Tuesday, December 31, 2013
"It's New Year's Eve," "Uncle Joe" Ligambi yelled at one of the feds. "What are you doing here? You should be getting ready for tonight's parties."
For a guy stuck in jail on the holidays, the boss of the Philadelphia mob was in surprisingly good spirits today.
The prosecution had wound up its case, and the defense was putting on its witnesses. They included a former car dealer who once sold Uncle Joe a Cadillac, and a gambling expert who tried to show that the people overheard on federal surveillance tapes were actually part of somebody else's bookmaking operation, and not Uncle Joe's.
It was a half-day for the mob trial on New Year's Eve, as the judge and lawyers in the case knocked off early, but not before they talked about scheduling. It looks like the defense will wind up its case on Thursday by calling "Frankie The Fixer" DiGiacomo, a former government witness.
At the first mob trial, DiGiacomo, a South Philly plumber and wannabe wise guy, sounded more like a defense witness last year when he described Uncle Joe and his co-defendants as "good people, great people." Frankie the Fixer also ripped fellow government witness "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello as somebody who "should have been dead a long time ago."
Judge Eduardo Robreno said he expected closing statements on Monday and Tuesday, and then, after the judge delivers his charge on Tuesday afternoon, the case will go to the jury.
Ligambi greeted the defense's first witness today, Patrick W. Ferraro, by telling him, "You look like a judge," and "I like that white on white shirt."
Ferraro is the father of Alyson Borgesi, the wife of George Borgesi, Ligambi's nephew and co-defendant.
Before court got started, Ligambi made small talk with the Ferraro, swapped jokes with the feds, and commiserated with his lawyer, Eddie Jacobs, about Jacobs' back problems.
The veteran defense lawyer has a herniated disc. He seems in obvious pain as he hobbled around on a cane, and stood while court was in session. But a back operation will have to wait until the mob trial is over.
Jacobs told Ligambi it was time to start interviewing surgeons. "I don't want to be walking around this in June," Jacobs told his client.
When Ferraro took the witness stand, he described how the FBI showed up at his former car dealership in Delaware County about ten years ago, looking for records of sales to Ligambi, Borgesi and Monacello. Ferraro said he told his employees to give the feds whatever records they wanted.
On cross-examination, Ferraro admitted he gave all three mobsters a discount. But hey, it was no big deal.
"I give everybody a discount," Ferraro told the prosecutor. "I was the only Cadillac dealership in Delaware County. Everyone came to us."
When defense lawyer Christopher Warren got another crack at Ferraro, he asked if there was anything crooked about those car deals a decade ago involving Ligambi, Borgesi and Monacello, he'd have probably heard about by now, right?
Objection, said the prosecutor.
Sustained, said the judge.
The next defense witness was Donald Fredericks, a mustachioed former Pennsylvania state trooper and private eye who's an expert on sports betting. As part of his role as a defense expert, Fredericks told the jury that he listened to some 3,000 government surveillance tapes.
Fredericks was asked to explain to the jury how a betting line works. He brought up Saturday night's playoff game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New Orleans Saints.
Right now, the Eagles are favored by two points, Fredericks told the jury.
"You want to bet on New Orleans? New Orleans already has two points," Fredericks explained.
Fredericks was quizzed about several wiretapped conversations involving Damion Canalichio, a former mob enforcer who was sentenced in July at the last mob trial to 137 months in prison after he was convicted for racketeering and conspiracy.
"I'm more into collections," Canalichio told an undercover FBI agent posing as a gambler on one surveillance tape, a transcript of which was displayed in court. "That's my thing."
"You pay your fucking debts," Canalichio was overheard telling a delinquent bettor. "You understand?"
The point seemed to be that Canalichio had said on another surveillance tape that "This is Stevie's money," referring to mobster Steve Mazzone, who's not charged in the case. And that any collecting Canalichio might have up to was not on behalf of Uncle Joe.
During a break, Ligambi quizzed one of the feds about some other local bookmaking action.
"You bet the Eagles?" Ligambi asked with a knowing smile about the home team's narrow two-point win last Sunday over the Cowboys.
The Eagles were favored by 6 1/2.
"It hurts," replied the fed.
Meanwhile, Borgesi was talking about lunch.
"The pizza," he said to Uncle Joe. "That's all I care about."
The judge told the jury they might have to call in on an inclement weather hotline on Thursday to see if court will go on as scheduled, in the face of a forecast calling for snow.
With that warning, and an admonition not to read any trial coverage in the media, the judge send the jury of 14 women and 2 men home for the holiday.
"See you Thursday at our regular time, God willing," the judge said. "And Happy New Year."