Reputed mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi vowed in 2009 to kill radio celebrity Jerry Blavat, a mob turncoat testified Tuesday.
Ligambi was livid over a Philadelphia Magazine article about the mob and believed Blavat was behind it, Louis "Bent Finger Lou" Monacello said.
"He was ranting and raving, 'That [expletive] Jerry Blavat, he set this up. Jerry Blavat, I'm gonna kill this [expletive],' " Monacello testified.
There were no signs that the threat against Blavat, a longtime Philadelphia radio icon and owner of the Memories in Margate restaurant at the Shore, was more than hot air.
Blavat, known to fans as the Geator with the Heater, said the threat was news to him.
"I never heard it," he said Tuesday. "I grew up with these guys. I know Joe."
The detail emerged as Monacello resumed his role as a star witness in the racketeering trial of the 73-year-old Ligambi and six codefendants.
Ligambi's lawyer tried to portray Monacello as a serial liar who was jealous of the defendants and would say what prosecutors wanted to avoid or reduce a prison term.
Monacello, at times so confident that he bordered on cocky, described himself as a businessman who owned a restaurant and seven fitness training schools, but who also helped run Delaware County gambling, bookmaking, and loan-sharking operations for George Borgesi, an alleged captain and Ligambi's nephew.
Theirs wasn't a loving crime family, according to Monacello. He acknowledged plotting to kill one captain, Martin Angelina, and said he didn't trust Ligambi.
He said he also knew that the mob boss and Borgesi hated each other. "Joe said he hopes his nephew does 100 years" in prison, Monacello testified. "The nephew wants to choke his uncle."
Ligambi's lawyer, Edwin Jacobs, suggested that the witness perjured himself and embellished testimony about his history "to get a good deal."
Jacobs pointed to Monacello's account of an assault on a contractor renovating a property for Ligambi. Last year, Monacello told a grand jury he kicked the victim once in the chest. During this trial, he testified that he kicked the man twice in the face.
Monacello dismissed the discrepancy as irrelevant. "Why would I lie about that?" he asked.
Jacobs retorted: "Maybe to get a good deal?"
Monacello didn't dispute that his relationships with ranking mobsters were frayed.
Monacello wanted revenge after Angelina took $11,000 from a debtor who owed the cash to Monacello. "As a man, there are certain things you can live with and certain things you can't," he told Assistant U.S. Attorney John S. Han. "I wasn't going to let Angelina rob me."
Monacello said that he planned to beat Angelina but that an associate who was a government cooperator talked him into hiring hit men. The attack never happened, but the plot was detailed in a 2009 indictment against Monacello.
The morning after his arrest in that case, he said, Ligambi came to his South Philadelphia home to reassure him. "He does this Academy Award-winning speech in front of my family: Don't worry about it," Monacello said.
Monacello then turned and began clapping as he smiled at Ligambi. "Academy Award, Joe," he said, a gesture that stirred rumblings from Ligambi supporters in the courtroom.
Monacello said he decided to cooperate because he believed his dispute with Angelina made him a marked man. He said the task of killing him probably would have fallen to Borgesi, a onetime friend and boss who was ending a prison term.
"These are the mob rules," Monacello told jurors. "They didn't do anything to me, because he [Borgesi] brought me in. He was going to kill me when he was getting out."
Killing him right away would not have been Borgesi's style, Monacello said.
"He's hung out with people for months before he killed them," he said. "One night, I would've gone out and I just would not have come home."