Gravano killed brother-in-law, defense attorney says N.Y. judge rules revelations were too inflammatory for Gotti mob jury to hear.


NEW YORK -- Turncoat underboss Salvatore "Sammy Bull" Gravano killed his brother-in-law, then attended a funeral "for the hand" because the victim was dismembered and other body parts were never found.

The chilling story was disclosed at the John Gotti trial yesterday by Anthony Cardinale, a lawyer for Gotti's co-defendant, but the jury never got to hear it because the judge ruled it too inflammatory.

The victim was Gravano's wife's 22-year-old brother, Nick Scibetta, who was murdered in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, in 1978. Gravano attended the funeral, where the casket included only the hand, Mr. Cardinale added.

Mr. Scibetta was the second of 19 men Gravano has confessed to killing.

Outside court, Gotti associates -- who have hired private investigators to probe Gravano's history -- said that "one arm" of Gravano's brother-in-law was found by the family dog and brought to the victim's father's house.

They also said that part of the motive for the murder was that Scibetta was gay. They said that Gravano's wife, Debra, from whom he is currently separated, did not know her husband was involved until recently.

In his plea agreement with the government, Gravano has admitted being involved in the murder, but no details emerged when rosecutors questioned him on the stand last week.

That was Mr. Cardinale's mission yesterday, but Brooklyn Federal Judge I. Leo Glasser limited cross-examination to the fact of the murder, not the gruesome details.

The judge also wouldn't let Gotti lawyer Albert Krieger ask about a jailhouse conversation Gravano had with Thomas Pitera, a Bonanno family mobster accused of nine murders in which most of the victims were dismembered.

Pitera allegedly told Gravano that the government offered him a plea bargain deal if he testified against Gotti. Pitera rejected the offer, and the government is now seeking the death penalty in his case.

Judge Glasser also forbade Mr. Cardinale from asking about alleged steroid use by Gravano, a small but powerfully built man who worked out with weights twice a day, according to former associates.

While lawyers argued the issue outside the jury's presence, Gotti stood, looked at reporters covering the trial, pointed toward Gravano and while mouthing the word "junk," plunged an imaginary syringe into his left arm.

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