Retired Intelligence Detective Gary Jenkins brings you the best in mob history with his unique perception of the mafia. Gary and Tony Taouk discuss the famous mafia attorney Bruce Cutler and his representations of John Gotti. We learn why a judge denied Bruce Cutler the ability to represent Gotti at his last trial. We also learn how Bruce Cutler represented a Chicago Outfit boss after Chicago got permission to hire him from Gotti.
Tony Taouk is an Australian lawyer and a Mafia researcher who specializes in the subject of mob trials and mob lawyers. He has also traveled to the United States and visited mob-related sites in New York, Chicago, and Las Vegas.
Subscribe to the Podcast for a new gangster story every week.
Support the Podcast.
Hit me up on Venmo for a cup of coffee or a shot and a beer @ganglandwire
Click here to “buy me a cup of coffee”
To go to the store or make a donation or rent Ballot Theft: Burglary, Murder, Coverup click here
To rent Brothers against Brothers, the documentary, click here.
To rent Gangland Wire, the documentary, click here
To buy my Kindle book, Leaving Vegas: The True Story of How FBI Wiretaps Ended Mob Domination of Las Vegas Casinos.
Tony Taourk, GARY JENKINS
GARY JENKINS 00:00
Well welcome all you Wiretappers. I’m back here in studio Gangland Wire with our good friend from Down Under Tony Taourk. Tony. Welcome.
Tony Taourk 00:09
Glad to be here.
GARY JENKINS 00:11
All right, Tony. It’s good to have you and I understand that it’s winter down there while it’s summer here. Always seems kinda weird. I’m talking to a dude in Australia sit there in Kansas City.
Tony Taourk 00:23
Live Yes. Match up courtesy,
GARY JENKINS 00:27
magic of the inner that this morning down there just before you go to work in your office. And it’s evening here just as I’m getting ready to get off. Yeah. Anyhow, so we’re gonna talk about Bruce Cutler, guys. You know, Tony is our expert on mob lawyers. And we’ve done Frank Ragano and Roy Cohn. And we do another one or just those two. Oscar Goodman, Oscar, Oscar Goodman. How could I forget Oscar Goodman, the guy that cross examined me and Oscar Goodman. So we’ve been fun shows are fun stories. And nobody really talks about in these other podcasts out here. I don’t see him talking about the mob lawyers. And they play an important part in Bob history, a huge part in mob history. And somebody policemen always think that they’re part of the mob now Bruce Cutler, he, he may have been he actually was kicked off a case because and I’ll let Tony go into that he knows more about that than I do. But Bruce Cutler it was famous because of John Gotti. And he was and he played the cameras too. And he played doing like an audience in the theater all the time, too. So Tony, tell us a little bit about how Bruce Cutler got his start.
Tony Taourk 01:42
Well, Bruce was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1948. So his father was a Police Officer turned lawyer. That sounds familiar.
