The Mobster Who Could Bring Down the Mob

Phil Leonetti went from Mafia hit man to Government witness. His next victim may be John Gotti.

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  1. You have to see Philip Leonetti in action to appreciate why so many people would like to kill him. This Atlantic City gangster with the movie-star looks, who has been testifying with deadpan sincerity about his once-beloved Mafia, makes one deadly witness.

    At racketeering trials in Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New York, Leonetti, possibly the most damaging Mafia informant since Joseph Valachi, has been detailing the grim pastimes of the underworld with a spellbinding nonchalance, speaking carefully in a voice just this side of high-pitched. Emotionally detached, impeccably groomed, he rocks forward in his seat, making eye contact with the jury and exuding the shy respectfulness of the nice Catholic schoolboy he once was. Leonetti, hands clasped, elbows resting on the witness-box ledge, comes across as a man with nothing to hide—he wants to be understood. It's this understated prowess that makes him so dangerous, and so endangered, as he warms up for the main event—the coming murder and racketeering trial of John Gotti.

    The "Teflon Don" has been tried and acquitted three times in five years, swaggering in and out of courtrooms in his florid silk ties and monogrammed see-through socks, bantering with the press and taunting prosecutors. But this time, the Feds claim to have flawless tape recordings from bugged mob clubhouses. And this time they have Leonetti, once "the under," or underboss, of the Philadelphia-South Jersey family, now one of the highest-ranking gangsters in ...