SAMMY THE BULL: THE MAN WHO BROUGHT DOWN JOHN GOTTI
From: ABC Primetime Diane Sawyer
April 16, 1997
DIANE SAWYER, ABC News: Good evening, I`m Diane Sawyer.
Tonight, the Mafia -- not a movie, the real thing. From the underboss, the second-in-command of the most powerful mob family in America. Not long ago, organized crime had a stranglehold on most of America`s major cities. Here in New York, it was said you could hardly do business, transport anything, build a building without the mob somehow taking a piece of the action.
But five years ago, the government struck a major blow against organized crime, in part because of Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, who agreed to turn against the Gambino family and his boss, John Gotti.
We should point out we did not know where Gravano lives. We agreed to meet him in at an inn in a remote valley in California.
But as you`ll see, amazingly, he`s not in disguise. He says he`s prudent, but he`s not the kind of guy who lives in fear.
We don`t know what you`re going to think of him tonight. All we know is that you`ve never heard a real story quite like this.
ANNOUNCER: “Sammy The Bull: The Man Who Brought Down John Gotti” -- tonight`s PrimeTime will continue in a moment.
ANNOUNCER: PrimeTime Live -- tonight, “Sammy The Bull: The Man Who Brought Down John Gotti” continues.
DIANE SAWYER: He is the government`s prize witness -- Salvatore Gravano, Sammy "The Bull." For years, he has been living in the shadows, protected by the U.S. government from a long list of sworn enemies.
SAMMY “THE BULL” GRAVANO, Mob Informant: You can relate me to asoldier in Vietnam who killed hundreds of people maybe. I was asoldier of Cosa Nostra. I am a hit man.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) A hit man -- the underboss, emergingfor his first and, he says, only interview before he retreats intothe shadows for good. He agreed to talk on the condition that weprovide former FBI agents for his protection and not broadcastuntil he had dropped safely out of sight.
SAMMY GRAVANO: Here I am. The Mafia.
DIANE SAWYER: (on camera) They have said you are the single most important witness ever to testify against the mob.
SAMMY GRAVANO: I think I am.
DIANE SAWYER: So there`s a word that you use for people who turn,right?
SAMMY GRAVANO: Mm-hmm. Who cooperate. You trying to goat me into the word? "Rat" -- is that the word you`d like to hear?
DIANE SAWYER: That`s the word. So are you a rat?
SAMMY GRAVANO: I look at it as I was betrayed, I betrayed him.
DIANE SAWYER: Double-crosser?
SAMMY GRAVANO: Master double-crosser. John`s a double-crosser. I`m a master double-crosser. We played chess, and he lost.
1st REPORTER: Hey John, you going to beat it?
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) John Gotti -- boss of the Gambinofamily, the most powerful crime family in the country, the mostglamorous mobster since Al Capone -- silver hair, expensiveclothes, an all-American gangster flashing a smile while breakingthe law.
SAMMY GRAVANO: Power has a way where you can believe, after awhile, you can walk on water. And I think this is what happened to him.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) At one time, Gotti was such a national celebrity that when he went to trial for multiple murders, someoneplayed the theme from "The Godfather" while his supporterscheered. In the old days, one man would have been right by hisside.
SAMMY GRAVANO: If you take notice in the videos, I`m always a step or two behind him. It`s raining, I`m holding the umbrella. We go near a car, I`m opening the door.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) They were literal partners in crime.
On the FBI surveillance tapes, you can hear Gotti over background music in the room putting Sammy in control if Gotti`s arrested.
JOHN GOTTI, Mafia Boss: 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.
DIANE SAWYER: (on camera) Were you Gotti`s friend? SAMMY GRAVANO: His pitbull. And his friend.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) A friend who one day decided to exposewhat he says is the truth about John Gotti and the murderousMafia. The judge would call it an act of bravery.
(on camera) What was the real reason you cooperated? The realreason? Was it to save your skin?
SAMMY GRAVANO: I was just tired of the mob and tired of fighting.
It was a door out of the mob. You know, I watched the David Koresh incident, and I used to say to myself, "How could these people get so brainwashed? Are they crazy? Are they nuts?" Then I look at myself in the mirror, and I said, "brainwashed? Here I am on orders, killing people left and right, and I`m calling them brainwashed."
DIANE SAWYER: There`s a book written said that you had a characteristic of committing murder with the nonchalance of somebody just pulling open a tab on a can of beer. That was about all it fazed you, and about all it meant to you.
SAMMY GRAVANO: As far as being a hit man, I actually was good at it.
DIANE SAWYER: Because you were fast and lethal.
SAMMY GRAVANO: And loyal. I didn`t -- I believed in the life. When I was on your case, I dropped everything.
DIANE SAWYER: Look over the list of the murders you were involved in. There were how many?
SAMMY GRAVANO: Nineteen.
DIANE SAWYER: Serial killers don`t have 19.