GARY JENKINS 01:50
Tony Taourk 01:54
He went to Hamilton College in Brooklyn, poly prep, where he had been an aggressive linesman on the football team and a champion wrestler which kind of explains his pagination civic courtroom style, which I’m gonna go into later. He graduated from Brooklyn Law School in 1974. He worked as a trial attorney with the Brooklyn da from 1974 to 1981. And then he joined private practice with Barry Slotnick. He went towards Barry Slotnick. Now bearish last week’s bearish topics famous small representative representing Bernie gets the vigilante subway shooter in the 1980s is one of the premier criminal defense lawyers in New York. And now, Heartland met John Gotti early 1985 while he was working for Slotnick, and in April 1986, Gotti went on trial for in Brooklyn, on racketeering charges bought by a zealous prosecutor. Now between the time that Cutler met Gotti and the currency of the trial in early 1986, Gotti had ascended to become the head of the Gambino crime family after the basic murder of Paul Castellano in front of Spark’s Steakhouse in late 1985. We all know about that. So Cutler was now representing possibly the most powerful, gangster in the United States. Well, he was definitely the most powerful New York, possibly the US. The racketeering trial and Brooklyn was very highly publicized not only because of God, His high profile, but also because of a blessed tenacious and controversial defense that turned the trial into an absolute circus. And this bait made Bruce Caitlyn almost as famous as his client during the trial. Now, Cutler had a powerful courtroom presence, because he had this bulky physique and he wore expensive double breasted suits, similar to those worn by his client. But what made him stand out the most was his theatrical, loud and unconventional behavior in the courtroom that you were talking about before. Now, in his opening statement, in this particular trial, Cutler viciously attacked the government, and then he picked up a copy of the indictment. He held it up high and then he compared it to a stew made from bad meat and vegetables, and it hosted into the trash basket in full view of the jury. Their eyeballs nearly popped out. It was like purely theatrical, and let everyone stand in the courtroom. No one’s seen that before. Now the government called 78 witnesses, most of them had unsavory pasts, as you’d expect in a mock trial. And he was especially brutal in his cross examination of these witnesses to the point where tabloids in New York called the Bruceafixtions, Cutler was like a cat playing with a mouse bullied, assaulted, recruit the witnesses one by one. For example, He had one witness admit to pistol whipping a priest in killing three drug dealers after making the deal with the government to testify against Gotti you can imagine how that went down with the jury. Oh, yeah, Cutler will also influence the jury with all these awkward questions. For instance, he accused one witness of photographing other men committing forcible sex acts on his wife. Now the witness denied it. But the damage was done because the jury just can’t unhear something that would happen again and again and again. During the trial, the prosecution would strenuously object questions and asked them to be stricken from the record, but they can’t be as easily stricken from the jurors minds. This brash, unconventional style of defense really did into Gotti and the other mobsters because it mirrored the tough guy image but it really angered the judge and the prosecutor. Things are out of control in that courtroom. Now, Cutler wasn’t content. To just go off to the witnesses, he went off to the prosecutor as well. He insinuated that the prosecutor had been arranging for witness to obtain drugs and prescriptions for codeine, Valium, and she offered her underwear to witness as a reward for his testimony. Now, even though that probably wasn’t true, it really rattled this prosecutor and really threw her off balance. Ultimately, the jury pleaded guilty in this particular trial. It later emerged that one of the jurors had been bribed, but it doesn’t appear that Cutler had anything to do with that. Cutler emerged as somewhat of a celebrity after the enormous publicity generated by this trial, but he was only getting started. There was a lot more to come. In 1990, John Gotti was able to answer assault and conspiracy charges. prosecutors contended the Gotti commissioned the Westies again from health care that are scanned from Hell’s Kitchen to shoot a union official called John O’Connor. After reordered the trashing of a Gambino affiliated restaurant in downtown Manhattan, in some kind of a union dispute using non union labor or something to that upset. Now the prosecution played tapes to the jury in which Gotti and his co conspirators could be he could be heard, barring the assault on a corner, you could hear something to the effect of Gotti saying bust him up and giving them a given an address. Now Cutler called the case of modern day vendetta or persecution or witch hunt, and he challenged the validity of the tapes. Now, he had the principal investigator admit under cross examination, that the tapes was so garbled that he