The Ravenite Transcripts PART 9: "Gambino Crime Family? This is the Shargel, Cutler, and Whattaya Call It Crime Family"

In July 1991, Bruce Cutlerthe flamboyant, forceful lawyer who "won" three dramatic court victories for John Gotti—was disqualified  from representing the Don of the Gambino family at the racketeering trial that resulted from the Ravenite transcripts.

John Gotti and attorney Bruce Cutler
John Gotti and attorney Bruce Cutler circa 1990.

Federal judge Judge I. Leo Glasser issued the ruling that disqualified Cutler—and other attorneys—from representing Gotti and his co-defendants at the racketeering trial slated to take place in Federal District Court in Brooklyn. In addition to Cutler, Gerald L. Shargel and John L. Pollock also were disqualified. (The lawyer is the "Pollock" mentioned in the transcript below; Gotti is not referring to The Pollack, aka Neil Dellacroce.)

The prosecution sought the disqualifications because the lawyers were discussed during the secretly taped conversations. Since the conversations were evidence, the attorneys themselves could be called to testify. Conflict of interest reasons got the lawyers disqualified.

This excerpt includes discussions about the lawyers, with Gotti at one point arguing:

"How are you Tony Lee’s lawyer, but you’re plucking me. I’m paying for it. You got Sammy, you got one hand in his pocket. You got both your hands in Joe Butch’s pocket. Where does it end? Gambino Crime Family? This is the Shargel, Cutler, and whattaya call it Crime Family. You wanna go steal? You and your fuckin’ mother."

Defense lawyers had argued that the conversations should have been protected by lawyer-client privilege. (Clever, that!) Prosecutors countered that the discussions went beyond the normal communications between lawyers and clients and that Cutler had acted as "house counsel" for the Gambinos. Cutler was John Gotti's Tom Hagen, they essentially argued.

Judge I. Leo Glasser replied with: "Not every communication between an attorney and his client is privileged."

With Cutler, Gotti was able to beat back three major efforts by prosecutors to convict him.

He was acquitted in 1986 of assault charges in the I Forgotti case in Queens. In 1987, he was found not guilty of Federal racketeering charges in Brooklyn. In 1990, Gotti earned himself the Teflon Don moniker when he was acquitted of assault charges in the shooting by the Westies of union official John O'Connor. 

That 1987 courtroom victory was the only time a mob boss was acquitted of racketeering charges, ever, Gang Land News has highlighted. However, as Gang Land News also noted, the victory should be dismissed because Gotti bought it with a $60,000 payoff to a corrupt juror.

Cutler has pushed back against that criticism, however.

In 2014, during a luncheon at a midtown steakhouse—not Sparks, where John Gotti orchestrated the 1985 assassination of his boss and underboss, but the Porter House, where in 2013 Cutler had won himself an arrest charge for punching a younger attorney—Cutler took umbrage at the very notion that that 1987 victory was  not the result of expert lawyering and posited: "I was there when the jury said to the news reporters on television that it was 11 to 1 for acquittal on the first ballot, so it was shocking to hear that allegation years later. Even if they did buy one juror, they didn't buy the other 10 who voted innocent on the first ballot."

Cutler also revealed that, despite the steely expression of bravado on his face, Gotti was actually quite nervous about that one.

"There was so much tension with John when the verdict came in," said Cutler. "He didn't know."

Ultimately, Cutler's disqualification resulted in Gotti's conviction for murder and a life sentence. Cutler himself was convicted, for contempt for violating a court gag order, which got him a six-month suspension from practicing law.

The following picks up where the previous installment ended.

JANUARY 4, 1990
FILE NUMBER: 183A-3507
PLACE: Apartment above the Ravenite Social Club, located at 247 Mulberry Street in Little Italy, Manhattan
TIME: 7:15 P.M.

GOTTI: Well, how about them other people? You gonna ask them who’s coming and who’s going. You don’t wanna be disrespectful about it.

LOCASCIO: Eh, you want me to put common known— 


LOCASCIO: You know a Donny? 

GOTTI: No, Sam tells this guy (inaudible). 

LOCASCIO: Yeah, yeah, on the bottom, they’re down, they’re down. 

GOTTI: Yeah.

GRAVANO: They’re on, they’re on. The top is (inaudible). 

