Secretly recorded comments of Thomas Gibison may come back to haunt the skinhead in his ongoing trial for allegedly killing a black man in 1989 to "earn" a spider-web tattoo on his elbow.

Gibison made off-the-cuff remarks about skinheads, the difficulty in proving perjury and his girlfriend's knowledge of his activities, which were taped by a childhood friend in 1996 and read into the court record yesterday.

Meantime, Gibison's attorney, Michael Farrell, again raised the possibility that Aaron Wood - the 34-year-old victim Gibison is accused of killing on April 16, 1989 - was murdered in a drug-related incident.

The defendant's childhood friend, Robert Paolo, now an auto mechanic and part-time cop in Berks County, secretly recorded Gibison on Jan. 7, 1996, and turned the tapes over to authorities.

On the sixth day of testimony, Homicide Detective David Baker read portions of an excised transcript of Paolo's 1996 tape. In one section, Gibison defended Craig Peterson, who testified against him last week.

"Craig is not a convicted felon. He's one of the few people my grandfather and my family even trusts," said Gibison, according to the transcript Baker read.

On Friday, however, Peterson testified that he drove Gibison, then 17, to Philadelphia, where they looked for black people to kill. When they saw a black man, Gibison pulled out a .38-caliber revolver and fatally shot the man once in the head, Peterson testified.

Gibison, 38, of Newark, Del., is charged with first-degree murder, criminal conspiracy, ethnic intimidation and weapons offenses. If convicted, he faces life in prison.

"The single hardest charge to prove is perjury," Gibison told Paolo, according to the transcript.

"Let's say, Craig said Craig and I lied, but I didn't," he said, according to the transcript. "They'd have to almost videotape" what was said to prove perjury.

In the transcript, Gibison complained of federal tactics - telling his girlfriend of his infidelities.

"I already warned her ahead of time. I told her all I did," he said. "She knows all about Sherry" and another girlfriend.

Gibison's ex-girlfriend, who has been hospitalized at least 10 times for substance-abuse and mental-health issues, became the first to reveal details of the hate crime to authorities in 1999. She testified last week that he had boasted of killing a black man in the late '80s to earn his tattoo, considered a trophy among a subculture of skinheads.

Under questioning from Farrell, Baker testified that he had reviewed the murders of Wood and Larry Palmer, both black, killed seven days apart, and knew each other.

Palmer was shot twice with a .25-caliber gun and dumped in Fairmount Park, while Wood was shot once with a .38-caliber weapon in North Philadelphia.

Baker testified that he didn't know if both men were in the drug trade. However, Farrell cited Baker's report, which stated: "Both men allegedly knew each other in the drug trade."

Farrell has repeatedly asked witnesses about what he contends to be cocaine in a plastic packet and about $20 in Wood's sock.

Today, Farrell is expected to present three witnesses, after the commonwealth rests its case. *