|Bent Finger Lou (right) with Frankie the Fixer|
Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello didn't deny that he was cheating on his first wife.
But the mob associate said his business partner, Jack Palermo, was out of line when he told Monacello's wife about it. So he pistol-whipped him, hitting him over the head with the butt of a revolver.
And when another associate lied about $50,000 in gambling debts that he had secretly run up on Monacello, the martial arts trained wiseguy said he "gave him a little kick in the head."
He also acknowledged that he coached three other associates to lie to a Delaware County grand jury that was investigating him in 2008. And that he once told another deadbeat gambler that if he didn't come up with the money he owed, he would be "dead."
Monacello, testifying for the third day in the retrial of mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and his nephew George Borgesi, spent most of his time on the witness stand today in a verbal sparring match with Ligambi's lawyer, Edwin Jacobs Jr. What emerged was the life and times of Bent Finger Lou, tales of assaults with baseball bats, kicks in the head, gambling debts, extortions and shakedowns.
The cross-examination is expected to continue when the trial resumes tomorrow.
Monacello, 47, occasionally showed the flashes of bravado and arrogance that were the hallmarks of his testimony during the first trial -- "I'll get back to you on that," he smugly told Jacobs in response to a question that he couldn't answer. But for the most part he was matter-of-fact in his answers and in many cases got to retell the same incriminating stories about the defendants that he had told during a day and a half of direct testimony that ended earlier today.
"These are things that go on in the mob, we're criminals remember?" Monacello said in response to one question from the defense attorney. At another point he said that he had "general authorization" from Borgesi to conduct his often violent business affairs.
This came after Jacobs cited one threat or assault after another that Monacello had admitted to and each time asked if Borgesi had given him permission.
When it came to collecting gambling or loansharking money -- which he testified repeatedly he shared with Borgesi -- Monacello said he had permission to "do what I had to do."
Monacello's testimony, while potentially damaging to Jacobs' client, is the linchpin of the government's case against Borgesi. Borgesi's attorney, Christopher Warren, is expected to launch an equally pointed and caustic cross-examination sometime tomorrow.
Jacobs both directly and indirectly challenged Monacello's story, implying repeatedly that Monacello was running his own gambling and loansharking ring and using Borgesi's name and Ligambi's name to enhance his position in the underworld.
But Monacello stuck to the same story he told earlier on direct examination, that he was a mob associate and "point man" for Borgesi on the streets after Borgesi was jailed in 2000 in an unrelated racketeering case. He said that after Borgesi was convicted in 2001 he funneled money to the mobster, usually through his wife.
Jacobs used a tape made by Frank "Frankie the Fixer" DiGiacomo in January 2008 to underscore the point that Monacello knew that he could give up Borgesi and Ligambi to get out from under his own criminal problems.
DiGiacomo, a member of Monacello's street crew, was cooperating with the Pennsylvania State Police at the time and wearing a body wire. In one conversation about a then ongoing Delaware County investigation being conducted by state authorities, Monacello told DiGiacomo that authorities will try to "box" him in, leveling charges against him and then pressuring him "to tell us what you were doing with Georgie and the other guy."
Monacello said that he was referring to Borgesi and Ligambi. He said he turned down offers to cooperate in that case and turned government witness only after he was arrested on federal charges in the current case in May 2011.
At that point, he said, he believed he had been marked for death by Ligambi because he had clashed with mob capo Martin Angelina and had plotted to have Angelina beaten.
Throughout his testimony, Monacello has insisted that he was working for Borgesi and occasionally funneling money to Ligambi. And he said he had known "for years" that law enforcement was interested in building another case against Borgesi who, he said on the same tape, the government "had a hot nut for."
"They want to keep Georgie in jail," he said.
While DiGiacomo testified as a government witness in the first trial, he is not listed as a prosecution witness this time. During the first trial his testimony largely undermined Monacello. He told the jury that Monacello conducted most of his underworld activities for his own benefit and he described Borgesi, Ligambi and other defendants in that first case as "good guys."
The defense has said it will call DiGiacomo as a witness if the prosecution does not.
Monacello took several verbal potshots at DiGiacomo today, claiming he "owed the world money" and was not a good witness. He admitted, however, that DiGiacomo had made incriminating tapes that resulted in his arrest and conviction in Delaware County.
Monacello pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, gambling and perjury charges in the Delaware County case and pleaded guilty to plotting an assault on Angelina in a related case brought in Philadelphia. He was sentenced to a total of 23 months in prison and five years probation, serving a little more seven months in jail.
In coaching DiGiacomo to lie to the grand jury, Monacello admitted that he told him "it's only perjury if you get caught" and also coached him to answer "I don't remember" or "I don't know" when he didn't want to answer a question.
Jacobs hammered at that point every time Monacello used that response to a question he posed.
Moncello also acknowledged that not every act of violence was on behalf of the mob. His assault on Palermo in the basement of Gavone's, a bar-restaurant Monacello had opened at 10th and Wolf Streets, was personal, he said.
Moncello said he was separated at the time and had begun going out with other women.
He said he was cheating on his wife, but not with some of the women Palermo had named.
"He had no right to do that," Monacello said.
He also testified that while he kicked Justin Nastasi in the face over a $50,000 gambling debt, he was just trying to scare him.
"It was a check kick," said Monacello, who said he had a black belt in a form of Korean martial arts. "If I had kicked him I would have knocked him out or broken his jaw."
Nastasi, he said, paid the debt, adding that he later learned Nastasi's family had remortgaged their home to provide the cash.
Jacobs also questioned him on several other debts and money transactions and went into detail about a $6,400 dispute between DiGiacomo and an Angelina associate. Monacello admitted that he coached DiGiacomo to lie to Ligambi about some of the details.
When Jacobs asked if lying to a mob boss might result in death, Monacello replied that DiGiacomo was "not going to get killed for this."
"Because it's not that kind of mob," said Jacobs, who has argued repeatedly that Ligambi is not like the violent mob bosses who ruled in the 1980s and 1990s. Monacello quickly replied, "It's not that kind of lie."
Jacobs and Monacello clashed again over the details of a $30,000 debt that Monacello said he and a business partner were owed. Ligambi and Angelina settled the debt, he said, by taking $11,000 for themselves. Jacobs raised questions about the $19,000 discrepancy, pointing out that this was hardly a loanshark debt since no interest and less than half the principal were paid.
But Monacello said he considered the $11,000 paid to Ligambi and Angelina "a shakedown...what you call an extortion."
"I lent the money," Monacello said. "It wasn't their loan."
Monacello also admitted under cross-examination that he didn't like Borgesi, Ligambi or Borgesi's brother Anthony.
"At this point I'm just glad I'm away from them," he said.
But you don't like them, Jacobs persisted.
"No," Monacello replied.
"And when you don't like someone, there are consequences," Jacobs replied.
The defense is expected to argue that while Monacello could use the butt of a gun, a baseball bat or a martial arts kick to settle scores on the street, once he cut his deal with the government, the only way he could lash out at those he disliked was from the witness stand.
The question for the jury is whether Monacello is using lies or the truth to impose those consequences.
George Anastasia can be contacted at George@bigtrial.net.