Attorneys in the trial of Joseph Angelo Grosso debated in court Monday whether Grosso "slimed his way" into a plot to kill the Mustang Club's chief financier or was an innocent bystander when a reputed mobster shot the nightclub backer three times in the head.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Christopher J. Evans and defense lawyer William Yacobozzi Jr. spelled out their versions of the evidence during final arguments before a Superior Court jury.
Grosso, 46, is charged with attempted murder, mayhem and conspiracy in an attack on William Carroll, who was shot in the head inside a compact car on May 1, 1987, and left for dead in a deserted parking garage in Costa Mesa.
Law enforcement authorities contend that Grosso, who had a lingerie concession at the now-closed Mustang Club on Harbor Boulevard in Santa Ana, was working with organized-crime figures in an attempt to take over the lucrative nightclub.
Prosecutor Evans argued Monday that Grosso "provided, aided and facilitated" in the crime and that he lied for two days on the witness stand in what Evans described as a "new low in testimony."
Yacobozzi, on the other hand, gave the jury seven scenarios, all purportedly pointing to Grosso's innocence, including the contention that Grosso was sandwiched between two rivals and could have been a victim himself.
"Was a gun at his head" in the car? Yacobozzi asked the jury about Grosso's testimony. "He said he felt something at his head. If that is the case, Grosso is on trial for his own shooting."
In a turnabout from earlier public statements about the case, Grosso testified during his trial that he was driving the car when Carroll, who was seated next to him, was shot in the head by Michael Rizzitello, a reputed Mafia figure.
But Grosso told the jury that the shooting was a surprise to him and denied any participation in the attack that left Carroll blinded.
According to law enforcement authorities, Rizzitello, 62, was an under-boss in the Milano organized-crime family in Los Angeles and has a long history of fraud and racketeering convictions.
Evans charged that Grosso, a driver for Carroll, "slimed his way" into a deal with Rizzitello to kill his former boss and take control of the Mustang topless bar, which was later burned down in an arson.
The prosecutor referred to a motive by reminding the jury of Carroll's testimony about Rizzitello's words to him before he was shot: " 'This is for not letting us eat.' "
Evans said the evidence shows that Grosso set up meetings to plan the shooting, drove Carroll to the crime scene and helped hold Carroll's legs while Rizzitello fired three shots into Carroll's head. Grosso had to have held down Carroll's legs, Evans said, because his clothes were splattered with the victim's blood.
Yacobozzi disputed whether it was physically possible for Grosso to hold Carroll's legs down while he was shot in the cramped confines of a Honda Civic's front seat. He pointed out that Carroll testified that the last thing he saw was Grosso with his hands on the steering wheel and looking straight ahead.
The defense also tried to discredit the prosecution theory that Grosso was going to get a piece of the Mustang Club. Grosso received no power, no control and no money after Carroll was shot, Yacobozzi argued.