The murder trial of John "Junior" Gotti _ a case already marked by hysterical outbursts _ took another weird turn on Tuesday when the mob scion refused to come to court.
With the judge on the bench in federal court in Manhattan, the lawyers in place and the jury ready to enter, a deputy U.S. marshal announced that the jailed Gotti wouldn't leave his cell _ news to his defense team.
"No one has heard anything directly from Mr. Gotti," said attorney Charles Carnesi, who was set to resume a closing argument.
After a brief recess, another announcement came that Gotti had changed his mind. The defendant finally took his seat at the defense table about two hours late, absent his usual coat and tie and with a scowl on his face.
U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel offered no explanation to jurors, telling them, "There's no reason to speculate or be concerned about any of this."
Gotti, 45, son of the late Gambino crime family mob boss John Gotti, has pleaded innocent to being involved in three slayings in the late 1980s and early 1990s and possessing and trafficking more than 5 kilograms of cocaine.
Three previous cases alleging Gotti orchestrated a kidnapping and attempted murder plot against Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa ended in hung juries and mistrials in 2005 and 2006. The son of notorious mob boss John Gotti has used the defense that he had quit the mob for good in the 1990s.
The government has relied on testimony by mob turncoat John Alite, who claimed Gotti drafted him for a hit on an associate who had dared to ignore one of his father's orders. Alite also implicated his former friend in the slaying of two men in Queens amid drug turf wars.
Last month, with the jury out of the courtroom for lunch and Alite leaving the witness stand, Gotti yelled at him, "You're punk, you're a dog. ... You always were a dog your whole life, you punk dog."
Gotti's mother, Victoria, also erupted this month with the jury absent, screaming out to her son, "They're railroading you! They're doing to you what they did to your father!" At a pretrial hearing earlier this year, she berated the judge, asking, "Why don't you just hang him now?"
In his closing argument on Tuesday, Carnesi assailed Alite's credibility, calling him a "vicious criminal" and "homicidal maniac" who acted on his own. "Whatever he did, he did for self-promotion," the lawyer said.