PHILADELPHIA The photo of Joseph Ligambi, taken at a mob associate's wedding three years ago, captured the reputed mob boss in less troubled times.
Decked out in a dark suit and tie, and surrounded by a dozen close friends and family members at the Curtis Center, his face bore a smile not often seen in recent days in a federal courtroom here.
But what that image meant, and its potential implications for Ligambi's criminal case, was the subject of testimony Friday as his racketeering retrial ended its sixth week.
Prosecutors contend the photo shows the purported Mafia don alongside his network of loan sharks, bookmakers, and mob enforcers. Ligambi's defense maintains that the government has mistaken a simple family gathering for the wedding scene in The Godfather.
In any case, Mark Louis Scoleri, the South Philadelphia photographer who captured that happy tableau, told jurors Friday he knew exactly which image the FBI was looking for when an agent showed up on his doorstep. Scoleri was presented with a subpoena for all of his photos from the 2010 wedding reception of Anthony Staino, a made man.
"I figured he was looking for that one photograph I took of the group," he said. "I knew he didn't want to look at no bride and groom photos."
Scoleri's testimony lies at the core of a witness-intimidation charge against Ligambi. While jurors have spent weeks hearing of the 74-year-old's alleged involvement in loan-sharking, illegal gambling, and extortion as part of the conspiracy case against him, prosecutors sought Friday to show that Ligambi fought back as an FBI investigation closed in around him.
Agents who had Staino's nuptials under surveillance were interested in the photo for the glimpse it provided into Ligambi's relationships with other reputed mob figures whose names had surfaced in their investigation.
Scoleri, who photographed dozens of family events for the Ligambis over 20 years, said he immediately called his client after that visit from the FBI. The reputed mob boss paid the photographer a visit.
As soon as he arrived, Scoleri told the jury, Ligambi placed his hand on his shoulder and said, "Don't give them that picture."
"We were talking real close," the photographer said. "We were right next to each other."
At first, Scoleri did as he was told. But once investigators questioned him about the photo's absence, he turned it over.
Prosecutors contend that Ligambi's instructions amount to an act of intimidation. But despite what he described as a momentary lapse, Scoleri conceded under questioning from Ligambi's lawyer that he never felt threatened by Ligambi.