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FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSmiami/AP) — Closing statements get underway Thursday in the sentencing phase of Anthony “Big Tony” Moscatiello who was convicted of first degree murder in the mob-style slaying of a South Florida businessman.
Broward County prosecutor Gregg Rossman has called for the death penalty. He said Moscatiello hired a mob hit man to fatally shoot Konstantinos “Gus” Boulis in 2001 during a dispute over the SunCruz Casinos fleet of gambling ships. Trial evidence showed that Moscatiello is a reputed member of New York’s Gambino crime family.
Premeditated murder for financial gain is among the aggravating circumstances that can warrant a death sentence under Florida law. The jurors are to recommend to a judge what sentence to impose.
At the end of Wednesday’s proceedings Circuit Judge Ilona Holmes told the jury they should bring clothes on Thursday because if they can’t reach a decision, they will be sequestered.
Attorneys for Moscatiello want the jurors to recommend a life prison sentence. The jurors’ decision is advisory, with the final decision to be made by Judge Holmes.
Boulis, who also founded the Miami Subs restaurant chain, was slain while trying to retake control of SunCruz after selling it to businessman Adam Kidan and his partner, former Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Kidan was paying Moscatiello and his associate, Anthony “Little Tony” Ferrari, thousands of dollars each month to handle security, beverage supply and other work — payments that Boulis opposed.
“As long as Mr. Kidan kept control of the company, Mr. Moscatiello had control of the company. Once Mr. Kidan lost control, the well dried up,” Rossman said in an opening statement. “Mr. Moscatiello had Mr. Boulis killed for his own financial gain.”
“Life in prison for this man is punishment enough,” said defense attorney Sam Halpern. “You are never, under any circumstances, required to recommend the death penalty.”
Prosecutors put on only one witness, a nephew of Boulis’ to describe what the Greek immigrant’s loss meant to the family.
“To every immigrant, Gus Boulis was the best example of living the American dream,” said nephew Spiro Naos.
Numerous Moscatiello friends and family members were testifying on his behalf, describing his military service, business background and devout Catholicism.
“Excellent neighbor. Probably one of the best I’ve ever had. Warm, friendly,” said Audrey O’Brien, who lived in the same condominium complex as Moscatiello. She recalled how he brought her groceries and other items while she recovered from back surgery. “I have great affection for Tony.”
Jurors adjourned for the day Wednesday after hearing testimony, with the hearing to resume Thursday with closing arguments followed by deliberations.
Boulis, 51, was fatally shot by hit man John “J.J.” Gurino as he sat in his car in downtown Fort Lauderdale on Feb. 6, 2001, according to trial testimony. Cars blocked Boulis in from front and back, with Gurino firing the fatal shots from a black Mustang that pulled up to the driver’s side. Gurino was later killed in a dispute with a Boca Raton delicatessen owner.
Neither Kidan nor Abramoff were ever charged in the Boulis slaying, although Kidan testified for the prosecution against both Moscatiello and Ferrari. Ferrari was convicted after a previous trial and is serving a life prison sentence.
Abramoff and Kidan both served federal prison sentences after pleading guilty to fraud in the $147.5 million SunCruz purchase. Abramoff also was the main figure in a Washington corruption scandal that resulted in charges against 21 people.
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