Pamela Phillips' attorneys can try to convince jurors that Ronald Young didn't kill Tucson businessman Gary Triano, but they shouldn't be allowed to argue the mob did.
At least that's what prosecutors say in a recent motion filed in Pima County Superior Court.
Phillips, 54, is scheduled to go to trial Jan. 10 in connection with the Nov. 1, 1996, death of Triano, her former husband. The 52-year-old died when someone remotely detonated a pipe bomb sitting in the passenger side of his borrowed Lincoln Town Car outside La Paloma Country Club.
Prosecutors allege Phillips used a portion of Triano's $2 million life insurance policy to pay Young to kill Triano, with whom she was arguing over child support and visitation. Young was convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder last year and is serving two life sentences.
Deputy Pima County Attorneys William McCollum and Casey McGinley have asked Judge Richard Fields to prohibit legal defenders Peter Herberg and Michael Carrillo from suggesting Triano was killed by those involved in organized crime. Specifically, they want any references to the Mafia, Mexican mafia, Cosa Nostra and Las Vegas crime syndicates banned.
"Any such brief references in the case file are speculation and/or hearsay," the attorneys wrote in their pleading.
In response, defense attorney Herberg told Fields that Sheriff Clarence Dupnik himself told the media five days after the bombing Triano's death "has all the markings of a mob hit."
In addition, Herberg wrote, investigators discovered Triano made 23 calls to phone numbers that had multiple FBI investigation case numbers assigned to them. One of the telephone numbers was associated with a soldier in the Lucchese organized crime family; another was made to a man suspected of being an enforcer in the Lucchese family.
Other business associations had ties to the Columbo and Bonnano families, Herberg said.
Several of Triano's business associates had a motive to kill him, Herberg said, including Gary Fears, who was suspected of ordering two other murders. Herberg described Fears as the head of a non-La Cosa Nostra organized crime group and said Triano was preparing to sue Fears for $10 million over a failed business venture.
"Gary Triano was investigated for money laundering, skimming, and filed bankruptcy to discharge millions in lawful debt. Under the circumstances of numerous organized crime connections, it is reasonable to infer that Gary Triano had debts beyond the lawful debts discharged in bankruptcy in June 1996. Gary Triano was also threatening the interests of organized crime people," Herberg wrote.
There is no evidence Young "had the means or opportunity" to kill Triano, Herberg argued. "As a result, any evidence that others had motive, means and opportunity to order and fund the unsolved anonymous public bombing is relevant, admissible and exculpatory," Herberg wrote.
Herberg is simply trying to improperly impugn Triano's character, McCollum and McGinley countered.
With six weeks remaining until Phillips' trial, no pretrial interviews have been conducted with witnesses, and some defense witnesses have yet to be named, the prosecutors complained.
"The defense has not provided the names of the witnesses to be called in support of their accusation that 'organized crime' is responsible for the murder of Gary Triano. Nor has the defense provided the link between all of the organized crime entities on the North American continent that resulted in their alleged united effort to kill one man ... the victim Gary Triano," the prosecutors wrote.
Phillips is scheduled to be in court again next Monday, when Fields is expected to hear testimony concerning her mental competency and ability to stand trial. If Phillips is deemed competent, several pending motions, including, possibly, the organized crime motion, will be argued Dec. 12.
Contact reporter Kim Smith at 573-4241 or email@example.com