Great Crime Reporters – Jerry Capeci
Perhaps you haven’t been reading about the legal problems of Danny ‘the Lion’ Leo, the current Boss of the Genovese Crime family. But for those of you who are, like me, grimly fascinated with all things to do with the Mafia (or La Cosa Nostra as it is known to its members) then there is only one place to read about Danny ‘the Lion’ and a host of other Mafia-related stories and that is Jerry Capeci’s Gang Land News website. Capeci is America’s leading Mafia expert. He began writing his Gang Land column for the New York Daily News in 1989, and the column went online in 1996. Capeci has also co-authored (with Gene Mustain) three major books concerning the Mafia: Mob Star: The Story of John Gotti (1988), Murder Machine: A True Story of Murder, Madness and the Mafia (1992) and Gotti: Rise and Fall (1996). What sets Capeci apart from other crime reporters is that he understands people’s fascination with the traditions and the rules of the criminal secret society. Public fascination is one of the factors that led to Mario Puzo’s Mafia family drama The Godfather (1969) becoming one of the bestselling novels of all time. Capeci leaves no ambiguity that he personally finds the Mafia’s actions to be morally repugnant. Although he is prepared to occasionally criticise the F.B.I. if he feels they are subverting justice to ensure a conviction, which has often happened through their use of the controversial RICO Act, in many ways a precursor to the anti-terrorism Patriot Act.
Capeci is particularly knowledgeable about the late Boss of the Gambino Crime family, John Gotti. Gotti is perhaps symbolic of the public’s fascination with the Mafia as he revelled in his reputation as a gangster who was elevated to celebrity status. Gotti became the Boss of the Gambino family after orchestrating the assassination of its then Boss Paul Castellano in 1985. He was found not guilty of a host of criminal charges in three separate criminal trials, subsequently earning the nickname ‘the Teflon Don’, as nothing would stick to him. Gotti was finally found guilty on charges of murder and racketeering in 1991 and sentenced to life imprisonment. Capeci’s book Gotti: Rise and Fall is widely regarded as the definitive biography of the Mob Boss. Capeci wanted Gotti to write the introduction to the book himself. Gotti refused, so Capeci wrote the introduction as John Gotti, using his extensive knowlege of the gangster to try and imagine how Gotti would introduce his life story.
You can read a segment from the introduction below:
Back in ’87, when I beat this case a little girl prosecutor tried to fuck me up with, a real frame job, a guy comes running down the street. This was when the fuckin’ Mets weren’t no lay-down Sally team. The guy says, “Queens has two world champions. The Mets and John Gotti!”
I was on the cover of Time. People. New York. I don’t know how many fuckin’ others. I lose track. They wrote songs about me and played’ em on Howard fucking Stern. Fuckin’ public television did a big show on me. It was right after they did one on Eleanor Roosevelt or maybe Winston Churchill, some famous fuck, I don’t even remember.
They called me lots of names. Johnny Boy. Dapper Don. Teflon Don. Prince of Mulberry Street. Two with fuckin’ “king” in it – King of the Volcano. King of Queens. Naturally, they also called me the Godfather. You gotta go read the book to understand them all, but just John suited me fine. People get famous, they only need one name. Cher. Madonna. Magic. Michael. John.