had to listen to them up to 30 times before managing to create a transcript for the court. He succeeded in shaking confidence in the tapes that were obviously of poor quality as most bugs are. And he argued the prosecution had rewritten the transcripts to fill the government’s theory of the case. Color the most of the credibility of the prosecution witnesses who consisted of ex mobsters would make who’d made sweetheart deals with the government in return for their testimony. As usual, we’ve had them read right there fast criminal credentials in front of the jury and made them look like the absolute scum of the earth. He had one witness admit under cross examination, that he signed the deal with the government to testify against Gotti after suffering the misery of 17 months in solitary confinement. In other words, the government coerced him into testifying now. Gotti was acquitted, was a stunning victory. That’s when he started to the de mer Teflon gone. But the government was a bit wasn’t about to give up in late 1990, got him to get indicted for racketeering and a whole slew of other crimes. However, to everyone’s surprise, the presiding judge took the unusual step of removing Cutler as Gotti’s defense counsel. After the prosecutors labeled Cutler and a few other lawyers on the case, House Counsel to the Gambino crime family. Now the rationale was that Cutler could be called as a witness so he could probably represent his quiet it’s worth noting that in the end, Cutler wasn’t called to testify in the trial. It’s likely that the prosecutors the obviously despised him. Just found a way to conveniently get rid of him. Cutler was very angry. As we know it’s very outspoken. It was later found guilty you violated and federal judges gag order preventing defense attorneys and prosecutors from talking to reporters about the trial and he was reprimanded penalties by the Bar Association in New York. I think he was suspended for a period. Now in that particular trial, but the big gaudy trial had been 1992. He was replaced by my anti base. Defense Attorney Albert Krieger, as we know, in 1992, Gotti was convicted and sentenced to prison. Now the question, the big question is, and maybe you can weigh on weigh in on this was Gotti disadvantaged by the fact that Cutler was no longer representative? I think he was. Now even though Albert Krieger was an excellent defense attorney, one of the best in the country, he generally played by the rules and rarely punished below the belt. Like cotton, the truth of the matter is countless bullying, ridiculing and insulting of witnesses was effective. Now. It’s not what they teach in law school, but it’s true. It’s true, oh, these tactics don’t work or what these tactics don’t work all the time. For instance, when Bruce Cutler was representing music producer feels better in his murder trial in Los Angeles in 2007. These tactics didn’t work as well as they did in these mock trials in New York, because I think juries are less sympathetic to a mobster informant who gets savaged in the witness box, as opposed to say an eyewitness or a sexual assault victim. Also, a lot of judges just don’t tolerate those kind of theatrical displays in the courtroom. Now, apart from some high profile trolls here in the Talon never really gave me that kind of info the infamy and publicity that he had during the years that he represents Gotti in the early 1990s. Apparently, he represents a member of the Chicago outfit. You know a bit more about that, Gary?
GARY JENKINS 12:22
Yeah, yeah, he did. Yeah, it’s kind of interesting. And Bruce Cutler, you asked about that? Would he have been as effective, more effective than the lawyer that God he got, you know, he was a master, at discrediting these witnesses. And he would, he would go after him. And I’ll tell you a little bit about some quotes from what he did in Chicago. But that in mob guys, the people that testify against them, the ones that make sense out of the tapes that make sense out of the other evidence, is that you got to have a storyteller, you got to have somebody that that verifies that you know that that was his voice on the tape. And yeah, this is what he meant when he said that, otherwise, you’re not gonna get it and they had Sammy the bull Gravano. That would bet a pretty big fear. It’s a pretty high bar to get through. Because bravado was pretty unshakable. So it would have been, it would have been harder if anybody could have shaken he might have been color because color they were all the bodies were buried, of course, then Sammy had about 18 of them out there I think that he admitted to but that would have been a really interesting confrontation in the courtroom, Sammy the bull and Bruce Cutler, because they would have known each other because he that’s how did he get in trouble? Then they pick him up on a wire at Gotti social club or some and that was one of the reasons that they said he was too close and was going to be a witness because they had him on a wire.
Tony Taourk 13:53
Yes, Gotti was caught on caught in a bug saying that he complained about Cutler legal fees and how they’re too high. And he also said something to the effect that he was paid in cash under the table.
