Organized Crime: John Gotti, an American Mobster


John Gotti was an American mobster and also leader of the ‘Gambino Crime Family’. He came to be known widely because of his frank personality and showy style that made him a placard child for the mobsters, a representation that still exists now. He was born in New York in the month of October in the year 1940.

At the time he was still a young boy he had a bad temper and hated those people who seemed luckier than him in terms of being financially stable. Interestingly, instead of John Gotti trying to improve his status in a generally acceptable manner by the society, he resorted to taking the way the mobsters he had seen in his neighborhood take since he had drawn inspiration from them.

John Gotti together with his brothers joined the local street gang that helped in some small tasks for the local ‘wiseguys’. His focus became much inclined towards acquiring education from the street rather than from school. He became very much reluctant in attending school and even not within a very long term dropped out of school and joined a local teenage gang called Fulton-Rockaway Boys. The gang engaged in stealing automobiles and in rolling drunks (Anonymous, Not Dated. John Gotti. Serial Killer Calendar). This marked the initial steps in to his long journey in the life of crime. John Gotti died in the year 2002 of cancer. At that time, he was serving a life sentence in prison. His life sentence followed being proved guilty by the court of law on thirteen charges of murder, racketeering, obstruction justice, illegal gambling, evading tax, loansharking and he was also charged with his participation in the murdering of Castellano formerly the boss of “Gambino Crime Family” and Thomas Billoti. According to (Anonymous, 2008, John Gotti: Former Godfather), John Gotti was the last main mafia bosses to die. Currently, the Gambino Crime family is said to be under his son by the name John Gotti, Jr.

Theories of criminal Development

There are several theories set up by various people about criminal development. These theories try to describe the possible causes of an individual developing a criminal mind and consequently participating in criminal activities. Some of the theories discussed in this paper are those created by people like Merton and Sutherland.

Merton’s Strain Theory

The basis of this theory is that crime thrives in the space, disparity, or dysjunction between aspirations stimulated by culture in order to succeed economically and the capabilities to achieve that are distributed structurally. This theory makes an assumption that the aspirations for economic success is fairly uniform across social class and the theory then goes ahead to give an explanation as to why crime is mostly traced in the lower classes who possess the lowest genuine chances of having achievements (O’Connor, 2007). According to Walters (1992), a society instills inspirations in its people for upward or forward movement and a desire to realize some set goals. But whenever the legitimate means to achieving these goals seem barred, then at this point strain sets in which in turn acts as a driving force to bring about the violation of the law in order to realize these goals. In this case, he also concurs that Merton viewed the people in the lower class as being the most prone to this situation. Lista (2009). reports Merton’s view that when accepted norms in society puts much pressure on individuals, they will have either to work in conformity with the structure the society has created or resort to becoming members of the rebellious groups or subculture.

This theory very much relates to the development of John Gotti’s criminal life. According to (Anonymous, n.d., John Gotti; Serial Killer Calendar), while John Gotti was still a young boy, he was quick tempered and hated those who were financially successful than him. He showed his dissatisfaction with the formal education as a legitimate way of acquiring success in life. He resorted to joining the street gang and started engaging in criminal activities. His dissatisfaction with the legitimate ways of attaining success was also indicated at the point in time when after being released from prison and asked to find a legitimate job to do, he was able to secure a place in his stepfather’s construction company but interesting enough, he never did the work but still could manage to get payment from the company (Anonymous, n.d. John Gotti; Serial Killer Calendar). There are so many illustrations of how John Gotti refused to live without breaking the law as he pursued his goals.

Sutherland’s Differential Association Theory

According to this theory, Sutherland proposed that criminal conduct is learned in the process of associating with others particularly those of the same age group. Thus, an individual exposed to an “excess of definitions encouraging violations of the law and an absence of definitions discouraging social violations would be anticipated to resort to criminal solutions to their problems.” This theory can be summarized as follows: a) Just like any other behavior, crime is acquired through learning. B) Criminal conduct is learned through close association with those people who most often commit crime. C) The criminal outcomes depend on the rate of recurrence, strength, duration and main concern of these associations. D) Cultural clash subserve differential association development. E) Differences among people are only important to the point that they impact on one’s associations. According to this theory, differential association does not only involve the learning of the criminal tactics and strategies but involves learning of drives, motives, attitudes, and justifications that are inclined towards violation of the law (Orcutt, 2002).

This theory is as well quite relevant to the development of John Gotti’s criminal life. For instance; John Gotti dropped out of school and joined the street gang where they started to run errands for the “Wiseguys”. It did not take long before he started participating in criminal activities such as stealing automobiles which turned out to be a starting point of his long term participation in crime. However, unlike in the Merton’s theory, this theory does not give the original cause of one making a decision to join an association or gang from which he can learn about crime and the subsequent involvement in criminal activities.

Gang Types

Carlie (2002) suggests that there are several kinds of gangs in the United States of America among other parts of the world. These gangs may be put into categories basing on various factors among them being their level of organization, location, longevity and mode of transportation e.g. biker gangs, and car clubs.

According to Smith (2006), Joreme Skolnmick made an identification of two types of gangs; namely, cultural gangs and entrepreneurial gangs. The cultural gangs are those that are based in specific areas and may be aggressively occupied in many different criminal behaviors. On the other hand, entrepreneurial gangs are those gangs that exist with an objective of acquiring wealth by means of involvement in criminal activities like dealing in narcotics through manufacturing and distributing these commodities.

An example of the cultural gang is the “Gangster Disciples”. This is a gang based in Chicago. This gang qualifies to be classified as a cultural gang since the members have one basic cultural background. Even if they have so far extended their operations in to other locations, their line is still neighborhood based.


Anonymous. (2008). John Gotti: Former Godfather. Web.

Anonymous. (n.d.). John Gotti. Serial Killer Calendar. 2009. Web.

Carlie, M. (2002). Kinds and names of Gangs. Web.

Lista, P. (2009). Robert Merton and the Deviant Behavior. Web.

O’Connor, T. (2007). Strain Theories of Crime. Web.

Orcutt, J. D. (2002). Sutherlands Differential Association Theory. Web.

Smith, N. M. (2006). Skolnick’s Gang Types. Web.

Walters, G. D. (1992). Foundations of Criminal Science: The development of knowledge Volume 1. Green Publishing Group. ISBN 0275941280, 9780275941284 pp 219. Web.