SAMMY GRAVANO: Mm-hmm. We`re worse than them. But again, puttingit out -- Hollywood, newspapers. We only kill ourselves. What are you worried about? We don`t bother the public. Seemed to like us. Seemed to like what we do. Look at John Gotti. If I have 19, he has -- forget about what he`s got. When he ordered a hit, he wanted it done yesterday. He would send me to either supervise or control it or make sure the job got done. And I obviously did. When you`re the boss, you're giving the orders. You`re credited with all of them even if you`re not on the street.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) But you'll hear in this report how Gotti`s attorneys say Gravano is lying -- that is was Gravano who instigated the murders.
JOHN MITCHELL, John Gotti`s Attorney: I think he was a sociopath. I think he committed homicides because if you had something he wanted, Sammy`d kill you for it.
CINDY DIBERNARDO, Victim`s Daughter: Once a murderer, always amurderer, and they`re allowing him to walk the streets.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) Cindy DiBernardo`s father was killed by Gravano. So was Deena Milito`s.
DEENA MILITO, Victim`s Daughter: How could you not describe this man as a monster or a beast?
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) All these women whose fathers were killed say it`s an outrage that Gravano went free after just five years in prison and now has his face on the cover of 200,000 books about his life being published today. Gravano argues he has aright to his life story and says he`s baffled at the way even the New York tabloids turn on you when you join up with the good guys.
SAMMY GRAVANO: The media treated me real good before I cooperated. I was a hero. Seemed like the more people you killed and the more things you do, I mean, you were a hero. John`s still a hero. And after you cooperate, which is strange to me, you become a rat, a stool pigeon, a canary, the worst scum of the earth to them.
GEORGE GABRIEL, FBI Supervisor: We were anticipating this individual, Sammy Gravano, to help us devastate a significantamount of organized crime in New York City. And that`s the deal you make.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) FBI agent George Gabriel, who was there the night Gotti was arrested, points out that Gravano helped send more than 30 mobsters to prison after he decided to tell all.
GEORGE GABRIEL: Sammy Gravano was somebody who was going to open the garage door to the workings and the criminal activity of this family and not just against the people we already had, but everybody else.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) And Gravano says he did tell everything -- not just about the mobsters and the murders, but about all those millions made from gouging the public.
Graphics: Q What kinds of crimes did you commit to make money? A Labor racketeering… Q Did you, yourself, use that control in order to makemoney… A Yes, I did.
SAMMY GRAVANO: I was making a couple of million a year. John was making I would say anywhere between $5 million and $20 million a year. We raped the community on a constant basis in every way, shape and form.
DIANE SAWYER: (on camera) What did you say to yourselves when you`re doing this to other people?
SAMMY GRAVANO: What did we say to ourselves? While we`re at thetable cutting up the money? We didn`t say too much. We just cut up the money. It was for greed. There`s no honor in a lot of things that we do.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) Honor. It`s a word that will travel a tangled path in our story. Gravano still insists it was a search for honor that brought him to the mob in the first place. He was 31 and had been an associate in the mob for eight years when he took the oath to become a made man in the sacred ceremony he once pledged to keep a secret forever.
SAMMY GRAVANO: One by one they called us down in the basement. Small little basement, it seemed to be real crowded. Dim lights,real smoky. And when I walked down, there was Paul Castellano.
DIANE SAWYER: (on camera) Paul Castellano, boss of the Gambino family.
SAMMY GRAVANO: And he says, "If we ask you to kill for us, would you?" I said, "Yes." And he asked me, "What finger would you pull the trigger?" And I pointed to my index finger.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) The words were simple he says -- to place the brotherhood above government, God and family.
SAMMY GRAVANO: They tell you that day if your son is dying in bed with cancer and he`s only got an hour left to live, if we call for you, you come immediately and leave his side.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) He says they pricked his triggerfinger and put blood on the picture of a saint which was set on fire in his hand.
SAMMY GRAVANO: He just said, "If you betray this brotherhood, may your soul burn like the saint."
DIANE SAWYER: (on camera) You really believed in it?
SAMMY GRAVANO: With my heart and soul. There`s honor. There`srespect. There`s integrity. There`s loyalty. There`s a brotherhood. There`s a secret society. And these are words that I wanted to hear and that I was totally loyal to.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) But 14 years and a lot of lives later,Sammy "The Bull" Gravano had betrayed that brotherhood, and the gangsters he once considered family have made him a marked man.
SAMMY GRAVANO: I know the danger is out there, I know how they think. I know what they`re going to do. I know their moves. I know them. I was part of them.
DIANE SAWYER: (on camera) Is this every day of your life,thinking about where you`re going to go, where you`re going to be,who`s going to know what, who`s going to be there?
SAMMY GRAVANO: I`m not going to worry about this every single dayof my life. I`m not going to stay in Montana someplace scared to death looking out of the blinds.
DIANE SAWYER: But if they walk in the door...
