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Judge Refuses to Cut Grosso’s Bail in Gangland-Style Shooting

Times Staff Writer

An Orange County judge Wednesday refused to reduce the $1-million bail set for Newport Beach limousine firm president Joseph Angelo Grosso on attempted murder charges in the gangland-style shooting last year of an associate near South Coast Plaza.

In arguing for Grosso’s bail to be reduced to $50,000, Santa Ana attorney Sylvan B. Aronson said his client would not flee the area because he “is a respected member of the community” with a Newport Beach limousine service and membership in the exclusive Balboa Bay Club.

But Municipal Judge Richard W. Stanford followed the recommendation of a court detention officer in Wednesday’s arraignment and ordered Grosso, 45, held without bail pending his preliminary hearing, scheduled for Nov. 8.

Grosso and Michael Anthony Rizzitello, 61, of Los Angeles were arrested Monday night on warrants charging them with shooting and trying to kill William C. Carroll in a parking garage April 30, 1987. The arrests are based, at least in part, on an Oct. 19 interview with Carroll, whose testimony culminated a 17-month law enforcement investigation.

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Prosecutors alleged in court documents that Grosso restrained the victim while Rizzitello used a gun with a silencer to pump three shots into Carroll’s head in a dispute over who would control alleged illegal activity at the notorious Mustang topless bar in Santa Ana.

Rizzitello--considered by Mafia experts to be among the top echelon of Los Angeles’ organized crime family--appeared before Stanford at the same hearing Wednesday morning. However, his arraignment was continued until this morning because his attorney, Anthony Brooklier of Beverly Hills, had not been contacted. Rizzitello is being held without bail.

Rizzitello has a criminal record dating back to 1947 for robbery, kidnaping, insurance fraud and racketeering. Grosso, who runs Diplomat Limosine Co., is awaiting a January trial on fraud charges that his attorney said stemmed from investments with others from Las Vegas that soured.

Of Grosso’s alleged mob ties, Aronson said outside the courtroom: “He has no Mafia ties whatsoever. He just has an Italian name.” He laughed. “Like spaghetti.”

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Both suspects remained Wednesday night at Orange County Jail.

A Santa Ana resident who was a principal investor in the now-defunct Mustang bar, Carroll remains permanently blinded from the shooting. Orange County Deputy Dist. Atty. Christopher J. Evans said two of three bullets fired into Carroll’s head that April 30 night remain there.

Asked whether Carroll was part of the federal witness protection program designed to shield potential witnesses from harm, Evans, who is prosecuting the Grosso-Rizzitello case, would say only that Carroll “is safe.”

Evans and investigators refused to comment on why Carroll changed his mind after 18 months and named his attackers during an interview last week with investigators with the district attorney’s office and the FBI. It is not explained in the court documents.

Carroll has been arrested and convicted in the past for fraud and theft and investigated for alleged loan-sharking activities.


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