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Defense Asks Dismissal of Charges in Gangland-Style Murder Attempt

Times Staff Writer

Attempted murder charges against reputed mob captain Michael Anthony Rizzitello and associate Joseph Angelo Grosso should be dismissed because the prosecution withheld “substantial” evidence “favorable” to the defendants, their lawyers argued Monday in court.

Orange County Deputy Dist. Atty. Christopher J. Evans, who is prosecuting Rizzitello and Grosso for the 1987 gangland-style shooting of William C. Carroll, scoffed at the accusation, made by Rizzitello attorney Anthony P. Brooklier and Grosso attorney Michael T. Kenney.

“If I was going to hide it, why wouldn’t I hide it for good instead of turning it over 2 weeks before trial?” Evans said. “The second I received this evidence I dispatched it to Mr. Brooklier.”

At issue are two tape recordings of conversations on May 1, 1987, by Costa Mesa police detectives who interviewed Carroll in a hospital emergency room just hours after he was shot, execution-style, three times in the head.

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Tapes Mailed March 31

Evans mailed the tapes to the defense on March 31 when, he said, he learned they existed. Evans told the court that Costa Mesa police, who investigated the shooting, had said in both their reports and conversations that Carroll refused to cooperate or divulge who shot him but that police never mentioned audiocassettes. Evans said he discovered the tapes while going through all Costa Mesa’s physical evidence in preparation for trial.

Defense attorneys claimed that Evans “kept from the defense” what they called “key evidence,” contending that the tapes conflict with Carroll’s sworn testimony at two preliminary hearings last fall.

The trial had been scheduled to begin Monday but was delayed to May 8 to allow the defense motion to be heard by Superior Court Judge Myron S. Brown.

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Carroll, part owner of the notorious Mustang topless bar in Santa Ana that was torched and destroyed 15 months ago, was shot three times at close range inside his car and left in a parking garage near the Orange County Performing Arts Center. He survived but is permanently blinded. He refused to discuss the attack for 17 months but did so for the first time on the day after several criminal charges against him in another case were dismissed.

Rizzitello, 61, of Los Angeles, and Grosso, 45, of Newport Beach, are facing first-degree attempted murder and other, related charges stemming from the April 30, 1987, shooting.

Battle Over Illicit Profits

The prosecution’s case hinges largely upon Carroll’s testimony. At preliminary hearings last fall for Rizzitello and Grosso, Carroll testified that the trio dined together at a Santa Ana restaurant and then drove together to the South Coast Plaza-area garage. He testified that Grosso held down his legs while Rizzitello pumped three bullets into his head, ending a battle over who would control illicit profits from the Mustang bar.

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