Saturday, May 14, 2011

Mob Wives: Sammy Gravano’s 1997 Interview With Diane Sawyer

On April 16,1997, Sammy “The Bull” Gravano was interviewed by Diane Sawyer on ABC Primetime. The interview was conducted at an inn, in an undisclosed location, in California. The title of the interview was: “Sammy The Bull: The Man Who Brought Down John Gotti.” I found a transcript of most of the interview online and will blog about the highlights here.

Sammy compares himself to a soldier in Vietnam, who killed many people. He was a soldier too, of La Cosa Nostra. Sammy is the single most important informant against the mob. Diane asks if he is a “rat.?” Sammy explains that he feels he was betrayed by Gotti, so he in turn betrayed Gotti. “John`s a double-crosser. I’m a master double-crosser. We played chess, and he lost.”

Sammy worked very closely with Gotti and was so trusted that, on FBI surveillance tapes, Gotti was recorded saying, “This is my wishes that if – if I’m in the f------ can, this Family is going to be run by Sammy. I’m still the boss. If I get 50 years, I know what I’ve got to do. But when I’m in the can, Sammy’s in charge.” They were talking about the Gambino crime family.

Diane comments about a book that compares Sammy’s cavalier attitude about committing murder as like “pulling open a tab on a can of beer.” Sammy just says he was good at being a hit man. He admits to being involved in 19 murders, including that of his brother-in-law, Nicholas Scibetta. But, even though he agrees that the mob is worse than serial killers, he justifies it by saying, they only kill each other, not the general public. Then he goes on to say, that the boss (Gotti) gives the orders, so ultimately he is responsible for all the murders. Gravano says, that before he cooperated with authorities, the media treated him like a hero, they treated Gotti like a hero. When he began an informant, a “rat”, a “snitch” then he became “the worst scum of the earth to them.”

Gravano admits to making a couple of million a year and says that Gotti made anywhere from 5 to 20 million a year.

Gravano had worked as an associate for the mob for 8 years before becoming a “made man” at the age of 31. At that time Paul Castellano was the boss of the Gambino crime family. He describes his initiation into the mob and the oath they are required to take. And then he says the words that we hear Renee repeat each week on the show: “There’s honor. There’s respect. There’s integrity. There’s loyalty.” That’s what he believed the mob was all about. But after 14 years, he turned on the mob. Even though that made him a marked man, he refuses to live in fear.

Sammy is the son of Italian immigrants from Sicily. He admits to Diane that his father’s heart would have be broken to learn that he was an active member of the Mafia. Just like Sammy says it would break his heart to know his son had joined the mob, because he is aware of the lifestyle and what it involves.

How did Sammy get his nickname “the bull?” Some kids robbed his bike one day and he fought like hell to get it back. Some guy, from the mafia hangout across the street, watched the fight and then went over and rubbed Sammy’s head, saying, “Look at him, he’s like a little bull. Sammy the Bull” The name stayed with him for the rest of his life.

Sammy had trouble in school. He said he has dyslexia and had trouble learning, had trouble with teachers, authority and school in general. Kids would tease him until, “I gave a few of them a beating.” But he didn’t join the mob because of his problems at school, he says he joined for the money, it was all about greed. Then a judge sent him into the army, instead of prison. But, when he got home, he went straight back to the old neighborhood and back to “loansharking, stealing cars, burglaries, break an arm here, break a leg there.” By the time he was 24, the mob bosses started asking him to do more and Sammy added murder to his list of crimes.

They discus how they lure their “target” into a false sense of security by inviting them to dinner. That’s how he killed is friend, Joe Colucci, a bricklayer. They had a good night of eating and drinking. Then they get into their cars to drive away and Sammy shoots him twice in the head. The family didn’t find out until 22 years later that Sammy, Joe’s friend, was the one who killed him. And Sammy discovered something too. After he killed Joe, he was not sorry, he had no remorse, just an adrenaline rush from the power, “like an animal going after its prey.”

Another victim, Louis Milito, was Sammy’s best friend. They were literally partners in crime. Louis disappeared one day and his daughter went to Sammy for help. "Uncle Sammy, I haven’t talked to my father in two days, and he didn’t go to work. There’s something wrong.” Sammy said, "Why do you say that, princess?" She said, "Because that’s not my father." Sammy said, "And there’s something wrong. Don’t worry, I’ll find your father. Don’t worry about a thing.” Sammy had killed her father two night before, but he looked her right in the eyes and lied. He had put two bullets in his head and the body had disappeared, never to be found. Sammy says he did what he had to do, the guy double crossed the mob.

They discuss the case of Nick Scibetta, Sammy’s brother in-law. The order to have him killed came from Paul Castellano, there was nothing Sammy could do. He admits to participating in the murder and then went home and faced his wife and in-laws as though nothing happened. He claims he did not know Nick’s body would be cut up. He tells Diane, if he had interfered in anyway with the execution of the murder, he would have been killed too.

Sammy ran the concrete and construction business of the Gambino crime family.
Sammy says: “I literally marvel at the sight of Manhattan when I see it, because I controlled it. I literally controlled Manhattan. When I see it at night -- those lights and everything about it -- I think of Donald Trump and Tishman and everybody else who couldn’t build a building if I didn’t want them to build it. That got me off. Plus, I made a lot of money with it.”