GOTTI: Fucking, I was telling, ya, you—you could feel bad, like some guys you know real good, we’re in love with something, you know I use their fucking name, you replace it, but, ah (inaudible) (background noise). 

GRAVANO: Hold on. Tellin’ ya top … That’s it. 

LOCASCIO: That’s it. This one, then they’ll think— [. . . .] 

GRAVANO: I hope a good guy is replacing my name. Like, you know. 

LOCASCIO: Better than me. 

GOTTI: Well, let me tell you something, it’s pretty tough— 

GRAVANO: Better than— 

LOCASCIO: Better than me. Better than me. He’s gotta be better than me. 

GRAVANO: Equal. 

GOTTI: And where are we gonna find them, these kinda guys? Frank, I’m not being a, a pessimist. It’s gettin’ tougher, not easier! We got everything that’s any good. Look around, ask your son someday, forget who you are, what you are. Talk to your son like his age. Put yourself in his age bracket, and let him tell you what good kids in the neighborhood other than the kids that are with you. Or good kids in the neighborhood other than with him. You know what I’m trying to say? I told you a couple a weeks ago, we got the only few pockets of good kids left. Look at this fucking bum. Your father’s a cop, the uncle’s a cop, the mother’s a pain in the ass. Well, well, somewhere along the line, we may have this, maybe. I don’t know if we ain’t got it. Somewhere down the line there’s gonna be a foul ball or somethin’. But even if a (inaudible) what I’m saying, we’ll, but we okay. 

Ravenite Social Club's original tile floor
Ravenite's original tile floor supposedly still remains in places.
Robin London of Metro NYC Tours provided the pic.

GRAVANO: I think they made a big blunder, (tap sound) without taking the brother. 

GOTTI: Well, I thought they told us (inaudible), the big (inaudible). 

GRAVANO: A matter of fact—

GOTTI: —(coughs) … didn’t they say to you? 

GRAVANO: —when he asked me, I’m gonna be honest with you, later on, he said, “You know the three of us (inaudible) tell them, a job well done. Don’t say nothing where you’re going! Dress proper! Da, da, da. Da, da, da.” 

LOCASCIO: Tell them we’re gonna “make” six. They have three with them, take one at a time. And, as they come— 

[. . . .] 

GRAVANO: We have no resistance to this. We were wiped (snap sound) out. There’s no—they’re no threat to ya. You wipe three guys (inaudible). What the fuck were they gonna do? And they—they’re helpless. 

GOTTI: But maybe, maybe we should wait. (Inaudible) one or two. (Inaudible) Maybe this guy just showed up. You know what I’m saying? Could it be? 

GRAVANO: I, I hope so. Because I, I think it won’t end. I think it won’t end, especially with a “Family” like that. If they didn’t get your brother, then he’s bumping his father and the uncle. I’m sure, ah …

GOTTI: At the worst … 

GRAVANO: Then you’re gonna tell them, this is what the fuck. They buy it. 

GOTTI: See, by worst, I says, I even told them, you know, “He’s like our closest ‘Family.’ I know him like I know (inaudible). Touch base with Sammy right away.” He shoulda been to you, to let you know, two, one, three, no one. 

GRAVANO: Soon as I picked up the paper— 

GOTTI: (Inaudible) 

GRAVANO: —most likely I think he’d connect with you. Soon as I picked up the paper, I see exactly what I had to say, look at this fucking guy. I knew he was looking. He’s a good guy. But he’s fucking not in that position. 

GOTTI: He’s a fucking mope. Here’s why, Sam. 

GRAVANO: He’s a mope.

[. . . .] 

GOTTI: What fuckin’ heartaches we got. And with all the heartaches when you hear these things like “Louie Fat” (inaudible) (tap sound) at which we seem to be. As soon as we feel sorry for one guy, we have another guy (inaudible) expired. The other guy goes (inaudible). 

GRAVANO: Well, what are we gonna do? Let’s assume they don’t let, ah, Johnny Gambino out. Whoever meets (inaudible) will have to meet him. Really, they’re all (inaudible). 

GOTTI: They’ll, they’ll let him out (inaudible). We’re gonna have to (inaudible). Then you gonna see him and his fuckin’ brothers here. 

GRAVANO: His brother’s (inaudible).

GOTTI: Well, ya know what we do, we’ll just send him word if they get in any trouble just to shoot by Louie, and, er, touch base with Louie. Because it’s clear that they, they got stronger old-timers. The youngest guy is fifty-one. 

