Gotti's son on fourth trial for racketeering

John "Junior" Gotti has left a trail of victims in his wake, a prosecutor said yesterday during opening arguments at his fourth racketeering trial.

The son of the Mafia boss John Gotti is accused of ordering the killings of two drug dealers during a three-decade crime career that included extortion, drug dealing and kidnapping.

Just before the trial began, the judge announced that seven jurors had made a last-minute appeal to be dismissed. The reasons were not disclosed. They were sworn in anyway.

Mr Gotti, 45, is facing a prosecution backed up by a self-described "rat". And like his father – whose reputation for beating prosecutions earned him the nickname "Teflon Don" – the son already knows his way around a courtroom. He has been tried three times on charges that he plotted to kidnap Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels crime-fighting group. All the trials ended in hung juries and mistrials after Mr Gotti used the defence that he had quit the mob for good in the 1990s.

This time, along with the Sliwa plot, Mr Gotti has denied charges that he was involved in three gangland killings and that he trafficked cocaine.

"Here I am again," Mr Gotti said last week when introducing himself to prospective jurors.

The elder Gotti was sentenced to life in prison in 1992. He died in jail in 2002.

Lawyers for his son were again expected to try to persuade jurors that their client had gone straight. They also have accused the government of relying on Mafia turncoats who have lied about their client to protect themselves.

Prosecutors will roll out a new star witness named John Alite, a former friend of Mr Gotti who says he passed drugs profits to Mr Gotti and that Mr Gotti ordered him to kill an associate who had ignored one of his father's orders. Mr Alite said he tried to track the target down but was pulled off the job when Mr Gotti changed plans. Prosecutors say another mobster gunned down the victim in 1990.

Mr Alite has also implicated Mr Gotti in the other two killings during drugs racket territorial disputes.