Judge Laura A. Ward presented at the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce Professional Women’s Leadership Luncheon on Friday, April 15 at the Sheraton Norfolk Waterside. She spoke about the trial and prosecution of Italian-American Mobster, John Gotti.
She was the only woman on the prosecuting team and succeeded where three previous trials of Gotti ended in acquittals. Judge Ward first began the presentation by giving a little background on how John Gotti became “the boss”. After taking out Paul Castellano, former Gambino crime family boss, it left Gotti the title of the new family boss. Gotti was the most powerful crime bosses during his era.
Gotti and his crew would always hang out at a local night club, where many of his “hits” were planned. The prosecuting team got word of where Gotti would be known to hang out and discuss his “hits” with other members. The prosecuting team was able to bug three rooms in the nightclub: a lounge room in the night club, a hallway in the night club, and the apartment above the nightclub. It was then; they had recorded evidence of Gotti planning hits on different families and which hits were carried out. Judge Ward shared a portion of those recordings with us during the event and the audience was able to listen to Gotti.
Salvatore Gravano, Gotti’s underboss, was the one who helped Judge Laura Ward and her team prosecute Gotti. He cooperated with the FBI and was able to testify against John Gotti. The prosecuting team had Gravano on the stand for a day and a half; the defense had them on the stand for 7 days, which according to Judge Ward was a big mistake. Once the jury got the case, they were out for about 16 hours and then convicted Gotti of 12 murders, all the counts but one gambling account. Gotti was sentenced in 1992 to life without parole.
Gravano worked with the FBI for five more years and he helped take down the entire hierarchy of the Gambino organized crime family and three other families. Judge Ward ended the speech on giving an update about Gravano, where he was released from prison but picked back up again with his son in Arizona for selling drugs. She said that if it wasn’t for 9/11 and the focus now on terrorists, there would be no more organized crime in New York. But unfortunately organized crime is coming back because it is going unchecked.
Judge Ward gave an amazing presentation that kept everyone on the edge of their seat. The next Professional Women’s Leadership Luncheon is June 3rd at the Westin in Virginia Beach with Jay Newton-Small, political correspondent for TIME Magazine.
Thank you to our sponsors: Bon Secours Virginia Health System (Series Presenting Sponsor); Bank of America, Cox Communications, Tidewater Home Funding, Troutman Sanders LLP, Union First Market Bank, and WTKR NewsChannel 3 (Luncheon Sponsors)