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Line Forms Early To Watch Trial of Reputed Mob Boss

March 16, 1992

NEW YORK (AP) _ The toughest ticket in town isn’t a Broadway show, a game at Madison Square Garden or a concert at Radio City. It’s a story of greed and death set in Brooklyn and known as the John Gotti trial.

Just 32 passes are available to the public each day, and they’re not for sale. They go to the patient and determined; being out of work or self- employed doesn’t hurt.

The line for a peek into the underworld lifestyle portrayed in ″Goodfellas,″ ″The Godfather,″ and ″Once Upon A Time in America″ begins forming outside the federal courthouse at 4 a.m.

Some of the spectators are celebrities themselves, such as actor Mickey Rourke, who dropped in Monday to see the man he met several years ago while working on a film project.

″I was in the neighborhood so I stopped by,″ Rourke said. ″I do roles that are urban-type roles. He knows that stuff.″

Others are just ordinary people who must wait. A rabbinical student, a certified public accountant, a police officer, a bridge painter, a writer and some students were among those waiting outside one recent morning despite heavy rain and a temperature below 40 degrees.

Gotti and co-defendant Frank ″Frankie Locs″ Locascio are charged with crrimes including murder and racketeering. Prosecutors say Gotti ordered the murder of former mob boss Paul Castellano so he could take over the Gambino family, the nation’s most powerful Mafia organization.

″He’s the Al Capone of today,″ said Rose Johansson, a 26-year-old self- employed accountant. ″You don’t usually get to see something like this - a big bad guy, who has done so much to society, go down.″

The first 16 people on line get into the morning session; the second 16 are given passes that allow them to return for the afternoon session.

At 6:15 a.m., the wait got a little more comfortable - the line was admitted to a hallway the size of a basketball court. But a federal marshal warned the would-be spectators not to smoke, eat, drink, lie down or sit.

Johansson was one of the few people on line doing more than talking. She was doing tax returns.

Jerry Zappeti, a 39-year-old police officer from suburban Nassau County, said he enjoys the drama of the trial. He made sure that he got to the courthouse before 5 a.m. on each of the five days he attended.

″This is one of the hottest tickets in town. You’ve got more than 50 media people in there every day,″ Zappeti said. ″How often can a guy like me get into any event that so many people want to see?″

Zappeti said he always enjoys watching Gotti’s friends pass through the metal detector into the courthouse each morning.

″You can tell if they’re part of Gotti’s crew,″ Zappeti said. ″They wear silk suits, jewelry and have their hair slicked back. A wiseguy is not hard to spot.″

Israel Jacbowitz, 19, in the traditional black overcoat, black hat, and dangling side locks of a Hasidic Jew, was on a spring break from his studies the day he stopped to see the trial.

″A rabbinical student can’t go to a ball game or a movie. It would not look right,″ Jacbowitz said. ″But a rabbinical student can go to a court trial.″

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