LOCASCIO: They got another two, that’s all they got, no? 

GRAVANO: Three. Where? (Inaudible)

GOTTI: Three. 

GRAVANO: What “friends of ours”?

GOTTI: Yeah, yeah. Three, Sam. He’s got five. Him, his brother and three guys. Three other guys! The youngest guy is that guy, what’s his name, Filippo, his name is? That big gray-haired guy. The guy’s about a hundred and twelve. He’s the youngest. I’ll tell you—

GRAVANO: No, there’s more than three, John. Didn’t we accept the guys when we were out, when we went around with the committee, and made him a capodecina, and there was about five, six, seven guys there. Didn’t they accept the guys— 

GOTTI: Well, he told me that guy— 

GRAVANO: —Paul (inaudible) brought in? 

GOTTI: —he lost that one guy and he told me, the guy— 

LOCASCIO: The guy that went to Italy? 

GOTTI: Yeah. He told me he had six, he got five now. This was two weeks before Christmas. But we—you gotta check to see— 

GRAVANO: (Inaudible) 

GOTTI: —what I’m saying?

GRAVANO: (Inaudible) I remember, remember, remember when there was eight guys around Paul who were “friends of ours” they never came in? And he had asked. And we “made” him the capodecina that day he sent us over there? We “made” him the capodecina. We called them in? There was a whole bunch of ’em. 

GOTTI: I’ll tell you the fuckin’ blunder we made, and I knew I was making a blunder. 

GRAVANO: Remember? 

GOTTI: But I did it, anyway. 

LOCASCIO: (Inaudible) 

GRAVANO: Even “Joe Butch” went. He called, didn’t they decide in the little room? Then we went outside there near the table (inaudible).

GOTTI: But Joe would remember, he would remember, too. 

GRAVANO: “Joe Butch,” he’ll remember. “Joe Butch” was there. 

GOTTI: You know when I knew I made a fucking mistake? 

GRAVANO: There was a guy there? 

GOTTI: When, when, when, when he put up his brother, and Lorenzo, I knew— 

LOCASCIO: Who’s Lorenzo? 

GOTTI: —Lorenzo was a (inaudible) a real fucking man. You, you see Friday, over there, he’s one of us. 

GRAVANO: Yeah. And he’s more Ameri—I don’t know, he’s more Americanized. He’s fifty percent. 

GOTTI: More Americanized, and I like what I hear from a lot of our “friends,” young “soldiers,” what I hear about the guy … 

GRAVANO: And he’s exposed to a lot of that shit. Like Stymie’s son (inaudible)— 

GOTTI: (Coughs) Not only that. 

GRAVANO: He’s exposed to a lot more people. He’s not as clannish as the other guy.

Robin London gives mob tours in NYC
Robin London of NYC Gangster Mob Tour in front of what was once the Ravenite.

GOTTI: The other—the other guy is. If he was any worth his fuckin’ oats, if somebody else would’ve suggested straightening him out. They notice. Come on, you know that, and I know it. He’s a little bit a cacumbero [cucumber]. (Inaudible) You know he’s a— 

GRAVANO: Yeah, John. 

GOTTI: I don’t wanna insult— 

GRAVANO: He is. That’s what he is! (Inaudible) 

GOTTI: Lorenzo, you heard him, ah— 

GRAVANO: He’s a diehard. 

GOTTI: “Mr. Gotti,” this is when I told him, me and Frankie was there. “John is fine,” I said to him. “You realize I can’t (inaudible) fucking (inaudible)” you could see, but even he was proud to see us.

[. . . .] 

GRAVANO: They’ll get it right. 

GOTTI: Fine, you know why? You see, he’s one of—excuse the expression, he’s “a friend of ours.” Continental slime, that’s what he is. And European, ah, a, not smarter than you’ll ever be. 

GRAVANO: I know, because of the joints. That was wrong. That’s what he is. 

GOTTI: Not this kid Lorenzo. 


GOTTI: Well, breaks my fuckin’ heart, this guy. See, Sammy, if for, if … we’re not in a fuckin’ fuckin’ can in a year. Ten years from now, a guy like a Lorenzo, these young guys that we straightened out, they’re gonna be really proud of these cocksuckers. 


GOTTI: You know why? 

GRAVANO: A lot of them are gonna plug there.