SAMMY GRAVANO: And they have the gun.
DIANE SAWYER: And they have the gun?
SAMMY GRAVANO: I`m going in the box. Simple as that.
DIANE SAWYER: By the way, Gravano told us that to become a made man, it means your father has to be Italian, and he says usually that you`ve participated in a murder. When we come back, how a kid from Brooklyn became one of the mob`s most feared executioners and John Gotti`s right-hand man.
ANNOUNCER: “Sammy The Bull: The Man Who Brought Down John Gotti” continues in a moment.
ANNOUNCER: PrimeTime continues. Once again, Diane Sawyer.
DIANE SAWYER: Sammy Gravano told us that a lot of members of the mob make it a point to read Machiavelli, the Italian analyst of power at any cost. Well, five centuries ago, Machiavelli said there are two ways to survive -- be a fox who recognizes traps or a lion who scares away wolves. As a little boy growing up in an Italian neighborhood near here, Sammy Gravano may have been a little bit of both.
(voice-over) In this house on a street in Brooklyn, Sammy Gravanogrew up, he says, in a bedroom studded with photos of Cagney andBogart. His parents, immigrants from Sicily, ran a small dressfactory.
(on camera) What would your father have said if he had known that you were underboss of the Gambino family?
SAMMY GRAVANO: I guess it would have broke his heart. Just like it would break my heart if my son or if my nephew or somebody went into the mob, because I know their destiny. I know what they`re going to do. I know what kind of life they`re going to live. They`re going to murder their best friends. They`re going to lie and cheat their whole life.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) Gravano says when his father told him about the guys in the slick suits hanging out on the tough streets of Bensonhurst, New York, the words he used were a mixed message.
SAMMY GRAVANO: These were our protectors. We got to never informon them or do anything to offend them, and we have to stay away from them. They`re bad guys, but they`re our bad guys.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) One day, some of them noticed a scrappy little boy.
SAMMY GRAVANO: A few kids from around the corner, they robbed my bike. And I started fighting like crazy to get it back. And across the street, there was a local Mafia hangout. And one of the guys rubbed my head and said -- he says, "Look at him, he`s like a little bull. "Sammy The Bull." And it stuck all my life.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) The trouble-making kid was held back in the fourth grade, again in the seventh and kicked out of highschool for breaking the principal`s jaw.
SAMMY GRAVANO: I have dyslexia. And I have learning disabilities. And I always had trouble with teachers, authority, school, and Ithought I was really sick or demented or retarded. I don`t know what I thought I was.
DIANE SAWYER: (on camera) And the kids ridiculed you?
SAMMY GRAVANO: In the beginning, until I gave a few of them a beating. A good swift punch would stop that. And I learned that real quick.
DIANE SAWYER: But are you really saying you went into the mob because you had an unhappy experience at school?
SAMMY GRAVANO: No. No. As I got older, and when I did finally go into the mob, it was for money. It was for greed. It was for women. It was for fast cars. It was being part of a society,part of a brotherhood.
DIANE SAWYER: You were sent away for a while, right, to the Army?
SAMMY GRAVANO: Yeah.
DIANE SAWYER: By a judge instead of going to prison. When you came back, you were standing at a fork in the road.
SAMMY GRAVANO: No, basically, I went right back. Right back to the old neighborhood. Right back to the corner. I was doing loansharking, stealing cars, doing burglaries, break an arm here, break a leg there.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) And two years in, the mob bosses asked for something more.
(on camera) 1970 -- you`re what, 24, 25 years old. They tell youto kill someone. Did you think of saying no?
SAMMY GRAVANO: No. I knew that this was part of the life, and whatever I was asked to do for the family to benefit the family, I would do.
DIANE SAWYER: But this is murder.
SAMMY GRAVANO: I knew sooner or later it would come, that question would come.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) The target, Joe Colucci, a 26-year-old bricklayer, a friend. Gravano says it was all part of a mob-related love triangle.
(on camera) What, there was a great deception involved with it,too. You had to take this guy to dinner. You had to lure him into the trap.
SAMMY GRAVANO: Right. That`s the way we kill in the mob. We`re all out drinking together. And at the end of the night, on the way home, I got in the back of the car. And when we pulled away and we went down the block, I shot him in the head -- twice.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) The body was thrown out of the car on a quiet residential street, where Gravano shot him three more times in the back.
JACKIE COLUCCI, Victim`s Sister: The next morning, police were knocking on our door, and they told me my brother was murdered.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) Jackie Colucci, Joe`s little sister.
JACKIE COLUCCI: I couldn`t imagine who would want to kill him. He was with Sammy that night. But we didn`t know, and we didn`t find out until 22 years later.
SAMMY GRAVANO: I remember something that surprised me, that I had no remorse at all. None. I didn`t feel sorry for him in the least. I felt power. Felt like my adrenaline in my body went completely out of control.
DIANE SAWYER: (on camera) You were excited by it?
