Broward courts

Courtroom scene in Gus Boulis slaying right out of ‘The Sopranos’

 

jbrown@MiamiHerald.com

There’s Big Tony and Little Tony, a hit man named Pudgy, and murder plots involving “long-assed drives” with wiseguys to the cow town of Venus, Fla.

The trial unfolding in Broward Circuit Court in the 2001 ambush slaying of Miami Subs tycoon Gus Boulis could be ripped straight from an episode of The Sopranos.

Calls for mistrials, an accused killer crying “rat” in the courtroom and the testimony of mob snitches has added to the trial’s suspense.

Monday brought yet another day of surprises as defense attorneys produced a box of newly discovered audio and video tapes containing evidence they claimed was withheld by Fort Lauderdale police.

Legal top gun David Bogenschutz argued for more than an hour to put the trial on hold so he could review all the tapes. He said he learned about the tapes’ existence only days ago.

Bogenschutz represents Anthony “Big Tony” Moscatiello, an alleged member of New York’s Gambino crime family charged with arranging Boulis’ murder.

Moscatiello and mob underling Anthony “Little Tony” Ferrari could face the death penalty if convicted.

After more than 12 years of delays, Broward Circuit Judge Ilona Holmes is presiding over the case.

On Monday, the 75 tapes — allegedly containing statements by witnesses pointing to other culprits in Boulis’ murder — took center stage. Bogenschutz and Ferrari’s lawyer, Chris Grillo, contended that prosecutors failed to turn over the tapes, as they were required to under discovery rules.

Assistant state attorneys Brian Cavanaugh and Gregg Rossman were clearly surprised by the tapes, but they convinced the judge that the tapes were listed on a slip of paper received by the defense team in 2006.

Cavanaugh, a veteran homicide prosecutor, admitted that the tapes themselves apparently were “buried in Fort Lauderdale” and that he, too, was not aware they existed.

But because they were mentioned in at least one court document supplied to the defense, Holmes ruled there was no violation of discovery.

Testimony continued with cross-examination of Dwayne Nicholson, a former Ferrari associate-turned-snitch who was part of the ring involved in the murder-for-hire scheme. Nicholson, testifying for the fifth day, said Ferrari asked him to kill Boulis, but he refused.

After the killing, Nicholson said he was afraid the ring would pin the killing on him, so he went to police and agreed to cooperate. He wore a wire during subsequent meetings with Ferrari and James “Pudgy” Fiorillo, who also allegedly took part in the conspiracy. Fiorillo is now a mob turncoat expected to testify for the prosecution.

Bogenschutz skillfully tried to show that Nicholson’s testimony was fraught with inconsistencies, and that his motive for helping police — and lying about the defendants — was to collect the $100,000 reward.

Nicholson admitted he received a bag stuffed with cash — part of the Crimestoppers reward — about two years ago.

Until recently, Nicholson was in the witness-protection program. But money has since dried up for the program, and Nicholson said he now lives in fear for his life.

Last week, in open court, Ferrari called Nicholson a rat. Bogenschutz argued for a mistrial, which the judge declined.

At the time he was gunned down, Boulis was trying to regain control of his SunCruz casino fleet after negotiations with its new owners went sour.

The prospective owners, New York businessman Adam Kidan and Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, were engaged in a dogfight with Boulis, a self-made millionaire and aggressive businessman.

Kidan and Abramoff were later jailed for defrauding lenders in the SunCruz deal.

Kidan, who has not been implicated in Boulis’ murder, has provided information to the prosecution that has never been made public. He is expected to testify as early as Tuesday.

The state contends that Moscatiello and Ferrari planned the hit to protect their financial interests in the gambling ships.

Boulis was executed gangland style on Feb. 6, 2001. The gunmen pulled up next to his black BMW as he was driving just blocks from his Fort Lauderdale office. He was shot three times, and died an hour later.

Read more Broward stories from the Miami Herald

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