On to the discussion about the “hit” on Paul Castellano, the family boss. Gotti and Sammy conspired to plan Castellano’s murder. The family wasn’t too happy with Castellano, but the incident that really set the wheels in motion for his murder was when Gotti’s crew got indicted for drug trafficking, and Castellano was very angry that they broke the “no drug rule” and were caught. Gotti was afraid that Castellano would take “action” against him so he decided to make the first move and called on Sammy for help. This plan broke every rule and oath that Sammy and Gotti swore to uphold. The hit itself took seven months to plan.
It was set for December 16th, 1985 outside of Sparks Steakhouse in Manhattan. Eleven mobsters showed up wearing white trench coats and black Russian hats. Castellano had to be killed, then and there, even if it meant the mobsters themselves would be killed. As soon as Castellano’s car pulled up and he got out, he was shot dead on the spot. And, in January 1986, Gotti was made the new head of the Gambino crime family. After that, the Gambino crime family virtually had a hand in everything that was going on in the city.

Sammy goes on to describe all the ways the family made money. And while he and Gotti did not get involved in drugs, they looked the other way when family members did. Gotti was flashy and loved the attention of the media and the public. He was called the “Teflon Don” because no charges would stick and he was getting off in trials. But, it was Sammy who was bribing jurors behind the scenes, to vote not guilty. By 1987, Sammy was appointed Gotti’s consigliore. Yet, Sammy could not convince Gotti that all this attention and being in the spotlight was putting everyone in the family at risk. He would conduct mob meetings at a club in Manhattan every week, with the FBI outside doing surveillance.

This is where the online transcript ends, however, FBI agents eventually allow Sammy to hear taped conversations of Gotti, implying that Sammy was guilty of several murders. It was clear that Gotti was setting up Sammy to take the fall. Sammy thought about what he had heard. It was clear that Gotti was double crossing him, so he cut a plea deal with the FBI. In exchange for his cooperation, Sammy would get 5 years in prison for his involvement in 19 murders and other crimes. Sammy’s testimony ended up getting Gotti life in prison, where he died.

Link to Interview Transcript:


jnettemarie said...

La Costra Nostra was a dynamic economic dynasty that started 2 centuries ago. It only took John Gotti and Salvatore Gravano less than 8 years to bring it all down. 2 grease balls with more money than brians crying in their commissary. They really deserve eachother.

Chiara Soprano said...

Amazing isn't it. I was just thinking abou tthat today. How maybe it got too big and they got too greedy. I didn't realize they basically destroyed it all in 8 years. Thanks for pointing that out Jnette!

Anonymous said...

if he only got 5 years, which is wrong, then why are they putting up on VH1 that he's still incarcerated??

Chiara Soprano said...

He went back to jail after running an ecstasy ring in Arizona.

Steve said...

John gotti deserved it. He tried to double cross Sammy and gotti deserved it. Sammy didn't cooperate because he was scared of jail time. He did because he was pissed off at what john was doing. He was indeed setting him up for the fall and the fact that he called Sammy greedy is just unbelievable. Sammy gave him so much money every month and gave money to everybody in his crew and took care of them well. Gotti was the greedy one. And jnette, you are extremely wrong. It was gotti and only gotti who brought down the empire. You didn't hear Sammy on any tapes. Sammy shoulnt be condemned for what he did. It would be different if he just ratted to avoid jail sentence but he didn't. Sammy is full blood cosa nostra. If he was boss then I bet he wouldnt have been flashing around all the money he had with suits an getting in and out of trouble like john. Just facts guys.

Anonymous said...

Uhh sorry Steve but Sammy even admitted that Cosa Nostra was complete bullshit.

Just the facts.

Anonymous said...

John gotti was a pussy here you have a member of the Gambino crime family who fucked up by dealing in drugs so he takes out Paul Costalano so he won't reap the whirl wind of Pauls punishment..that in it self was screwed up I say if john was man enough to screw up he should have been man enough to face the piper..I know I say this with ease but let's keep in mind I'm just an ordinary john gets what he wanted hes the boss of the Gambino crime family so the way I see it is that John is the rat he had it set up so Sammy would take the fall for all of it which is crap..John had said if he ever had to do time argued it 20 or 50 years that Sammy would be boss of the all actuality John turned out to he the rat a pussy a weak minded wanabe mobster...if he really was a true mofia don he would have taken the fall for it all and held true to la cosa nostra I mean hell Sammy warned him.time and time again he told john you're being to public too flashy its gonna bite you in the ass but no john gotti had to try and beat the system couldn't be satisfied with keeping the mofia where it should have been a secret society I mean it was known about sure but not really messed with by the government...not like they did when john gotti was trying the goverment..Mr gotti should have taken the fall and lead by example show his guys that he could do time behind bars like the rest of yeah Sammy did right by taking john gotti down the biggest loud mouth the mofia has ever had...people think Sammy is a rat but the way I see it Sammy gravano has stayed the course of being true to la cosa nostra and to his blood family john gottti just thought about doing time and he got scared so tried to roll over on Sammy which is bullshit cuz all the crap was john gotti fault if it had been Sammy in that situation he would have taken the wrap and been true to the code of costra nostra and have done the time wether it was 20 years or life Sammy in my opion was a true mobster to the mofia