GARY JENKINS 14:09
Okay, I knew somehow there’s something on a wire that discredited Cutler that would made him maybe part of it. So anyhow, but that would have been a classic confrontation. Bruce Cutler and Sammy the bull Gravano Mr. Ghul if he could have kept his cool with Bruce Cutler, he might have been alright, but that was Cutler saying now you know, and Chicago is my understanding. Now we No, you know, you never know for sure. But it’s my understanding that they did get hold of Gotti and asked permission to hire color which kind of comports with some things I saw out of Kansas City they realized that they needed to call Chicago and see if they could talk to lefty Rosenthal, for example directly so have you gotten or would have been owned by five families or by god he just like lefty Rosenthal was owned by Chicago. So everybody knows that protocol naked they would have got hold of Gaudi and ask permission in the heart him and a guy that he that hired him was Sal D’Laurentis, so they call him Solly D he will go on to be the I think he’s the supposedly the head of the outfit today. This This crowd is a good ship lollipop trial it was a crew primarily of I believe a Wings Carlisi and a couple other guys that camera Oh Rocky Infelice and and these guys were loan sharks and gamblers. And they were extorting money from bookies, and the bookie wouldn’t pay and they set what I’m up to be murdered. Now if you guys want to go back, I’ve got that whole story. It’s the trial of Bobby Salerno is that title I believe of the podcast episode idea. So you could you can hear all about that trial, but we didn’t really talk about Bruce Cutler that this guy got ahold of that guy who helped me out with that, who attended that Good Ship lollipop. He just said, you know, he was just fully histrionics and, and wasn’t he didn’t think he was really that effective, because he was just all over the place and, and I looked up some more information about it and, and this guy told me that the judge had to admonish him several times, many times over almost ready, like, you know, hit him with contempt before the end of the trial, and he called there’s an article in the paper there he called the the main witness a guy named BJ Jahoda who buried them all. He called him a fFink and a Rat and all that kind of stuff. Just tore into him said he was a swindler and you know no good and and he just that was what he was noted for was ripping these mob and formers mob turncoats apart which is pretty easy to do. The prosecutor, a guy named Mitch Mars with Mr. Professional but but he did accuse Cutler to the judge or in front of the judge that he’s just playing to an audience out here. He’s not really doing legal work. And as you know, you know, being a good lawyer is really not about yelling and trying to intimidate people. It’s more about knowing the law and asking questions that trick trip people up a little bit not just yelling at them. So you know, I don’t know everybody’s got it works, I guess for some people, but it didn’t work in Chicago, because they all got convicted. And you know, in his closing arguments, here’s what he did is a coup de gras is real over the top kind of thing. He there’s an American flag and ever courtroom right. Probably got an Australian flag in your courtrooms. So he goes the American flag and he almost wraps himself to the American flag. And he says these, these prosecution witnesses have stained our flag with their perjury during this trial. So pretty Oh, good job, but it was they all got convicted, but then I guess they got their money’s worth off. So this guy that attended to trial said that he got to know some of Bobby Salerno, for example. He got to know some of the defendants just by talking to him. They were they were out on bond and, and they were not real happy with Bruce Cutler. They just thought he was a would just got a blustery New Yorker that, that especially you know, nobody likes her lawyer when they get convicted. Anyhow, it’s kind of like being a divorce lawyer, your client or the other the opposing party doesn’t like you by the it’s and I was in Chicago experience.
Tony Taourk 18:32
And just to corroborate, saying, hey, in 2006 he represented former NYPD detective Luis Eppolito, who was charged with or carried out at least eight contract killings for the rally unwanted know, over two decades and epilator was sentenced to life in prison, and he accused Cutler of botching his case. Also, as I mentioned before, when he represented Phil Spector, he kept bumping heads with Phil Spector in his theatrical he kept getting reprimanded by the judge for his theatrical displays in the Los Angeles courtroom. So as I said, it probably works in web trolls. But it doesn’t work with all trials and probably only works in mob trials, New York maybe maybe some judges yes don’t tolerate that in other states. Yeah, and it wasn’t as different other trials that he did definitely.
GARY JENKINS 19:29
In mob trials the people that they’re trying to discredit are easy to discredit. They’ve already got this litany of things that you explained about why the core Sammy the bull and why I’ve loved and seen Him go up against Sammy the bull that were one heck of a battle in the courtroom. If he could rattle Sammy the Bull and discredit him in front of the jury. But yeah, you know how the prosecutors do they what they do, guys if you don’t know this, and Tony knows this, what they do, is they bring out their witness and then they lead that witness. Slowly and surely step by step through every crime they’ve ever committed that could ever come up. That’s why when they go into witness protection and the other testify, they, the deal is if you want to, you want our protection, you have to admit every crime you’ve ever done. Because if they don’t catch one, and then the prosecution brings it up during the trial, then you know, once a liar, always a liar. So that’s Yeah, they’re pretty smart with that.