GOTTI: Yeah, and the right way! And they’re gonna—and they’re gonna get stronger and stronger by our mistakes. Stronger and stronger, know what I mean? 

GRAVANO: Yeah. No, they (inaudible). 

LOCASCIO: (Inaudible) 

GRAVANO: We “made” a lot of good guys. Carmine, from “Top Tomato,” he’s developing nice.

GOTTI: They’re all! 

GRAVANO: Carmine, there’s a lot of them. 

GOTTI: I went there, I went to see the store the other day. He got lights. I went there day before, I went the other day. He stole that fuckin’ joint. Thirty-three thousand square feet, for thirty thousand dollars (inaudible) a month, there on Broadway. You gotta see the fuckin’ action. He fuckin’ iced the guy (inaudible). I gotta tell him after. There was a horse going today. I don’t know how it made out, “Top Tomato” … in New York. Yeah, I (inaudible)— 

GRAVANO: You got an appointment with this guy? (Inaudible) 

GOTTI: —And I learned to keep my mouth shut. The original way, I would’ve paid less than open my big mouth. Ya know that, don’t you? 


GOTTI: All three of them. Actually four of them, with this fuckin’ Pollok. I know when to keep my fuckin’ mouth shut. 

GRAVANO: I like (inaudible) three figures. I like (inaudible) the best. 

GOTTI: (Coughing) Yeah, but— 

GRAVANO: I hate them— 

GOTTI: You know these are “rats,” er, Sam. And I gotta say, they all want their money up front. And then you get four guys that want sixty-five, seventy-five thousand a piece, up front. You’re talking about three hundred thousand in one month, you cocksucker. Take it easy, you motherf … I don’t give a fuck, Frankie. But it ain’t gonna end for you. This is gonna end here—

LOCASCIO: (Inaudible) 

GOTTI: Where you guys going? Once you get hit with a fuckin’ (inaudible)—who’s on trial? Where we going here? You think I’m gonna break my “Family” for them. There! I go see J. B. I’ll go in there, and I’ll moon the fuckin’ judge, you know what I mean? (Snickers) Kiss my fuckin’ ass! Minchia! These babania guys. They go, they get a, a 848, one hundred fifty years. They’re in there. A lawyer’s living in Greenwich, Connecticut, and their family’s at the mercy of [the] welfare department. Hey! You got motherfucker if you want. But that’s where it ends, you cocksucker.

GRAVANO: (Inaudible)

GOTTI: Fuckin’—(Pause) And not only that. See what I told him last night? I hadda tell him where to lie. Where to look (inaudible), Sammy, and not to talk about it. Because this [is] what brothers are for (inaudible). I paid a hundred thirty-five thousand for their appeal. For Joe Gallo and, and “Joe Piney’s” appeal, I paid thousands of dollars to Pollok. That was not for me. I paid seventeen thousand five hundred for printing. I just got hit with another twelve thousand eight hundred for pri— That’s one hundred seventy (inaudible) printing these fuckin’ minutes and [to] prepare briefs, whatever you fucking call ’em.

LOCASCIO: You can throw ’em in the fucking toilet.

GOTTI: (Coughs) Yeah.

LOCASCIO: That’s how much good they done.

GOTTI: Yeah, right, that’s right. That’s one hundred seventy thousand. Then I gave him twenty-five thousand for Carneg’s appeal. The only reason why I done that—(whispers) because away. Johnny’s a wealthy kid, thank God, and he, he don’t want none of my money. But he refused to pay. So there wasn’t even no appeal. What, what do we do? So, I says, “What do you mean? How much is it? Gerry can tell you.” He says, “Twenty-five.” “Well, you got it. Pete, bring him fifteen. And then, you got ten in two weeks.” He got that (clap sound) fuckin’ twenty-five. The other guy’s appealing. I’m paying John, I paid his fifty. Where the fuck are we going down here? You give these motherfuckers, and what I’m trying to say, that’s what I told him last night, “I gave youse three hundred thousand in one year. Youse didn’t defend me. I wasn’t even mentioned in none of these fucking things. I had nothing to do with none of these fucking people. What the fuck is your ‘beef’? ‘Beef,’ ya, ya, ya, youse, youse gonna defend me here? Before youse made a court appearance, youse got forty thousand, thirty thousand, and twenty-five thousand. That’s without counting John Pollok. He’s brand-new on the scene.” They each need backup fuckin’ lawyers. He needs that, that Schulman, that little guy. I gotta see if he’s gonna get (inaudible) to him five thousand a week. And this guy needs Pollok. You know, you know what I’m trying to say, Sammy? I don’t give a fuck who’s (inaudible) but I gotta take the motherfucker. But where are we going here? Youse wanna laugh at us? You know what it felt like? You standing there in the hallway with me last night, and you’re plucking me. How are you? Tony Lee’s lawyer, but you’re plucking me. I’m paying for it. You got Sammy, you got one hand in his pocket. You got both your hands in “Joe Butch’s” pocket. Where does it end? Gambino Crime Family? This is the Shargel, Cutler, and whattaya call it Crime Family. You wanna go steal? You and your fuckin’ mother.

