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Defense begins its case in mob racketeering retrial

Witnesses were called to try to discredit government's case.

AFTER MORE than six weeks of testimony by 28 witnesses, numerous audio recordings and photos of alleged mobsters in dress suits and swimsuits, prosecutors in the federal racketeering retrial of reputed mob boss Joseph Ligambi and his nephew George Borgesi rested their case yesterday.

Then it was the defense's turn to try to discredit some of those witnesses.

First up was Jerry Davis, a City Council staffer who works for Council President Darrell Clarke and previously served as a driver for Anna Verna when she was Council president.

Davis, 55, testified that he had socialized with Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello from 2005 to 2011, when they were next-door neighbors on 18th Street near Forrestal, south of Packer Avenue, in South Philadelphia.

Monacello, 47, a star witness for the prosecution and a former mob associate who had been pals with Borgesi, had told jurors about times when Borgesi, 50, his former captain, had used violence or the threat of violence to collect money in illegal bookmaking operations, had beaten up another mob associate, Angelo Lutz, and had claimed to be responsible for 11 murders.

Edwin Jacobs Jr., the attorney for Ligambi, 74, tried to show that Monacello wasn't trustworthy.

Davis testified that in 2012, Monacello - who by then had moved to Ventnor, N.J. - asked him to go to his South Philly house to pick up a bag. Davis said he found a trash bag in a hole in a closet and later saw that it contained a loaded .38-caliber revolver.

Davis said he was nervous and didn't know what to do. He didn't give the gun to the man who Monacello wanted to receive it. The next day, with Monacello's mother banging on his door, he told his wife to give the gun to her.

Davis said that when he and Monacello had hung out together, Monacello had talked about the mob and had made disparaging remarks about its leadership.

Monacello "thought he should be running the mob," Davis said. "He said they don't know what they're doing."

Asked if Monacello ever talked about Ligambi, Davis - mimicking Monacello by putting his hands together in the shape of a gun - testified that Monacello would point toward Ligambi's home and say, "I hate him with a passion."

In his cross-examination, Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Labor asked Davis if he knew that the gun he retrieved from Monacello's home was the retired service weapon of Monacello's father, who had been a Philly cop. Davis said he did not know that.

The defense yesterday also called to the stand five FBI agents, whom it had subpoenaed. Jacobs asked Special Agent Eric Ruona about a March 2003 debriefing he had with another cooperating witness, Anthony Aponick, 42, an associate with a New York crime family.

Aponick at the time was sharing a federal prison cell with Borgesi in Beckley, W. Va. He had reached out to the FBI the year before to become a confidential informant.

"Did Anthony Aponick tell you Joe Ligambi was no longer the head of the Philadelphia mob and the Gambino family in New York installed a new capo?" Jacobs asked Ruona.

Ruona agreed that Aponick had told him that.