For the first time ever, John Gotti's children, Angel, Victoria and Peter, speak openly about a life shrouded in secrecy and reveal what they knew about the mafia in the exclusive interview with "48 Hours Mystery" correspondent Troy Roberts.
The family shares intimate details, never-before-seen home video and private photographs.
From the tragic death of their brother Frankie, to the infamous murder of Gambino family godfather, Paul Castellano, to the current trial of their brother, John "Junior" Gotti - nothing is off limits.
Below are excerpts from the interview:
Victoria on what drove her to write the tell-all book, "This Family of Mine," (Simon & Schuster) to be released on Sept. 29:
Victoria: Dad and I had a lot of conversations about the books that I've written. The books that I would go on to write. And when discussing this book, we both agreed that unless it was out of absolute necessity - it wasn't a project I would do… And he then looked at me before he ended the subject totally and he said, "One thing I ask that you do…Don't you ever look to make me out to be an altar boy. Because I wasn't."
Question: You said "if it became a necessity." What is so urgent about right now about getting the story out?
Victoria: I think, first and foremost, my brother John's life is on the line… If I believed that John was guilty of these charges. If I believed that he did not pay his debt to his decision for being part of that life, I wouldn't rally to his side. I wouldn't rally around him.
My family had had enough of the lies, the gossip, week after week, a different newspaper headline. It became really a huge burden on the family. Every family had its breaking point. And we certainly have ours, too.
We just want to be out of this glare that was my father's life… We want out…it's time to just stop it all, change the face of what Gotti means.
At one point John [Jr.] just decided he wanted to take this break, and he knew how Dad felt; Dad believed in that life. You didn't take pleas. You fight, fight, fight.
So I went on a visit shortly after talking to John and I mentioned it to Dad, and I said "John wants to take this plea, and by John taking the plea it meant [he] has to say, "I want out too." Father was dead set against it…and he said, "Tell your brother, I will never tell him how to live his life, tell him I will support whatever he does, I don't support this. I don't think this is the right thing for him. The right choice, but I will stand behind him nonetheless."
On brother John Gotti Jr. and his trial:
Roberts: When did you learn that your brother was in the mafia?
Angel: When he got arrested.
Victoria: [Mom] had such distaste for the fact that Dad was involved and now her son… [She] goes to see Dad and threatens [him]. "Either you release him or I'll never speak to you again. I won't be here anymore. You'll never see me in your life again."
I know he's not in that life. There's no one that's more sure of that than I am…My brother is not in that courtroom. It is my father, always, all over again, day in, day out it's not about what John [Jr.] did, is doing or will do. It's about John Gotti.
Did he leave this life in fact? Or did he not? I know for certain that he did. They don't want to believe it.
On the disappearance on John Favara, the driver of the car that killed their brother, Frankie:
Victoria: I looked at [my father] and I said, "You're supposed to be a tough guy. How can you let somebody kill my brother?" And he just looked at me and he said, "It was an accident." And I said, "No, it wasn't." He looked at me and he said, "You're wrong." He said, "I know you loved your brother. He was my son. It's killing me…I'm telling you it was an accident. And you have to understand that."
For the first time I was so angry at my father that his life, what I had been hearing, what I had been told, I think for the first time…when I really needed it, when I really wanted it, I think if ever I could have him be this man that he said he was. It would have been the moment because…
Roberts: You wanted revenge?
Victoria: I wanted revenge. I was so upset.
Roberts: Four months after your brother was killed, John Favara disappeared. Is your father responsible?
Roberts: How can you be so sure? Did you ask him?
Victoria: I'm positive he wasn't responsible.
Roberts: I just can't imagine that this incident, this horrible tragic accident… and your father didn't want to exact revenge?
Victoria: No… he didn't… I couldn't understand either. It angered me. Whether people will judge me for that or not, I felt guilty about that for many many years. But I did. And that's how I felt. He didn't. …
Angel: No one's gonna believe me. But I know what my father said in front of my sister and I. That it was an accident. That's what he said and there shouldn't be two tragedies.
Roberts: But did it ever enter your mind that perhaps your father was behind that disappearance? Did you ever think?
Angel: Sometimes. I'm being honest.
Victoria: Do I believe that someone in my father's circle did this? I do. I do believe it. I can only imagine that they had to believe they'd be rewarded.
Roberts: Are you happy that John Favara is gone?
Victoria: No, no I'm not happy.
On their father and the assassination of Paul Castellano:
Victoria: There was kind of a line that was drawn in the sand between Paul Castellano and Aniello "Mr. O'Neil" Dellacroce. O'Neil Dellacroce was supposed to be next in line. He was supposed to be the successor when Gambino died. And he wasn't given the baton, so to speak. It was given straight to Paul Castellano.
I remember when all of this happened, I remember hearing Dad. He was outside my window. And I heard him saying to this guy, "Mr. O'Neil earned that. Everybody knows Mr. O'Neil earned that." And he kept repeating it. "Mr. O'Neil earned that, that's his legacy, that's his legacy, that's his legacy.
Many men didn't like [Castellano]. Feuding started to take place. Men were whispering and things were happening behind everybody's back.
Roberts: Did your father orchestrate the assassination of Paul Castellano?
Victoria: Absolutely not…I'm not arguing that he had no part in it, and I'm not saying he wasn't the boss of [the mob]. He was. But nobody can stand there and tell me that he did it alone. I'm telling you the truth. No one man is that powerful in this organization. Not one man.
Roberts: How difficult is it to accept that your own father either directly or indirectly killed people?
Victoria: When you chose that life, I think you know what you're signing up for… I think he knew going in what was expected of him. What he would have to do. What it would cost him. And the disasters associated, I believe he knew that there was no living happily ever after… And I don't think he cared.
Peter: I feel for anyone if there was pain caused by him or not. I feel regret and sadness for that.
On "the life:"
Angel: Do I believe now that my father was this big boss? Yes, I do.
We were not like The Sopranos. We didn't sit at the dinner table and curse…we didn't ask him, "Did you kill anyone?" We didn't ask him those questions.
Victoria: I loved the man… but I loathed the life, his lifestyle.
How can anybody worship that life? How could anybody think there was any glory in that life … That life was a constant state of not knowing.
I would lie awake nights and cry thinking…is my dad gonna come home. Is he gonna go to jail again…is he going to get hurt? Is he gonna get killed…are we going to survive?
If we went on vacation, if we went out to dinner the entire family, he wouldn't leave the house unattended. My mom had to usually get a house sitter, or a babysitter that would watch the house…he had more of a fear of someone coming in, law enforcement coming in, and planting bugs in his home.
Peter: I refuse to judge my father, whether he's guilty or not. He is even with the house…in my heart of hearts, I think he felt he had a debt to pay…He has paid the piper. He has paid his debt to God. Only God can judge my father at this point.
Victoria: I think if he were still here now, I would fight with him… I'd wanna ask him, was it all worth it? That life? The loyalty to that life? Look at us. What was this all for? I'm still angry. I don't understand it and I guess I never will.
Correspondent Troy Roberts reports for "48 Hours Mystery's" season premiere, "Our Father… The Godfather," Saturday, Sept. 26, 2009, at 10 p.m. ET/PT.
Simon and Schuster is a division of CBS, which also owns CBS.com.