The jury in the Gus Boulis murder trial began deliberations late Thursday afternoon, capping three weeks of testimony by 20 witnesses, a few of them admitted wise guys almost as cold-blooded as the killing itself.
Lead Broward County prosecutor Brian Cavanagh wrapped up the case with an almost preacher-like sermon, his booming voice ringing in the small, paneled courtroom. The 6-foot-5 veteran prosecutor, with probably hundreds of homicides under his belt, summed up the murder of Miami Subs magnate Gus Boulis as few others could, having lived it for the past 12 years.
“Killing a person takes everything a man has and all he will ever have,’’ he said, paraphrasing a line in the Clint Eastwood movie Unforgiven.
“We make decisions in this world that we can and should be held accountable for,’’ he continued, walking toward the defendant, Anthony “Little Tony” Ferrari, seated grimly across the room, facing the jury.
“Tony Ferrari took from this man the most valuable possession he had...he took his life.’’
Ferrari, 56, is charged with murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the gangland-style slaying of Boulis, 52, a self-made millionaire who owned a fleet of lucrative gambling ships based in Dania Beach. He faces a possible death penalty if convicted. It took 12 years for the case to come to trial and Cavanagh later said it’s probably the toughest of his career.
The jury — the first panel in 30 years to be sequestered in Broward County for the duration of a trial — deliberated for little more than an hour before retiring to their hotel a little after 6 p.m. Jurors have a daunting task, as the case has no forensic evidence, virtually no expert testimony and relies heavily on a parade of thugs who testified in exchange for little or no prison time.
Defense attorney Christopher Grillo laced his soliloquy with questions about the character of the witnesses. He hammered at inconsistencies in witness testimony, faulty memories, and evidence pointing to someone else who may have masterminded the Feb. 6, 2001, execution.
“The state wants you to believe a bunch of drug dealers, killers and thieves,’’ he said. “No good citizens testified about anything that would implicate Mr. Ferrari. When it comes to evaluating these people’s testimony, consider what they got in exchange.’’
Cavanagh admitted that the state’s case included witnesses with long and violent criminal records.
“Plots hatched in hell don’t have angels for witnesses!’’ he roared, later arguing that when the evidence is all put together, it fits nicely, and points to only one thing: that Ferrari and his accomplice, reputed Gambino mob captain Anthony “Big Tony” Moscatiello, had Boulis gunned down because they wanted control of his $20 million-a-year gambling boat empire.
Boulis, a onetime dishwasher from Greece, grew rich while establishing a string of businesses, including the Miami Subs chain, which he eventually sold for $4.2 million. He then branched out into other endeavors, including hotels, marinas and the gambling business.
But he was forced to sell SunCruz in 2000 after federal authorities filed a civil complaint alleging that he bought some of the vessels improperly because he was not yet a U.S. citizen.
He was in the midst of a contentious, fraud-tainted $147 million sale of the ships when he was ambushed as he drove his green BMW away from his Fort Lauderdale office. On Miami Road, a car cut him off, another hemmed him in, and a black Mustang pulled up. A gunman opened fire, hitting Boulis several times. His BMW rolled a few blocks before crashing.
Perhaps the only witness, a motorist who was behind the melee, said he saw a red Volkswagen Jetta speed from the scene. Ferrari owned a red Jetta, according to testimony.
But Grillo pointed out that no one, not even the bystander caught in the drama, could place Ferrari behind the wheel. In fact, the witness described the Jetta’s driver as having long hair, like a woman. His description of the gunman also didn’t fit with the prosecution’s theory that the triggerman was a professional hit man from Boca Raton, hired by Moscatiello.
Moscatiello, 75, will be tried separately. His attorney, David Bogenshutz, fell ill during the first half of the trial, making it too difficult to continue.
In the end, probably the most compelling argument, proffered by prosecutor Greg Rossman, was that Ferrari was doomed by his own words and actions.
Ferrari, who took the witness stand against Grillo’s advice, was tripped up by the truth, Rossman said.
“Ask yourself who has the greatest interest in the outcome of this case?’’ Rossman told the jury. Pointing out that Ferrari’s last desperate act, after eight years in jail, was to confront one of the snitches in open court, calling him a “rat” in front of the jury.
His own words came back to haunt him, Rossman said, because “only a rat has information that can hurt you.’’