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Galati trial to turn on testimony from hit men

The only evidence tying Ronald Galati to the attempted murder of his daughter's boyfriend is the testimony of three men, all career criminals, who say Galati hired them to do it.

Ronald Galati, 64, a convicted fraudster who ran a South Philly auto-body shop, wanted his daughter's boyfriend dead, according to federal prosecutors in New Jersey.
Ronald Galati, 64, a convicted fraudster who ran a South Philly auto-body shop, wanted his daughter's boyfriend dead, according to federal prosecutors in New Jersey.Read more

The only evidence tying Ronald Galati to the attempted murder of his daughter's boyfriend is the testimony of three men, all career criminals, who say Galati hired them to do it.

Now it's up to a jury whether to believe them.

"The government delivered one gigantic 'say so,' " defense attorney Anthony Voci said on the final day of Galati's murder-for-hire trial Monday. "You've got a say-so case; you've got three crumbs with criminal records who are all looking at life in prison. Where's there a single piece of corroborating physical evidence?"

The government says the hit men's testimony is proof enough.

"I would love to present classifieds, but Mr. Galati didn't put that in the newspaper. It's a criminal partnership, it's not going to be reduced to writing," U.S. Assistant District Attorney Jason Richardson said in his closing argument in federal court in Camden.

Richardson reiterated in a 30-minute summation how Ronald Walker, Jerome Johnson, and Alvin Matthews all testified that Ronald Galati, 64, sent them to shoot Andrew Tuono in Atlantic City, with instructions not to hurt any women who might be with him.

The three have pleaded guilty and are facing life in prison.

"He wanted Andrew Tuono dead. He set the chain in motion, he set the ball rolling, they were his instruments," Richardson said.

Tuono, 35, was struck three times on November 30, 2013, while walking with Tiffany Galati from his apartment to a car, but survived.

Galati, an alleged mob associate, is on trial on murder for hire, attempted murder, and weapons charges that could land him in prison for at least 15 years. He also faces insurance scam and murder for hire charges in Philadelphia. No testimony about those charges or Galati's connection to the Philadelphia mob was admissible in the trial.

In the courtroom Monday morning, Voci delivered an animated 80-minute argument in which he emphasized the lack of any physical evidence against his client.

Voci told jurors to consider whether Tiffany Galati could have been involved. She admitted that a year before the shooting she had texted with Johnson about beating up a former love interest, the father of her son. Police and the three men described her behavior the night of the shooting as strange. She never called 911, but got into her car and drove away.

"That woman is downright frightening. I don't know what she's capable of," Voci told the jury. "Did anyone look into her? Nope."

Voci also questioned why a drug dealer with whom Tuono had gotten into a fight a week before the shooting had not been investigated. Both Tuono and Walker dealt drugs, according to testimony.

"Why didn't anyone look into that connection?" Voci asked. If "I'm the government, I'm closing that door, so I can't get up here and start poking holes."

The motive presented by the government was that Galati was angry that Tuono, a friend of his, had started dating his daughter, and that he became incensed when Tuono and Tiffany Galati moved to Atlantic City with his grandson. Voci disputed that as well.

"He took Tiffany away? Yeah, to New Jersey, where she'd been working for nine years. It's Atlantic City. It wasn't like she was on the other side of the planet," Voci said.

In his summation, Richardson dismissed the suggestion that Tiffany Galati or a drug feud may have been behind the shooting.

"If it were a rival drug dealer, why would they leave a witness alive? Why wouldn't they touch the girl? Does that make sense?" Richardson asked.

Richardson reread text messages in which Tiffany Galati called Tuono the love of her life, and said she would have never orchestrated the hit. Even if she had, Richardson said, "why would she want it done while she was there?"

The jury of 10 women and two men received the case Monday afternoon.

The courtroom was packed with family and friends of Galati, including his son, Ronald Jr., and wife, Vicky. Tuono sat in the front row apart from the Galati crowd, flanked by agents from the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Tiffany Galati, who testified that she had not spoken with her father since two days after the shooting, did not attend.

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