NEW YORK – The racketeering trial of John A. (Junior) Gotti ended Tuesday the way his father, the late Teflon Don, would have wanted: None of the charges stuck.

A federal jury acquitted the mob scion of one count and deadlocked – because of one juror – on the rest, including an allegation that he ordered a brutal attack on radio host Curtis Sliwa.

Applause erupted in Manhattan Federal Court after Judge Shira Scheindlin declared a mistrial and announced she will likely grant a bail request for Gotti, who could walk free in a few days.

But prosecutors, who failed to convince the jury that Gotti didn’t quit the Gambino crime family in 1999, vowed to retry him – infuriating his relatives.

“I have to get him out of the country,” Gotti’s mother, Victoria, said after the verdict brought her to tears. “He’s always going to be catnip for these people.”

Sliwa, the Guardian Angels founder who was shot in 1992 after dissing Junior Gotti’s dad on the airwaves, said he’s itching to take on Gotti again.

“The government assures me there will be a Round Two. There will come that day where we will lock eyes again. I know my day of justice will come,” he said.

Gotti, 41, was finishing out a five-year sentence for racketeering when he was hit with a slew of new charges in 2004.

Prosecutors accused him of masterminding the Sliwa assault, profiting from Gambino pump-and-dump stock schemes, extortion in the construction industry and loansharking.

A parade of witnesses delivered damning testimony, but some jurors were swayed by Gotti’s clever defense – that his supposed retirement from the Mafia meant the statute of limitations had run out on the racketeering case.

After eight days of deliberations, the anonymous jury reached a verdict on only one charge: finding Gotti not guilty of the stock-related charges.

They were hopelessly divided on Gotti’s role in the Sliwa attack. But ultimately, there was only one holdout for acquittal on three other charges, illustrating how narrowly he avoided conviction.

Gotti’s co-defendants, Michael (Mikey Y) Yannotti and Louis (Louis Black) Mariani, were each found guilty of several charges, and Mariani’s aunt fainted in the courtroom.

The jury first announced Monday it was deadlocked, but Scheindlin brought them back Tuesday and asked them to give it one more try.

At 1:20 p.m. EDT, the panel sent its verdict sheet to the judge, but most of it was blank, indicating it was still hung on three of the four counts against Gotti.

“We’re somewhere between a hung jury and an acquittal,” Scheindlin announced to gasps from the gallery. “I don’t know how to take the verdict. I’m a little confused.”

After conferring with the lawyers and sending the jury to deliberate a while longer, the judge decided to accept a verdict on one count against Gotti and declare a mistrial on the rest.

Like his father, who beat three cases before being convicted and dying in prison, Junior had outmaneuvered the feds.

“Thank you,” a weepy Gotti, wearing blue suede shoes and a charcoal suit, told lawyer Jeffrey Lichtman. “You did everything you said you would do.”

As he was escorted from the courtroom, he turned to his mother and said: “I’ll call you tonight.”

Outside the courthouse, Lichtman crowed that the prosecution’s case is “a limping wreck” and said his client is just happy he will soon be reunited with his wife and five kids.

Sister Victoria, the reality TV star and novelist, said the verdict means the Gotti men can sleep easier.

“It sends a message because you just can’t prosecute somebody because of his last name,” she said.

But her mother said as long as Gotti stays in New York, with authorities watching his every move, he won’t be a truly free man.

“I hope he goes to Canada. I hope he goes to California,” she said.

(New York Daily News correspondents Warren Woodberry Jr. and Adam Nichols contributed to this report.)

(c) 2005, New York Daily News.

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Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.


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