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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Peter Gotti Accused of Plot Against Mob Turncoat

Aired August 19, 2003 - 20:51   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: There is some news tonight about an alleged plot to rub out Mafia turncoat Sammy "The Bull" Gravano. A new government indictment claims the conspirators in the plot included Peter Gotti, the brother of the late crime boss John Gotti. It was Gravano's testimony that helped prosecutors put John Gotti in prison where he died last year.
Attorney Bruce Cutler once represented John Gotti. He also happens to be the author of the book "Closing Argument: Defending and Befriending John Gotti and Other Legal Battles I Have Waged."

And he joins us tonight to share his perspective on the indictment against Peter Gotti.

Good to see you.

BRUCE CUTLER, FORMER GOTTI ATTORNEY: Good to see you, Paula. Thanks for having me on.

ZAHN: It is my pleasure. So do you see this indictment going anywhere?

CUTLER: I don't think so, Paula. I feel that the government likes to put a name in a case. This case has been pending for several months from what I understand from the lawyers in the case. And when they add a name like Gotti to a federal indictment, it gives it a cache and a sex appeal and ergo that's why I'm here. That's why all the newspapers were headlining today that Peter's in the case.

ZAHN: But they're certainly not going to throw a name in there if this guy had nothing to do with the case, are they? Is that what you're saying?

CUTLER: No question I'm saying that. And what they do, Paula, is -- from what I understand now. I'm not in the case. There is some reprobate government witness who is claiming that this plot was extant and that Peter was part of it. I don't believe any of it. I never did, I never will.

ZAHN: Let me read what the U.S. attorney is saying about this case.

CUTLER: I saw Jim Comey, who happens to be a good man. I saw his release, and I feel it's incumbent upon me -- I don't want to take a shot at Jim Comey. But I can, because I'm not a lawyer in the case, attack the theory of the case. The case is based on one witness. ZAHN: All right. Let's read in part what this theory is and what Mr. Comey has said.

He said -- quote -- "the allegation demonstrates the lengths to which Gotti and his confederates would like to to preserve the power and profitability of their ruthless criminal enterprise."

CUTLER: That's government talk, and that's Jim's job. He's an advocate for the government. I'm an advocate for the accused.

And it's interesting to note, Paula, Gravano defected in '91. And this so-called plot took eight years to form and then four years to uncover. I think it's a canard. I think the whole so-called plot is a fake and a phony. That's my belief. And the reason I say it, Paula, is it's solely based on a government witness by the name of di Leonardo (ph), who was in the newspaper today, who's mentally unstable from what I understand, and who's saying things that he feels the government wants to hear. And certainly they want to hear a name like Peter Gotti.

ZAHN: All right. But wouldn't you concede that Mr. Gravano has a bunch of enemies out there and someone would probably like to see him dead?

CUTLER: From the thing he's done in life, I agree with you. From the pills he peddled, the ecstasy pills when he was in Arizona, I agree with you.

The bigger problem, Paula, is what the government does with people like Gravano. They give them absolution. They give them a slap on the wrist. They reward them with no jail time. They reward them with money. They put them in an unsuspecting community. Don't tell the community about them. This bum Gravano was running around like Mr. Moran, from what I understood, and selling pills to teenagers.

ZAHN: All right. Let me ask you this...

CUTLER: And the problem, Paula -- the problem is so deep, you're going to see it in Peter Gotti's case. I feel they're going to win the case. Maybe I'll be part of it, I don't know.

ZAHN: You don't know? No one has asked you to represent Peter Gotti?

CUTLER: He has a lawyer.

ZAHN: You sound like a guy that would be comfortable representing Peter Gotti.

CUTLER: Well I represented Peter in the so-called window trial. We sat together for eight months. He was acquitted in 35 minutes, Peter was. So I know Peter well. And, of course, if I'm asked, I'll be there.

But he's got a great lawyer in my friend Jerry Sharagalan (ph). I'm sure he'll win.

The bigger thing for people to understand when is you put it on the unsubstantiated word of a reprobate witness who's getting" bribed" -- quote unquote -- by the government, paid by the government, and the 10th circuit mentioned that. It's not the law, but that's what they do.

ZAHN: All right.

CUTLER: You have to look ascans (ph). You have to be super vigilant about the testimony of someone like a di Leonardo, who is very much like a Gravano.

ZAHN: Answer this last question. I can only give you 10 seconds. What do you say to the folks out there who are saying, Of course Mr. Cutler would say that. He lost his case with John Gotti.

CUTLER: I never lost a trial with a Gotti standing next to me. Three with John we won. One with Peter we won. I never lost a case with a Gotti standing next to me. I was disqualified the last trial, as you remember. And then John was convicted.

ZAHN: Bruce Cutler, thank you.

CUTLER: It's nice to be here with you.

ZAHN: Congratulations on your new book.

CUTLER: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: It has such a long title. I don't even know that I could repeat it again. Do you want to say it?

CUTLER: "Closing Argument."

ZAHN: Oh, well I'll go with the shortened version. I like the edited version.

CUTLER: You truncate it.

ZAHN: Again, appreciate your time.

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