By George Anastasia
It could be a tale of the tapes, and that might not be a good thing for the defense.
Jurors started their fifth day of deliberations in the racketeering conspiracy retrial of mob boss Joe Ligambi and his nephew George Borgesi by asking to hear replays of several tapes introduced by the prosecution during the eight-week trial.
And they ended the day by asking to hear a half dozen more.
The panel of 11 women and one man is due to resume deliberations at 9:30 tomorrow morning. Whether they have overcome the impasse cited in a jury note on Monday remains an open question.
What does appear clear is that the panel is working.
Most of the tapes played today were used by the prosecution to support the conspiracy charge that is at the heart of the case.
But the panel also asked to rehear a now infamous tape picked up on a Pennsylvania State Police wiretap in the late 1990s in which Borgesi is heard boasting and cackling about how he beat up and knocked out mob associate Angelo Lutz.
While that tape has little, if anything, to do with the conspiracy charge Borgesi, 50, is fighting, it was used by the prosecution to show the jury what authorities allege is Borgesi's arrogant and violent nature. The tape was first played in the 2001 racketeering trial in which Borgesi, Lutz, Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino and four others were convicted.
It was reprised and played again in the first Ligambi trial last year. Four defendants were convicted in that case, one was acquitted and the jury hung on charges against Ligambi and Borgesi, setting up the retrial that began in November.
The other tapes the jury asked to hear today focused on the charges against Ligambi. The prosecution alleges that "Uncle Joe" oversaw an organized crime gambling and loansharking operations. Government expert witnesses testified that money is routinely "kicked up" to the boss in a crime family.
While there was little evidence linking Ligambi, 74, directly to any criminal activity, there were tapes in which his role was mentioned.
On one tape replayed for the jury today bookmaker Gary Battaglini, who was convicted in the first Ligambi trial, is heard telling a deadbeat gambler that the money he owes goes to "Uncle Joe." On the same tape, Battaglini says that Ligambi doesn't care about anything, "he just wants his money."
The defense could take some solace, however, in another tape in which Joseph "Scoops" Licata, the only defendant acquitted in the first trial, is heard praising Ligambi as a boss who never asks for anything. Earlier in the same tape, recorded at a North Jersey restaurant, Licata introduced Ligambi to several New York mobsters as "acting boss" of the Philadelphia mob.
In tapes played at the end of today's session, the jury heard Michael Orlando, who was wearing a wire and cooperating with the FBI, discussing his gambling debts with mobster Damion Canalichio and, on another tape, with mob underboss Joseph "Mousie" Massimino. Canalichio and Massimino were also convicted in the first trial.
The defense has portrayed Orlando as a drug addicted degenerate gambler and less than credible witness. The conversations played today centered on debts of about $9,000 that Orlando owed to various mob figures.
The defense contends Orlando used the FBI to pay off some of those debts and then hid behind the protection of the federal government to avoid paying the rest.
In a discussion with Canalichio, Orlando explained how he was having trouble coming up with the money he owed. Canalichio, in reply, said, "It's not my money," adding that it was Ligambi's.
"It's Uncle Joe's?" Orlando asked nervously.
On another tape, however, Canalichio refers to "Stevie's money," an apparent reference to mob capo Steven Mazzone. The defense has argued repeatedly that many of the debts discussed on tapes played for the jury were money owed to Mazzone, not Ligambi.
The prosecution, however, says that as boss Ligambi had a piece of everyone's action.
That could be the question the anonymously selected jury was wrestling with as it headed home after its fifth day of deliberations.
George Anastasia can be contacted at George@bigtrial.net.