Tony Taourk 20:34
You don’t hear much about him these days. Well, he’s probably 75 years old, horribly retired.
GARY JENKINS 20:40
I haven’t seen I couldn’t find anything online about him currently, and I haven’t seen anything about him. You don’t you know, he was he was in all the when he was the Teflon Don’s lawyer. The man that got the Teflon Don off he was in you know, look lifetime all the magazines all the newspapers, he was all over the place. Yeah. Yeah. But he was such a flamboyant character then New York’s being the center of the world they get you’re gonna get a publicity you’re gonna get if you do anything in New York, you’re gonna get national publicity. And that’s, that’s where it was after wonder what kind of guy he is in his older age. I bet you wouldn’t want to get in a traffic accident. He might, but you wouldn’t want to have have a road rage incident with Bruce Cutler.
Tony Taourk 21:30
Speaking of which, he was in the New York tabloids in 2013. Apparently it punched a guy in the face. Yeah, they had had him. I don’t know if you
GARY JENKINS 21:38
heard about it there but that that doesn’t surprise me he’s been he’s that guy. That guy!
Tony Taourk 21:44
Yeah, that’s what they reported. I saw an article about that. There wasn’t much else about it.
GARY JENKINS 21:49
Interesting. Wow, this has been great. Tony, I really appreciate you helping out with these mob lawyers. We’ve got some more to go through. And we will we’ll keep working on these until we get them all that. Is it. Barry Slotnick? He’s not so flamboyant. But he was a good lawyer. He was he was one of the commission trial. I can’t remember which would be I can’t remember which one it was. But he represented one of the bosses in the commission trial. I know that.
Tony Taourk 22:20
I’m not sure which one but I know he represents a joke on bone. Maybe this was this was before the commission trial. And yeah, he represented his name always comes up but I’m not sure specifically which trial which Mopsy represented.
GARY JENKINS 22:37
I just I saw I was doing a research on the commission trial and he was, you know, doing some kind of a press release or talking to some newspaper people but I think it was about at is it Anthony Spero. Oh, gosh. Yeah, Anthony Spero maybe it was him. But anyhow, so he’s gonna keep back this, Tony. So I appreciate you guys all tuning in. I got anything else to add there, Tony.
Tony Taourk 23:07
You’re pretty much it.
GARY JENKINS 23:09
I hope by now you’ve heard my six part series on Jimmy Chagra and the murder of Judge Wood down in El Paso, Texas. That was I was quite a trek. I went on with that. It took me several months to get that one. There was it’s a heck of a story. And if you haven’t heard that, go back and listen to all six episodes. It’s quite a story I’ve got, I was able to interview one of the guys who was one of the smugglers was took part in one of the biggest smuggling operations that Jimmy Chagra did, where they took a whole freighter of Colombian marijuana that find Colombian marijuana up to Boston, Massachusetts coastline off of Massachusetts and empty that out and he was part of that. Then I was able to interview another guy who was an expert on Charles Harrelson, the father of Woody Harrelson, the famous actor, and he had he had a lot of insights into Charles Harrelson in his life, which was one hell of a life that guy was was one stone cold killer. So don’t forget, I ride motorcycles. So watch out for motorcycles when you’re out there on the streets. And if you got a problem with PTSD, be sure and if you’ve been in the service, be sure and get to the VA website. And if you’re not by the service, why you can find some help. Some were a few have a problem with drugs or alcohol, which is usually part of PTSD. Why again, our friend Anthony ruggiano, he’s got a he’s a drug and alcohol counselor down in Florida. And he’s got a hotline on his website, I think is Anthony ruggiano.com. And he’s on Facebook to our on YouTube. So just search for Anthony ruggiano and you’ll see his Facebook page also. So thanks a lot, Tony. Thanks a lot guys.