Mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi is apparently less than impressed with the government's evidence against him.
"This case is all bullshit," Ligambi said Thursday to several friends and family members who were seated in the second row of the courtroom.
Ligambi's comment came during a break and with the jury out of the courtroom. But his assessment, while not in legal terms, has been repeated privately by defense attorneys as the government continues to offer evidence and witnesses but, in the defense estimation, no smoking gun.
"It's like watching paint dry," one defense lawyer said of the two days of detailed and often esoteric testimony from an FBI gambling expert who provided the jury with an inside look at the sports betting and video poker businesses that prosecutors contend were major money-makers for the Ligambi organization.
It appeared as if several of the anonymously chosen jurors in the case might agree.
At least two seemed to be doodling in notebooks during Thursday's afternoon session. Several others were rocking back and forth in their seats and one female juror was constantly twisting her hair.
While they had clearly heard enough about the business of betting, what they have decided about the roles of Ligambi and the others in what prosecutors contend was a racketeering conspiracy remains to be seen.
More important, whether they agree with Ligambi's assessment of the case is a question that won't be answered for several more weeks.
The tentative schedule set up by U.S. District Court Judge Eduardo Robreno is to complete the evidence/testimony phase of the trial by Dec. 21. At that point, the judge plans to recess until Jan. 2 when the case will reconvene for closing arguments and jury deliberation.
The schedule is designed to avoid a potential rush to judgment in deliberations that could run up against the Christmas holiday season.
The trial is now in its sixth week of testimony.
But it appeared to bog down over the past two days as first the prosecution and then the defense labored over points made by James Dunlap, the FBI gambling expert. Dunlap was first questioned Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Labor and then cross-examined by Edwin Jacobs Jr., Ligambi's lawyer, and Margaret Grasso, the court-appointed attorney for Damion Canalichio.
The concept of "less is more" got lost in the process as Dunlap was asked to provide minute details about gambling records, terminology and the inner-workings of video poker machines.
Grasso's cross was aimed in part at portraying her client as a major gambler, but not a bookmaker, a position that Dunlap testified was contradicted by some tape recorded conversations that have been introduced as evidence.
Jacobs spent more than two hours grilling Dunlap on the video poker machine business, presenting the position that bars, restaurants and stores that offered the machines to customers might be in the gambling business, but that vendors -- those like his client who provided and distributed the machines -- were merely businessmen.
The overriding defense theme is that the racketeering conspiracy charged in the case does not exist. In effect, the defense contends, while there may be evidence of bookmaking, loansharking and gambling, the evidence does not overlap and does not show a broad conspiracy tying the defendants together in a criminal enterprise.
"This was a tremendous over-reach by the prosecution," one defense attorney has said on several occasions.
Whether the jury agrees will determine whether any of the defendants go free.
Dunlap's testimony, which was originally expected to take a few hours, was designed in part to set the stage for the next phase of the case; the evidence tying Ligambi, 73, and co-defendants Joseph Massimino, 62, and Anthony Staino, 54, to a highly lucrative video poker machine distribution buisness.
Thursday's session ended with Curt Arbitman, a South Philadelphia distributor of video poker machines, taking the stand. Arbitman, who appeared less than comfortable in his role as a government informant, was questioned for about 25 minutes before court adjourned for the day. He is scheduled back when the trial resumes Friday.
Arbitman, 55, has pleaded guilty to a racketering conspiracy charged tied to what the prosecution contends was the Ligambi organization's illegal video poker machine buisness.