Gotti's infamous father, the Dapper Don, wasn't there because he "did not want to show he's forcing his family into the life," recalled DiLeonardo. "It was a class act."
He offered that description and others about the inner workings of the Gambino crime family last week in federal court amid the Mafia equivalent of a messy divorce.
DiLeonardo, 50, broke his vow to the Gambinos by pleading guilty in 2003 and agreeing to testify against the younger Gotti at a racketeering trial. During four days on the witness stand, the admitted killer and government's star witness told jurors about Gotti's alleged crimes — including a botched kidnapping of radio show host Curtis Sliwa — and about his torment over becoming a turncoat.
"John was very, very good to me," DiLeonardo said in one of several odes to the family scion. "I love John."
By his own account, DiLeonardo was to the 41-year-old Gotti what the most notorious Gambino cooperator, Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano, had been to Gotti's father: his confidant, his enforcer and, possibly, his undoing. The elder Gotti died in prison in 2002 after Gravano's testimony helped put him away a decade earlier.
The grandson of a gangster, DiLeonardo testified that he committed three murders and "extorted everybody I could" while rising through the Gambino ranks. Not all his lessons were learned on the street: He said he twice read "The Prince" by Niccolo Machiavelli.
DiLeonardo said he eventually became a captain charged with collecting kickbacks from the construction industry, with millions of dollars going to Gotti. As a member of a council that assumed control of the family after his father was jailed in 1992, Gotti "had it coming," but was quick to share the wealth, DiLeonardo said.
"His gifts were greater than my gifts," he said. "I couldn't keep up with him."