SAMMY GRAVANO: I guess it`s like an animal going after its prey.
JACKIE COLUCCI: One of these days, I hope that he`s the animal,and there`s somebody else who`s the hunter.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) The shooting barely made a headline inNew York City. But back in the neighborhood, the news traveled fast.
SAMMY GRAVANO: Everything started to change. I would go to the same club or disco and got on line, and before you know it, bouncers, the owners came out. "Sammy, no, no, you don`t have towait on line. So you just come right in!"
DIANE SAWYER: (on camera) You were a player?
SAMMY GRAVANO: I was -- yeah. I was out of the minor leagues. I was in the major leagues.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) As Gravano`s reputation in the mob rose, so did that of another young star in the Gambino family, John Gotti, who had already served time for a murder. Gravano says they first met at an after hours club amid music and gambling.
SAMMY GRAVANO: And I says, "How you doing, John? I hear a lot ofgood things about you." He says, "Yeah, Sammy, me, too."
DIANE SAWYER: (on camera) Did he make an impression on you? Did he have something?
SAMMY GRAVANO: Sure. He was flamboyant. He seemed smart. He seemed nervy. He was a tough guy on the street. And meeting him,he`s a good looking man. He`s got charisma. He`s got personality. Yeah, he impressed me a little bit.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) Over the years, Gravano became known as a hit man`s hit man. He says after the first time, it wasn`t him who pulled the trigger. On every hit, there`d be a triggerman, a clean-up crew, and Gravano says he would choreograph. And what did it take to get killed? He says sometimes it was betrayal, sometimes just insubordination.
SAMMY GRAVANO: This Louis DiBono you`re talking about? He`s a made guy. He knows what he`s doing. He`s not showing up when the boss calls him. He robbed us in business. He`s running amok all over the place. Time to go.
DIANE SAWYER: It just doesn`t sound quite human, the way you talk about them.
SAMMY GRAVANO: What would you want me to do? How would you want me to talk about them?
DIANE SAWYER: Well, suffer.
SAMMY GRAVANO: I guess I did that. It`s not for you or the public to want to see me suffer or do things or whatever.
DIANE SAWYER: One of the guys had been your oldest friend.
SAMMY GRAVANO: Yeah.
DIANE SAWYER: And you felt nothing then either?
SAMMY GRAVANO: Oh, I absolutely felt something. Tore me up.
DIANE SAWYER: But you wanted to be there.
SAMMY GRAVANO: Oh, yeah, absolutely.
DIANE SAWYER: Why?
SAMMY GRAVANO: Why? Because somebody who`s real close to me, somebody I loved, then I would want to be there. And I would want it to go right. I would want it to go painless, unexpecting.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) Louis Milito, Gravano`s best friend and, Gravano says, partner in the crime business. His daughter,Deena, went to Gravano for help when her dad disappeared.
DEENA MILITO: I said, "Uncle Sammy, I haven`t talked to my father in two days, and he didn`t go to work. There`s something wrong. "He said, "Why do you say that, princess?" I said, "Because that`s not my father." I said, "And there`s something wrong." And he said, "Don`t worry, I`ll find your father. Don`t worry about a thing." I mean, in retrospect, the man had my father killed two nights before. But he really, like, looked me in my face.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) Gravano says Milito was shot twice in the head and never knew what hit him. His body was never found.
(on camera) He also said of the death of your father that it killed him inside.
DEENA MILITO: What, when he put a bullet in my father`s head?
DIANE SAWYER: And that he wanted to be there to make sure there was no pain.
DEENA MILITO: Whoa! How nice of him!
SAMMY GRAVANO: I knew the wife. I knew the children, and I tried to help the family. But this is the life. He`s in the life. He played the wrong cards. He double-crossed us, and he lost.
DEENA MILITO: He said that my father may have played the cards wrong. But boy, he was quick to take my father`s companies and my father`s money. That he was quick to take.
CINDY DIBERNARDO: He did not have the brain capacity to go out and earn money...
DEENA MILITO: So he had to take what other people have earned.
CINDY DIBERNARDO: The only thing he knew how to do was use his two hands to murder people. Period, the end.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) But does it matter that the murdered fathers of all these women were involved with the mob, accordingto the FBI? Agent George Gabriel.
GEORGE GABRIEL: They were mobsters. They knew the rules, and they knew that if they broke the rules they were going to get killed just like they would have turned around and killed somebody had their boss told them to do so.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) We told Deena Milito that on one of Gravano`s murders, the trigger man was allegedly her father.
(on camera) It has been written, Deena, that your dad was there.
DEENA MILITO: Not to my knowledge, I didn`t know anything about that.
DIANE SAWYER: You haven`t heard it?
DEENA MILITO: No. Where did this come from?
DIANE SAWYER: Again, this is Sammy Gravano.
DEENA MILITO: Well, that`s news to me.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) But what if, as the government says,their fathers were involved in the mob?
