'Junior' Gotti's fourth mob mistrial could be his last

NEW YORK -- A new judge, new charges, new star witness and a new jury added up to a familiar result -- a mistrial for John ''Junior'' Gotti on racketeering charges. This one, though, might be his last.

After four trials in five years -- all ending in hung juries -- for the son of John Gotti, the stylish former head of the Gambino family, both sides seem weary of the fight.

Once a deadlocked jury forced an end to the 2-month-old trial Tuesday, jurors hugged Gotti's family outside federal court. Prosecutors did not demand he be held under house arrest or announce plans for a retrial. A prosecutor shook his hand and wished him well.

This prosecution seemed to be the government's most serious attempt to permanently incarcerate the 45-year-old man who has admitted he was once part of the Gambino crime family before he quit in the 1990s.

Gotti was accused in this trial of roles in two murders; the most serious allegation against him in earlier cases was a beating of Guardian Angel leader Curtis Sliwa. Jurors deliberated 11 days before saying they had been evenly split on almost every count.

Ron Kuby, who has represented the elder Gotti in post-conviction issues and has testified at ''Junior'' Gotti's trial, said that while the first three cases against the accused mob leader were narrowly focused, the fourth charged him with ''every conceivable act'' and still failed to win a conviction.

''They have a case that they can't win,'' Kuby said. ''If Gotti's going to prison, he's going to have to commit another crime.''

Gotti has said he quit organized crime before pleading guilty in 1999 to racketeering charges, and agreed to serve five years in prison.

The smiling father of six walked out of court Tuesday and celebrated with a steak dinner and shopping trip at a Long Island toy store -- the first time in a dozen years he was not in jail or under house arrest.

''We're just soooo thankful to have the family whole and together. Lots of catching up,'' Gotti's sister, Victoria, wrote in an e-mail.