With a Big Tony and a Little Tony on trial, a rat named Dwayne in the witness chair and a rotund stoolie called Pudgy waiting to testify, it was like the bad old days in the Broward County Courthouse last week.
Anthony Little Tony Ferrari, for one, was doing his best to remind Broward of its mobbed-up past, when the crime families wintered hereabouts like snowbirds, albeit snowbirds with slick suits, big caddies, nicknames and long rap sheets.
Rat, Little Tony Ferrari mouthed at Dwayne Nicholson during a break in the testimony last week. Nicholson, a security guard, bouncer and onetime thug debt collector (knee capper being the term of art) for Little Tony, was a key witness tying Ferrari and the other Tony, Anthony Moscatiello, to the murder conspiracy that took out Gus Boulis back in 2001.
Ferrari added an unkind scatological inference and sent defense lawyers into a tizzy. Were on dangerous, dangerous grounds here, warned David Bogenschutz, demanding (futilely) a separate trial lest the larger Tonys standing get sullied by the lessers deportment.
Off and on for two days, the lawyers worried over whether the word rat constituted a threat. As if that moment in a Fort Lauderdale courtroom might have been the first time that it occurred to Dwayne, hiding out from the mob for a dozen years now, that the two Tonys were displeased about him singing for the prosecution.
I need Gus killed, Nicholson testified, recalling the words of Big Tony back in 2000, when prosecutors claim the two Tonys were planning their hit. If the conversation got out, he said Moscatiello told him, Were going to deal with you.
A few weeks later, on Feb. 6, 2001, Gus Boulis was indeed gunned down at the wheel of his BMW on a Fort Lauderdale street. It was a murder that stunned South Florida. Boulis was the founder of the Miami Subs restaurant chain, though no one thought this killing had a thing to do with sandwich shops. Boulis had been in a bitter ownership feud with a wanna-be player named Adam Kidan and Washington, D.C.,-super-sleazy super lobbyist Jack Abramoff over their attempt to buy SunCruz, his fleet of gambling boats (The two of them later plead guilty in federal court, admitting they had defrauded Boulis and deceived the U.S. Government in the $147 million deal).
Kidan, who was not charged in the Boulis killing, is another crucial witness who lays blame for the murder on the two Tonys. Then comes Little Tonys onetime flunky, Pudgy, officially James Fiorillo, who has admitted his part in the shooting and has agreed (in return for a piddling sentence) to testify against Ferrari and Moscatiello.
But last week the show belonged to Dwayne Nicholson, who added to that certain courtroom aura with his splendid attire. On Thursday, Nicholson, pushing 275 pounds with a shaved head and no discernible neck, came to court in a black suit with a red dress shirt. For Friday, the big man wore a dazzling white suit with a matching vest.
He described his sticky dilemma back in late 2000, when the two Tonys Moscatiello had just flown into Fort Lauderdale by Leer Jet nominated him to take out Boulis, who they perceived as a threat to their lucrative deal with Kidan to provide security and other services for the SunCruz fleet. Dwayne told the jury that he didnt mind hurting Boulis. Hed break his legs even. But he drew the line at murder.