(on camera) Doesn`t it make it different in some way?
LAURA GAROFALO, Victim`s Daughter: If it turns out to be true, then they should have spent many years or their lives in jail. Sammy Gravano is not to be judge, jury and execution if it turns out to be true.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) But for sheer cold-heartedness, perhaps nothing tops what Gravano says he did back in 1978 when Nick Scibetta vanished.
(on camera) Nick Scibetta?
SAMMY GRAVANO: Mm-hmm. That was my wife`s brother. That was an order from Paul Castellano. I was stuck with it. I participated in it, and it`s another one of those things that basically happened. That`s another one that killed me. I mean, to see my wife or my mother-in-law, my father-in-law, other people. It just tore me up.
DIANE SAWYER: Did you tell them? Did they know?
SAMMY GRAVANO: No. What do you want me to do, go home and tell them, "I just killed your son"? Or your brother? No, of course not.
DIANE SAWYER: They didn`t suspect?
SAMMY GRAVANO: No.
DIANE SAWYER: Your wife didn`t suspect?
SAMMY GRAVANO: No.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) Gravano says he didn`t know that afterhis brother-in-law was killed, the body would be dismembered.
(on camera) Wasn`t there some way you could get him out of town,some way to get word to him? I mean, did you owe that to yourwife?
SAMMY GRAVANO: There`s nothing I could have done. I know it sounds easy enough to say, "get out of town" or do something, and you see that in the movies, but that doesn`t really work in real life. If I balked about it, or I didn`t want to do it or whatever, I was going, too.
DIANE SAWYER: How could you face your wife? How could you face your wife?
SAMMY GRAVANO: It`s very difficult. But being in the mob all my life, I am trained for this. I am trained for double-crossing. Iam trained to con.
DIANE SAWYER: Did you say, "What have I become? With that blood on my hands, what am I?"
SAMMY GRAVANO: I`m a gangster. That`s exactly what I am.
ANNOUNCER: “Sammy The Bull: The Man Who Brought Down John Gotti” -- when PrimeTime continues.
ANNOUNCER: PrimeTime – “Sammy The Bull: The Man Who Brought Down John Gotti.”
DIANE SAWYER: When we return, for the first time on television, Sammy Gravano`s account of the stunning hit on his own godfather, the king of the mob in New York, the legendary Paul Castellano.
SAMMY GRAVANO: They were told, "Kill them. And if it means you have to die there, then die there with them. Die there in the gunbattle with the cops. Do not back off of this hit."
ANNOUNCER: PrimeTime Live, an ABC News magazine will continue after this from our ABC stations.
ANNOUNCER: “Sammy The Bull: The Man Who Brought Down John Gotti.” Once again, Diane Sawyer.
DIANE SAWYER: We`re told there are 26 Mafia families in the country, the rules set by a commission of bosses who divide up the territory. To get an idea of what`s at stake for all of us, a presidential committee`s report estimated in 1988 that the mob took in $30 billion a year in tax-free money. The report says the five families in New York jack up the prices on construction by 20 percent. At the center of this, Sammy Gravano, who ran construction and concrete for the Gambino crime family.
SAMMY GRAVANO: 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.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) But to get control, Sammy Gravano says he and John Gotti would have to trade in the rules of Cosa Nostra for the law of the jungle. By 1985, he says, they decided to move on their own godfather, the Gambino family boss, Paul Castellano himself.
(on camera) Paul Castellano, what was the problem?
SAMMY GRAVANO: There was a lot of problems. I mean, Paul Castellano wasn`t a gangster. He was a racketeer. A gangster is a guy who is real tough. He`s a street guy. He`s a street hoodlum. He`s a gangster. The other guy, he`s more polished. He`s not as tough. He`s not as dangerous.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) He says Castellano wasn`t really a mobster. He spent his time reading The Wall Street Journal and lining his own pockets and even, at a gathering of his top gunmen, praising the cops.
SAMMY GRAVANO: And he says, "You want to know who the real tough guys are? The cops. They go on domestic violence beefs, they don`t know what they`re going to run into." I mean, this is not something that you would tell your top hit teams in a family after sending them on work every time you want somebody whacked out.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) Gravano says the final straw was what happened when some of Gotti`s crew got indicted for drug trafficking. Castellano was reportedly furious that they had broken the no-drug rule and that they`d gotten caught.
SAMMY GRAVANO: Everybody`s afraid that Paul was going to move against Gotti and his crew.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) Gotti, he says, decided to strike first, turning to Sammy "The Bull" for help.
SAMMY GRAVANO: Gotti sent his right-hand man Angelo, and he has told me, he said, "Sammy," he says, "we`re going to take out Paul."
DIANE SAWYER: (on camera) But this is a complete violation.
SAMMY GRAVANO: Complete. Complete violation of our rules and oath and everything else.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) He says it took seven months of careful planning. The hit would take place at Sparks Steakhouse,a restaurant in busy midtown Manhattan frequented by Castellano. The killing was planned for December 16, 1985, less than two weeks before Christmas.
