FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Anthony "Little Tony" Ferrari, demanding to tell his story over his attorney's objections, testified Wednesday in his trial on a first-degree murder charge that he had nothing to do with the 2001 gangland-style slaying of a prominent South Florida businessman.
Ferrari said he never tried to hire anyone to kill Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis and instead blamed the slaying on business rival of Boulis. Other witnesses have testified that Boulis was shot to death on Feb. 6, 2001, by a mob hit man on the orders of Ferrari and Anthony "Big Tony" Moscatiello.
"I never thought about killing anybody in my life. It's just not in my DNA to even think about killing anybody," Ferrari testified.
The killing happened during a struggle for control over the lucrative SunCruz Casinos gambling fleet, which Boulis had recently sold to businessman Adam Kidan and Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Kidan testified previously that Ferrari confessed to orchestrating the Boulis slaying, but Ferrari insisted it was Kidan all along.
"I never asked anybody in my life, ever, to kill any human being," Ferrari testified, adding that he was home in Miami Beach the entire day that Boulis was slain.
Kidan testified earlier that a dispute with Boulis had escalated to the point that he brought in New York's Gambino crime family as protection, but was shocked when Boulis was killed. Kidan also said Ferrari threatened to kill him and his family if he told anyone about the murder plot.
Ferrari, 56, faces the death penalty if convicted. Moscatiello is also charged with murder but was granted a mistrial when his attorney fell ill. Prosecutors say they will retry Moscatiello later. Witnesses have testified that he was a high-ranking Gambino member.
Before taking the stand, Ferrari attorney Christopher Grillo said his client was acting against his advice and, initially, Grillo refused to handle the questioning of Ferrari.
"I'm not doing this. You can bury yourself. I'm not going to be a party to this," Grillo said outside the jury's presence.
But Broward County Circuit Judge Ilona Holmes pointed out that Ferrari has an absolute right to testify on his own behalf and that Grillo cannot stop him, and also cannot withdraw. Ferrari told the judge he has waited since his 2005 arrest — in jail almost the entire time— to tell his side.
"Look how long it's taken to bring this case forward. It's not going to take that long to tell the truth," Ferrari said.
At that, Holmes told Grillo: "''It is Mr. Ferrari's call. It doesn't matter if it's a death penalty case or grand theft. A defendant's right to testify cannot be trumped by the court or his attorney."
Prosecutors say Moscatiello and Ferrari decided to get rid of Boulis to guarantee their well-paying contracts with SunCruz under Kidan's new ownership. Boulis had retained a 10 percent share of the business and was attempting to regain control, other witnesses have testified.
A third defendant, James Fiorillo, pleaded guilty last year and testified against both Ferrari and Moscatiello. Fiorillo also said Ferrari was on the scene the night Boulis was killed on a downtown Fort Lauderdale street and later indicated the deed had been done in a phone call to Moscatiello.
Kidan and Abramoff both were sent to federal prison for fraud in the $147.5 million purchase of SunCruz from Boulis. Before running the gambling ships, Boulis founded the Miami Subs restaurant chain.
Follow Curt Anderson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Miamicurt