Jurors recommended Tuesday that Anthony "Little Tony" Ferrari be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in the 2001 gangland-style slaying of a well-known businessman.
Jurors had started deliberating their recommendation for Ferrari's sentence about an hour earlier Tuesday night. Their other option was the death penalty.
The sentencing recommendation by the 12 jurors is made by majority vote and is not binding on Circuit Judge Ilona Holmes. But the law requires Holmes to strongly consider the jury's advice, and it seemed clear she would.
"There's only one sentence I can impose," said Holmes, who will hand down the official sentence on Thursday.
Ferrari, 56, offered no reaction as the court's clerk read the jury's recommendation. A bailiff immediately handcuffed him.
Prosecutor Brian Cavanagh said in a closing argument in the case's penalty phase that Ferrari deserves death for his role in the 2001 slaying of Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis during a dispute over the lucrative SunCruz Casinos gambling fleet that Boulis had once owned.
Cavanagh said trial evidence showed Ferrari wanted to get rid of Boulis to protect security contracts he had with the new SunCruz owners.
"Lining his pockets with SunCruz money was more important to Mr. Ferrari than this man's life," said Cavanagh, holding up a photograph of Boulis.
Ferrari's attorney, Christopher Grillo, countered that evidence showed Boulis was shot by a mob hit man and that a co-defendant of Ferrari's with strong Mafia ties was the one who hired the shooter.
"Mr. Ferrari is not the worst of the worst. He didn't shoot anyone," Grillo said.
After the jury's decision, Grillo said he was "thankful to the jury for saving his life."
Cavanagh said prosecutors got what they wanted when Ferrari was convicted.
"We had justice happen with the guilty verdict. This man will spend the rest of his life in jail," Cavanagh said.
Prosecutor Gregg Rossman said getting a death penalty recommendation was a tough call when Ferrari was not the triggerman, just the planner.
"You feel like the certain aggravators were proved, but it's a very, very difficult thing when we’re talking about a week before Christmas, a very, very difficult thing to ask people and come and be clinical and legal and not have some emotion involved in it,” Rossman said.
In the courthouse halls, Boulis' sister and a family friend rushed to the elevator – and seemed at peace with the jury's recommendation.
"My brother now, it’s better,” Boulis’ sister said. “It is better. He can rest in peace,” the friend added.
Trial testimony showed that Boulis, 51, was shot to death as he sat in his car on a downtown Fort Lauderdale street. Witnesses testified the killing was orchestrated by Ferrari and Anthony "Big Tony" Moscatiello, a reputed member of New York's Gambino crime family. Both had well-paying contracts with SunCruz under its new owners that were threatened by interference from Boulis, witnesses said.
Ferrari's 8-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter both took the witness stand Tuesday, saying in brief testimony that they both loved their father and that he was a valued presence in their lives, even from behind bars.
Anthony Ferrari Jr., a third-grader, said he tells his father "how much I love him and about school. He tells me that he loves me a lot. I tell him I miss him a lot. He misses me, too."
A defense psychologist, Michael Brannon, testified that Ferrari does not have any mental disorders or illnesses but does have a tendency to exaggerate the positive things in his life.
"For this person, Mr. Ferrari, it's very important that he looks good. Image is very important," Brannon said.
Brannon also said that Ferrari grew up in an essentially fatherless home, had to deal with abuse directed at his older sister and began associating with organized crime figures in New York at a very young age.
Before he was killed, Boulis sold the SunCruz fleet to New York businessman Adam Kidan — who knew Moscatiello and sought him out for his purported mob ties — and then-powerhouse Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Kidan and Abramoff later pleaded guilty to fraud in the $147.5 million SunCruz deal and served federal prison time.
Moscatiello, 75, is also charged with murder and was on trial with Ferrari until his attorney became ill. Moscatiello, who has pleaded not guilty, will be retried later. The alleged hit man was later killed in a dispute with a Boca Raton delicatessen owner.
Testifying in his own defense, Ferrari claimed that another conspirator committed the murder and that Kidan was behind the plot. Kidan, however, testified that both Ferrari and Moscatiello had confessed the crime to him. The other conspirator, James "Pudgy" Fiorillo, admitted conducting surveillance of Boulis and getting rid of the murder weapon, but said he did not shoot Boulis.