(on camera) How many people did you get together to do this?
SAMMY GRAVANO: Eleven. It was 11 of us.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) To throw off witnesses, Gravano says,the gunmen were all dressed in white trenchcoats and black Russian hats.
SAMMY GRAVANO: They were told, "Kill them. And if it means you have to die there, then die there with them. Die there in the gunbattle with the cops. Do not back off of this hit."
DIANE SAWYER: (on camera) What about innocent bystanders? People coming down the street?
SAMMY GRAVANO: They wouldn`t be hurt unless they interfered with it. And then they`re not an innocent bystander anymore. I had a.357 magnum, and anybody who would interfere with the hit team, I would take them out. There`s that whole myth that we only kill ourselves. That shoots that in the ass a little bit.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) Gravano reveals what he says really happened that day. He and Gotti were sitting in a car parked just a block away from the restaurant. 5:20 p.m., rush hour -- a Lincoln with Paul Castellano and his driver, Tommy Bilotti, unwittingly pulls alongside a startled Gotti and Gravano.
SAMMY GRAVANO: I said, "John, they`re right next to us." And I told John, "If he turns in our direction, I`m going to startshooting right here and now." The light changed. I was on the walkie-talkie. I says, "Everybody get ready." They pulled in front of Sparks. They parked the car.
As soon as Paul opened up the door, I saw them white jackets all surrounding the car. They were shooting Paul. Tommy was actually watching Paul being shot, thinking which direction that he would run probably. But part of the hit team was across the street. And they came across and shot him in the head -- a bunch of times. And we pulled next to them, I put the window down slightly. I told John, "He`s gone."
DIANE SAWYER: (on camera) What did you and Gotti say to each other?
SAMMY GRAVANO: Really not too much. It`s not like football. We didn`t get up and give each other high fives or anything like that.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) It was one of the biggest gangland murders of the century.
PETER JENNINGS, ABC News: This afternoon, police say that Paul Castellano, the reputed head of the Gambino crime family, and another man were shot and killed.
WABC-TV REPORTER: They said it was for family only -- the wake tonight for big Paul Castellano. Gotti allegedly wanted to show his respects by coming here, but instead preferred to stay away because of all the undercover cops in the area who would like to talk to him about the murder of Paul Castellano.
SAMMY GRAVANO: I mean, they glamorized it in the paper like he did the whole hit and what he did. The reality is that he was the driver -- my driver.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) It would be years before anyone would be arrested for the Castellano murder. In January 1986, John Gotti, a street guy from Queens was elected boss of the most powerful crime syndicate in the country.
2nd REPORTER: John Gotti has succeeded Castellano as head of the Gambino crime family.
3rd REPORTER:...attained overnight fame as the man said to be the new godfather.
DIANE SAWYER: (on camera) At the beginning when Gotti took over, did you think you`d done the right thing?
SAMMY GRAVANO: Yes.
DIANE SAWYER: And really put the gangsters back in change?
SAMMY GRAVANO: Put the gangsters back in charge, and we were goingto change it around and make it what Cosa Nostra is supposed to be, we`re supposed to mean.
DIANE SAWYER: Did he really know how to run things?
SAMMY GRAVANO: Oh, he`s smart. There`s no question.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) John Gotti was now the CEO of a giant crime corporation with more than 2,000 members and associates and millions in illicit revenues. The captains, Gravano says, passed on up to 80 percent of their take to the boss.
SAMMY GRAVANO: We had 21 captains, the consigliere, made members, associates.
DIANE SAWYER: (on camera) And how did that work? Each of them gave him something, right?
SAMMY GRAVANO: Well, each person gives to their direct superior,their boss.
DIANE SAWYER: So you were giving him like $100,000 a month?
SAMMY GRAVANO: I think it`s more closer to $2 million a year. But anywhere from $1 million, $2 million a year, something like that.
DIANE SAWYER: And how far did your tentacles reach in the businesses of the city?
SAMMY GRAVANO: Everything. Everything. You name it, we did it. Wherever we can put a situation together that inflates the price and we can have a skim from that, we do it, and you pay the price.
DIANE SAWYER: So you say it was really true that the mob was that powerful in New York that it controlled everything from what you eat to where you live to what you wear?
SAMMY GRAVANO: Absolutely.
DIANE SAWYER: To how you travel in the city? Everything had a tax on it from the mob?
SAMMY GRAVANO: Just about everything I could possibly think of.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) It was, Gravano says, a complex interaction of legitimate businesses, like concrete and construction, and criminal methods. Sometimes they just made sure their guys got the bid. Sometimes they got kickbacks from other people`s work. They did it, he says, by controlling many of the labor unions -- from the garment industry to garbage hauling.
GEORGE GABRIEL: You`re talking a lot of money. You`re talking a lot of industry. I mean, they take over an industry, they put their people in business, and free enterprise goes out the window.
