James “Pudgy” Fiorillo is a mobster-wannabe from New Jersey.
He’s also a liar, a possible killer, unemployed freeloader — and star witness against two alleged New York mobsters accused of orchestrating the murder of Miami Subs tycoon Gus Boulis.
Fiorillo may not have pulled the trigger that killed the ruthless self-made millionaire — no one so far knows for sure. But the jury may have a hard time figuring out whether to believe a guy who was so much a part of defendant Anthony “Little Tony” Ferrari’s “family” that he slept on his couch, drove his splashy cars, ate at his dinner table and was “Uncle Jimmy” to his young daughter.
The hapless thug was painted by criminal defense attorney David Bogenschutz as a conniving liar-turned snitch who betrayed the hand that hired him, paid him and fed him for more than a decade. Fiorillo, whose nickname was given to him as a 250-pound kid growing up in South Amboy, N.J., is trying to pin Boulis’ murder on Ferrari and his alleged boss, Anthony “Big Tony” Moscatiello.
All to save his own skin, Bogenschutz said.
The veteran criminal lawyer was in top form, methodically poring through court depositions that would have put most juries to sleep. Instead, he turned the chore of discrediting Fiorillo into a cat-and-mouse game, leaving the star witness befuddled by his own testimony.
Bogenschutz represents Big Tony Moscatiello, a 75-year-old bookkeeper, caterer and alleged capo in the Gambino crime family. Prosecutors contend that Ferrari, 56, is an underling he assigned to set up the hit.
Fiorillo contends that he knew very little about the plot. His job, he said was to inform Ferrari when Boulis left his office, the night he was gunned down. Boulis, 52, was executed as he drove his BMW on a dimly lit Fort Lauderdale street about 9 p.m. Feb. 6, 2001. A Ford Mustang pulled up alongside him, and a gunman fired four shots, the last one fatal. The hired New York gunman, John Gurino, was murdered in a mob-style hit in 2003 in Boca Raton.
Fiorillo was arrested, along with Ferrari and Moscatiello in 2005, all charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. All faced the death penalty if convicted.
Six years after his arrest, while still in prison awaiting trial, Fiorillo agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, and in 2011, he laid out in detail what he knew and when he knew it.
But after a dozen years, Fiorillo confessed Wednesday, his memory is a little foggy.
Bogenschutz even managed to get him to admit that he lied under oath during a deposition he took just after he entered a plea deal with the state attorney’s office. Prosecutors agreed to a six-year sentence with credit for time served — which meant he was released from jail immediately. But if he fails to tell the truth the deal is void and he could spend up to 30 years in prison.
Assistant State Attorney Brian Cavanagh, showing his growing frustration with Bogenschutz’s line of questioning, at one point stood up and shouted “Objection! Objection! Objection!” That led to a sidebar conference with Broward Circuit Court Judge Ilona Holmes. After the consultation — which was out of the earshot of jurors — she announced “Sustained! sustained! Sustained!”
The no-nonsense judge, however, inserted a little relief into the tense trial by standing behind the bench and asking the jurors — and everyone in the courtroom — to follow her lead as she did a few stretches.
Testimony continues Thursday with yet another surprise: Prosecutors are bringing in a mystery witness who will be addressed by a pseudonym and whose face and hands cannot be photographed or taped for TV.