PHILADELPHIA Walking into federal court each morning, Alyson Borgesi, wife of reputed Philadelphia mob consigliere George Borgesi, has made a habit of greeting those present with a now familiar refrain.
"Enjoying the show?" she asks, cracking a sardonic smile.
But as her husband's racketeering retrial entered its second month last week, she increasingly found herself cast as his unwilling costar.
The trial came to an early halt Friday after four jurors accused the petite, 38-year-old brunette - a woman whose resumé includes stints as a travel agent and candy saleswoman - of trying to intimidate them from the court gallery, Borgesi family members said.
Earlier in the week, several government witnesses accused Alyson Borgesi of serving as caretaker to her spouse's criminal empire, as her husband served out a 14-year federal prison term. She passed on orders to his mob soldiers, kept up on his press clippings, and accepted thousands of dollars in cash payments stuffed in the glove box of her car, they said.
Her involvement went so deep, one witness jokingly testified, her husband's associates nicknamed her "Alyson Corleone."
Prosecutors, too, have shown greater interest in Alyson Borgesi this time around, posing more probing questions to witnesses about her purported involvement than they did during his first trial last year.
Her name has been dropped with such frequency in recent days that one Borgesi family supporter wondered aloud: "When did Alyson get indicted here?"
"It's not customary to get the women involved to that extent," former New York mobster Anthony Aponick, who was testifying for the prosecution, told jurors Thursday.
Prosecutors allege George Borgesi, 52, and reputed mob boss Joe Ligambi ran a violent loan-sharking and illegal gambling network through threats of violence and death.
Alyson Borgesi has flatly denied any criminal activity of her own. She declined to be interviewed for this story, saying she did not want to disrupt her husband's trial.
The portrait of her that has emerged throughout the case remains a study in contrasts.
On one hand, she has come off as a doting wife, frequently visiting, writing, or calling her husband in the West Virginia federal detention center where he has idled for much of the last decade. Talk of her hospitality; her pet Yorkie, Jack; and her Christmas cards featuring Charlie Brown's Snoopy have peppered courtroom discussion in recent days.
On the other hand, her own words, in writings shown to jurors and biting courtroom asides, reveal an outspoken advocate for her husband - one with a mouth to rival many of his mob associates.
She described one government informant as a "cross-eyed junkie fat rat" in a 2005 letter.
That image stands in stark contrast to the first Mrs. Borgesi, Dina, who stood by his side during his first major criminal trial - a 1999 affair that brought down Philadelphia mob don Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino. She separated herself from the other mob wives, and never warmed to the attention. They divorced soon after he was sentenced.
Alyson Ferraro, then Borgesi's mistress, soon stepped in to fill her shoes. She married the alleged consigliere in a prison ceremony in 2004.
Since then, her commitment to her husband has run deep, said Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello, a former mob associate who told jurors last week he was George's right-hand man through most of the last decade.
For years, he said, he left cash-stuffed envelopes in the glove box of her car while she worked as a scout for a Passyunk Avenue talent agency.
"She knew exactly where it was coming from and who it was coming from," Monacello told jurors.
When Monacello fell behind in collecting debts or making payments to his boss, he could always expect a push from Alyson, he said.
Aponick, George Borgesi's former cellmate now testifying for the prosecution, told jurors Wednesday that days after his release from prison, he began receiving not-so-subtle reminders from Alyson to send money to anonymous post office boxes to pay off her husband's gambling debts.
And woe, both men said, to anyone who crossed her man. Aponick blamed her for blowing his cover as a protected government witness with a 2005 post on the website WhosARat.com. "He is a heavy heroin user and tried continuously to do illegal activity such as drugs" with Borgesi, the posting from the anonymous account "Philly22" reads.
Alongside the message were posted his postprison address and a photo of him with his former cellmate - an image to which only a handful of people had access, Aponick said. Both have since been removed from the site.
"It was obvious where it came from," Aponick testified Thursday. "The only people that could have had that picture was me, Georgie, and Alyson."
George Borgesi's defense has characterized both Aponick and Monacello as desperate liars willing to say anything to shorten their own prison terms and balked at their portrayal of Alyson.
But the one thing all parties seem to agree on is the Borgesis' devotion to each other. Even with accusations against him flying in court, Borgesi frequently takes time to blow kisses to his wife or whisper to her across the courtroom.
And, said Aponick, when he finally left prison in 2003, the reputed mob consigliere gave him a special job to do on the outside.
"Send Aly 1 dozen roses," he wrote. "On the card, make it say, 'I know you are with me 1 million %.' "