LEWIS SCHILIRO, FBI Special Agent in Charge: The families were able to shut down job sites to control the price of concrete, to control who picked up waste, to control who got deliveries or who didn`t get deliveries.
SAMMY GRAVANO: If we wanted to stop a project, we could just go right to the teamster foreman and just say, "Run this by the book. Every truck that comes in, check his tires, check his --" which is all union rules. Check if he`s in good standing with the union,if he`s up to date with his dues. That truck could sit there for an hour. But by the end of the day, there`ll 40 trucks, 50 trucks on line to get in. They can`t get in. So we`ll slow that project down. We`ll destroy it.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) He says sometimes fear alone would get the job done, but sometimes greed would help. Gravano says they`d negotiate and then enforce industry-wide prices.
SAMMY GRAVANO: When you went to a bakery, for instance, and said,“OK, your bread is 30 cents a loaf. We`re going to make it 50cents a loaf. We only want three cents a loaf, so you`re going to make a big profit.” So it`s more of a negotiation.
DIANE SAWYER: (on camera) So if you get everybody to raise the price together, then everybody`s going to benefit?
SAMMY GRAVANO: Everybody but the public.
LEWIS SCHILIRO: The ultimate control is through fear. The ultimate control is the belief by the victim -- by victim companies or victim individuals -- that if I don`t comply with their demands or if I don`t comply with what they want me to do,that ultimately they have the power of life or death over me.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) And what about drugs? Gravano say sneither he nor Gotti got involved in drug deals, though they looked the other way when others in the family did.
SAMMY GRAVANO: Not that I looked down on these drug dealers or whatever they want to do. It just wasn`t my business. I wasn`t comfortable with it. I didn`t like the people that you had to deal with.
DIANE SAWYER: (on camera) But you really want me to believe that with all that money out there in drugs that you turned away from drug money? You really want me to believe that? That you had compunctions about the people?
SAMMY GRAVANO: It`s a dangerous back-stabbing business. So it`s not like I`m trying to stand on my high horse that I didn`t do drugs. I just didn`t do it because I didn`t like it. I made millions in construction and shylocking, and not all that heat.
DIANE SAWYER: Is there ever enough, though?
SAMMY GRAVANO: Well, yeah. Was for me. It was enough for me. I had a house on Staten Island. Worth about a half a mill. I had a horse farm, a 30-acre horse farm in New Jersey. I owned the office building where I was in.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) By now, Gravano and his wife, Debbie, had two children. He told her he was in the construction business. Don`t ask, don`t tell. It was a close-knit family, he says, traditional -- living in separate but parallel worlds.
SAMMY GRAVANO: When my wife takes me to this house, and she says,"I`d like to have this house." I`m looking at it as a hit man to kill the person who walks out of that house or into that house. And that`s the way we go shopping. She looks for the furniture, I look for the hit.
DIANE SAWYER: If you question Gravano`s story about the mob and the unions, you might want to know that five teamster officials were eventually convicted. As for John Gotti, even though he was convicted of the murder of Paul Castellano, his lawyers say he`s not guilty, and that Gravano`s story is preposterous.
(voice-over) More of Gravano`s interview in a moment. But for those of you who have been asking about the Mafia and themovies...
SAMMY GRAVANO: I loved "The Godfather." I thought that was the best interpretation of our life that I`ve ever seen. "Godfather1" and "Godfather 2." The other one stunk.
DIANE SAWYER: It was once an unquestioned tenet of life in the mob that you try to operate beneath the radar -- meetings at 2:00 in the morning in discreet locations. But that was before the modern virus, the fascination with celebrity, infected even organized crime. And Gravano says no one was more vulnerable to that virus than his boss, John Gotti.
GEORGE GABRIEL: What John did was basically unprecedented in organized crime. Prior to his reign, if you will, of the Gambino family, everybody was much more secretive. This was his style. This was his flair. This is what brought him down.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) Sammy Gravano says he knew law enforcement was closing in, but Gotti became more and more arrogant and flashy. Traveling in his chauffeured Mercedes,famous for his $2,000 Brioni suits. In one week alone, he was reported to have lost more than $300,000 gambling.
SAMMY GRAVANO: He bet the entire line every single game, whether it be football, basketball, hockey. Every game.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) The FBI says Gotti told them he sold plumbing supplies and zippers, and he estimated his annual salary at about $100,000.
SAMMY GRAVANO: He used to get up around 11:00, 12:00 in theafternoon. He had somebody picking out his clothes. He used to have a barber come every single day and give him a haircut. Cut the hairs in his nose. It was a play to him. It was a performance for the media. He went in a restaurant one time, and he liked the wine thatwas $50 a bottle. And he made Joe Watts go grab the owner and raise it on the menu to $200 a bottle because people knew tha tJohn Gotti liked that wine. He was obsessed with the whole image-- not of Cosa Nostra, of himself.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) Gravano says on one occasion, Gotti pointed out a couple who were staring at him.
