and were not to speak to their attorneys unless he were present. Later, Gotti refused to allow Gravano to sever his case from the boss's claiming, "We're all in this together."

Making matters worse was the fact that due to some of Gotti's rantings on the tapes about Bruce Cutler and Gerald Shargel, both lawyers were disqualified from representing the pair in July 1991. Because both attorneys were caught on tape at the club they could be called as witnesses. After the two were disqualified, Gotti hired Albert Krieger to represent him and selected Benjamin Brafman for Gravano.

During the long months at the MCC, Gravano's relationship with Gotti began to deteriorate. Gravano sensed that with the information the government had on him from Gotti's own mouth that he was going to be the fall guy in the case. Summing up his decision to approach the government for a deal, Gravano stated:

"All John had to do was come to me once during that eleven months we were together and say, 'Sammy, I'm sorry. My big f***ing mouth got you indicted, number one. Number two, let's try to get a severance for you, so you could fight your case. F*** the public. Let's try to fight this so that one of us, all of us, a couple of us, get out of this f***ing mess.'

"If he done that, I would have never cooperated with the government, not in a million years would I have cooperated."

In addition to the fact that Gotti never apologized for mouthing off to the extent that he had dug a deep hole for Gravano, Sammy felt that the defense team, hand picked by John was going to set him up for the fall.

Things moved rapidly from this point. On October 10, Gravano sent word – through whom was never revealed – that he was ready to talk to the FBI. Two weeks later to the day, he had his first meeting with government agents and prosecutor John Gleeson. During the late night of November 8, FBI agents came and escorted Gravano out of the MCC. Four days later Gravano's decision to become a government witness was made public.

At once all of the newspapers portrayed Gravano as "King Rat." Gotti supporters posted pictures with Gravano's face on the body of a rat in the neighborhoods. Peter Maas states, "Stories were leaked that Sammy was an untrustworthy closet homosexual, a womanizer, a drug dealer and addict, a demented serial killer who would do and say anything to save his own skin."

Gravano was transferred under heavy guard to the United States Marine base in Quantico, Virginia. There he signed his witness deal and spent weeks working with the government preparing his testimony for the trial.

Peter Maas reveals in Underboss, "Gleeson (the prosecutor) knew that the weakest part of his case against Gotti was the Castellano killing." What better than to have a witness that could actually place Gotti at the scene of the murder? In 1999, Court TV aired {Mob Connections}, an hour special hosted by Rikki Klieman, whose guests were former New York Police Detective Joseph Coffey, author Peter Maas, and Gotti's blowhard lawyer Bruce Cutler. In a candid statement about the Castellano murder, Coffey told Klieman, "Gotti and Gravano were not there, in my opinion. I think that was Gravano's own creation to satisfy the FBI and give them an element of the RICO case they needed…the killing of Paul Castellano."

Coffey, who had no use for Gotti, claiming him to have the "IQ of a mothball," had no respect for Gravano either. Coffey told Klieman that one time after he arrested Gotti outside the Ravenite, he walked back into the club to find Gravano standing there with his face as white as a sheet. Coffey turned to an FBI agent and told him, "You see that guy there (pointing to Gravano)? When we get him he's going to roll like a tumbleweed. Cause he's got no balls." Looking Klieman in the eye Coffey said, "Cowards make the best informants."

Actual copies of the FBI's debriefing of Gravano can be found at Court TV's latest acquisition "The Smoking Gun."

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