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S. Philly auto-shop owner pleads not guilty in A.C. shooting plot

Ronald Galati and a co-defendant pleaded not guilty to murder for hire in federal court in Camden.

AS SOON AS Ronald Galati took his seat at the defendant's table in U.S. District Court in Camden yesterday, he took some hits from an inhaler, blew his nose several times and coughed repeatedly into a tissue.

Galati, who is accused of plotting to shoot and kill his daughter's boyfriend in Atlantic City, isn't doing so well apparently. His attorney said taxpayers are footing his medical bills.

"He has multiple health issues and some of them are life-threatening," Galati's attorney, Anthony Voci, said after a brief appearance before U.S. District Judge Joseph H. Rodriguez.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said Galati and a co-defendant, Jerome Johnson, 45, allegedly conspired with Ronald Walker, 48, and Alvin Matthews, 46, to shoot and kill Andrew Tuono in Atlantic City on Nov. 30, 2013. Tuono was shot three times in the abdomen and survived. Walker and Matthews were arrested shortly afterward.

Both men have already pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court and have implicated Galati, who pleaded not guilty yesterday to conspiracy to commit murder for hire and other charges. Voci says he hadn't seen any hard evidence against his client.

"He's here because of the hollow words of two men trying to save their own tails," Voci said.

Johnson worked for Galati at his shop, American Collision & Automotive Center, on 20th Street near McKean, and is accused of supplying Walker and Matthews with a .25-caliber Colt. He is also accused of driving the duo to a home in Philadelphia to find Tuono and later to Atlantic City.

Johnson also entered a plea of not guilty yesterday.

Rodriguez scheduled a bail hearing for Galati for next week, citing his growing medical concerns. He said Galati suffers from asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and claims a prison doctor recently said the South Philly native has polyps that need to be removed.

Galati gave a small wave to the dozen family members and friends who came to the hearing. He is also accused of plotting to kill a rival auto-body-shop owner and his son in Philadelphia.