GRAVANO: They wind up with the money.

GOTTI: The fuckin’ you kiddin’? You know what I mean?

LOCASCIO: They’re overpriced, overpaid, and, and underperformed.

GOTTI: The only thing I could say is, er, Frankie, is that I get my shit off them.

GRAVANO: I don’t even know, I don’t even know about underperformed. They just can’t win, Frank. They just ain’t got the …

GOTTI: Yeah, but you know why, too, they can’t—

GRAVANO: They can’t win.

GOTTI: —you know why they can’t win, Sammy? They got no fuckin’ cohesion. They got no unity. It’s like us.

LOCASCIO: And they ain’t got the balls to do what they supposed to do.

GOTTI: (Inaudible) They can’t come in. Right.

LOCASCIO: They ain’t got the balls with doing what they’re supposed to be—

GOTTI: Don’t you know why?

LOCASCIO: Go up there and holler and holler.

GOTTI: Don’t you know why they ain’t got the balls, too? I told them yesterday, I told them why. That’s why Tommy was laughing. Ah, ask Tommy. “You don’t get up and holler when you could because nothin’ you couldn’t do it. You can’t even come to court six hours? You write a stay and you’re out automatically. They got you for six hours, tops, they keep you. You don’t wanna do it because, you cocksucker, you know and I know that they know that you’re taking the money under the table. Every time you take a client, another one, one of us on, you’re breaking the law.”


GOTTI: And it’s, it’s a, it’s a bullshit agreement. They don’t fuck with youse and youse don’t go all out in court, you know that. If they wanna really break Bruce Cutler’s balls, what did he get paid off me. He ain’t defending me three years ago. I paid tax on thirty-six thousand. What could I have paid him? (Pause) You follow what I’m saying? They didn’t ask him, he didn’t answer them. And then he sees them behind our back, “Hello, Mrs. Giacalone.”

LOCASCIO: “Hi ya, Robbie.”

GOTTI: Yeah, Robbie. And this is what it is. Then, and that’s why— But you get a guy like Melvin Belli right now, that, that files two million a year. He, his client’s paying him with a tac, with a—


GOTTI: —check—He’d get in there and tell the judge to “Go fuck yourself!” Two times, not once! Once now, and once for your answer, you cocksucker. The judge looks, “Minchia, this guy’s gonna come and fight. Let me give him, this fucker. We get him out of the court, and get to the next fuckin’ trial.” Forget it, Sam. Believe me, we (inaudible). (Slap sound)

GRAVANO: We got the worst of it.

GOTTI: (Inaudible) (coughs) here.

GRAVANO: Yeah. And we got the worst of it. Every which way.

LOCASCIO: (Inaudible)

GRAVANO: We got the worst ones.

GOTTI: When Johnny Carneg told me what he gave these fucking guys, in two and a half years, gave ’em a fuckin’ mill. “What [the] fuck you talking about? You what?” You get pulled back two and one half, three and one half years ago. What the fuck, are youse nuts? (Pause) The indictment should read, then, “John Carneglia and Lawyer!” He’s your fuckin’ partner. And he’s the senior partner. If you gave him …

GRAVANO: But they have a good, a good hunk of it.

GOTTI: Minchia!

LOCASCIO: All of it! (Tap sound)


Thanks, Robin, for the pics...

Robin is the New York City native, tour guide, and history buff who runs NYC Gangster Mob Tours, which offers a range of walking and driving tours of destinations in New York City where mobsters once lived and played (and killed and died)....

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The Ravenite Transcript Series