Twenty-five years ago today in a Federal courthouse in Brooklyn, former mob boss John Gotti received his sentencing for a laundry list of crimes he had committed.
Gotti, the head of the Gambino crime family and the inspiration for many mob characters played on TV and in movies, would spend the remainder of his life in prison. No chance for parole.
The New York Times reported his response: “Still defiant, John Gotti stood up and smiled, saying nothing, as he was sentenced yesterday to spend the rest of his life in prison.”
Frank Locascio, Gotti’s accomplice–his “underboss”–received the same sentence. Locascio was more loquacious in his final words to the court:
“First, I would like to say emphatically that I am innocent,” Mr. Locascio declared in loud, firm voice, denying each charge against him. “I am guilty though,” he added, “I am guilty of being a good friend of John Gotti. And if there were more men like John Gotti on this earth, we would have a better country.”
Needless to say, the judicial process did not humble these men.
In 2002, Gotti died of throat cancer while incarcerated in Missouri. Locascio remains in Federal prison in Massachusetts.
Gotti once said, “I never lie …because I don’t fear anyone. You only lie when you’re afraid.”
Such haughty confidence and brash boldness may roll off the tongue in this world, but in eternity all our tongues will be properly chaste. Human judges can only do so much in the dispensation of justice. But thank God, literally, that human justice is never the final verdict.
The Apostle Paul wrote: “But For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)
Even when people escape the arm of the law here on earth, never paying any penalty for their crimes, one day they will take their final breath and wake up in eternity.
“And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:27-28)
Now, the amazing thing about these verses and about “the gospel” (the good news) is that even mobsters can find grace and forgiveness through Jesus Christ. These verses speak of both judgment and the grace of forgiveness.
Such forgiveness requires faith in Christ and repentance from sin–a turning away in sorrow from the sin.
There’s no evidence that Gotti turned to God while in prison. Nor Locascio, as of yet.
Unlike a human judge, God can change the heart of a murderous mobster. Which is to remind us that God can even change the rebellious hearts of respectable, non-incarcerated sinners like the majority of us walking around today.
Many paths lead to hell, but only Christ makes us right with God.