THE RACKETEERING case against reputed Philadelphia mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and his top associates took a curious turn Tuesday, when a longtime City Council staffer testified that he'd been a drinking buddy of Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello's and had retrieved a loaded gun for the mob associate earlier this year.

Jerry Davis - who was a driver for and special assistant to former Council President Anna Verna and who now works in the office of Council President Darrell Clarke - was called to the witness stand by the defense to discredit Monacello, a tough-talking blowhard who flipped last year and agreed to testify against Ligambi's crew.

Davis, 54, said he used to hang out regularly with Monacello, his former next-door neighbor in South Philly, drinking beer and shots of Crown Royal or going out to dinner. He said Monacello, who now lives in Ventnor, would frequently disparage Ligambi and his nephew George Borgesi.

"He said he should be running this thing and he's the only one who knows what he's doing," Davis said of Monacello. "I told him, 'Lou, please shut up.' "

Davis said Monacello asked him early this year to go into Monacello's former home and retrieve a duffel bag from a hole in the closet. The bag contained a loaded .38-caliber revolver. Monacello's mother later came to pick up the gun, Davis said. There was no testimony about how Davis was able to enter the home or who owns it now.

Davis, who helped Monacello move out of his house, also said Monacello had told him he'd basically do anything to stay out of jail and was hoping to profit from a book deal or reality-TV show.

Even though Davis had named several mobsters based on conversations he had with Monacello, when Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Labor asked him if he was familiar with the Philadelphia mob, Davis responded, "Is there a mob?"

Following Davis' testimony, jurors were nodding off while another defense witness described the minutiae of sports betting. The trial, now in its second month, is expected to conclude in early January.

"I'm falling asleep during this bulls---," Ligambi, 73, muttered at the end of the day.

Early Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno asked jurors in private whether they'd heard about last week's arrest of reputed mob soldier Anthony Nicodemo, charged with gunning down Gino DiPietro outside his home. Nine jurors had, but the news reports are unlikely to derail the trial, according to Ligambi's attorney, Edwin Jacobs. Defense attorneys might seek to have one juror removed.

"We're supposed to try the case on the evidence, and that's what we're doing," Jacobs said.