SAMMY GRAVANO: I look over and, sure enough, they`re looking at him. So I says, "You want me to send one of our bodyguards over to see who they are, or what they want?" He said, "No, no. This is my public." "My public." From my teaching and my understanding of Cosa Nostra, it`s a secret society. We have no public. We recognize no public. We recognize nothing.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) Gotti would become a kind of folkhero, on the cover of People and Time. Three times the government tried to convict him on racketeering charges, for assault and for ordering the shooting of a union official.
JURY FOREMAN: We find him not guilty.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) The dapper don became the "Teflondon."
PETER JENNINGS, ABC News: For the third time in five years, the government has failed to win a conviction against the man the government claims is the head of the largest organized crime family in America.
LEWIS SCHILIRO: Gotti emerged, I think, almost brazenly, as somebody that felt he was untouchable to the extent that we in law enforcement could not allow that to occur. Could not allow somebody to feel he was above the law.
JAY GOLDBERG, Defense Attorney: The FBI wanted to show it could bring John Gotti down where other agencies had failed to do so.
DIANE SAWYER: (on camera) Three times he got off, he beat the system.
SAMMY GRAVANO: Sammy "The Bull" was fixing the trial. I was reaching jurors and bribing them. And he didn`t win the trialfair and square.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) Gravano says through a middleman hepaid juror in one trial $60,000 to stick to a not guilty position.
By 1987, Gotti had appointed Gravano his consigliere, the third-highest position in the Gambino family. But Gravano says he was unable to convince Gotti that his high profile was putting everyone in the family at risk. Gotti loved the spotlight too much.
SAMMY GRAVANO: I think his problem was that he fell in love withhimself. He saw himself on television, in the newspapers, and he lost touch with what he was. That he`s a gangster, not an actor.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) But by 1988, Gotti did have a starring role in the FBI`s latest surveillance video outside Gotti`shangout in Little Italy, the Ravenite social club.
SAMMY GRAVANO: Down the Ravenite on Mulberry Street, every captain, every made guy in the family was to report there every single week.
GEORGE GABRIEL: No boss ever made the whole family show up at anyone place in plain view in plain daylight. The mob doesn`t work that way. They don`t show up all at once and make life easy for us, which is what they did.
SAMMY GRAVANO: I mean, nobody liked this. I don`t think too many people had the courage to tell him to his face. And I would tell him, "John, the whole government`s sitting outside the club. There`s newspeople -- all these people running around outside. What are we doing here? Why don`t we meet 2:00, 3:00 in themorning and try and evade some of this stuff?" He would just shut you up. Say, "No, no, no. I`ll show you, watch -- I`ll show you how to beat cases. I`ll show you how to do it." He showed us real good.
DIANE SAWYER: By the way, that juror Gravano said he bribed to help John Gotti, he was eventually convicted of obstruction of justice and sentenced to three years in prison. We`ll be right back.
DIANE SAWYER: Here`s a new development in our story.
(voice-over) This afternoon, the New York attorney general filed a lawsuit against Sammy Gravano, as well as the author and publisher of his new book. The state believes Gravano has been paid for his story and is seeking to freeze that money so that the victims of his crimes can go after it.
DENNIS VACCO, New York State Attorney General: We`re saying show me the contract. And that very simple -- that very simple request has been denied. So it leads us to believe that the problem that we can`t see the contract is because the contract clearly states out the terms of the deal that results in Gravano profiting from this book.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) Gravano has refused to discuss whether or not he`s receiving money for the book but says he`ll fight the case to the Supreme Court. Of course, in order to subpoena him,they`ll first have to find him.
(on camera) Our portrait of Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, the man who brought down John Gotti, will continue tomorrow night at this time on Turning Point. Here`s a preview.
(voice-over) Tomorrow -- the mob trial of the century.
FBI AGENT (ph): John Gotti was more popular than the president ofthe United States.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) The FBI tapes that helped seal Gotti`s fate.
JOHN GOTTI: I was in jail when I whacked him.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) Along with the betrayal by Sammy "TheBull."
(on camera) What was the real reason you cooperated? The real reason?
(voice-over) The intrigue and alleged murder plot.
(on camera) Does Gotti know this?
SAMMY GRAVANO: No, he`s going to find out with this interview.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) Described by the mobster who, thanks to the government, has a new face.
SAMMY GRAVANO: I wasn`t always this beautiful, to tell you the truth.
DIANE SAWYER: (voice-over) And a new life of freedom.
(on camera) You got a real cushy deal.
(voice-over) Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, the startling conclusion tomorrow night on Turning Point.
(on camera) So be sure to watch Turning Point tomorrow night at 10:00, 9:00 Central. And that`s our report for tonight. Don`t forget Nightline after your local news.
I`m Diane Sawyer in New York. Join us again next Wednesday evening for another edition of PrimeTime Live.