At 12:30 pm on May 14, a parade of suits marches out of the Criminal Courts Building and down to the adjacent Grand Park for lunch. There, greasy food trucks line a sitting area, parked in the shadow of the looming 20-story steel ingot, a foreboding eyesore. Today is another sunny spring day in LA, and those who leave the building, choosing the trucks over the one-note cafeteria, are wise to shed their jackets and roll up their sleeves.
Among those in the park is Anthony DiLorenzo, a lean, heavily tanned Italian-American approaching middle age but still wearing his hair long and his jeans ripped. A leather jacket is slung over his shoulder as he wanders in amongst the suits with two friends, who are just as out of place as he is, with neck tattoos and rolled-up grungy threads. Their expressions are solemn. They are waiting to testify against Michael Gargiulo, who stands accused of brutally stabbing three women to death, two in LA and one in Chicago. DiLorenzo has known about the Chicago killing since long before Gargiulo’s arrest. That’s why he’s here today.
As the lunch crowd re-enters the Criminal Courts Building, many throw their jackets back on. The building feeds, or rather, injects air conditioning throughout its hallways, decorating the place with a chilly aura of gloom. The ninth floor’s extra security only adds to this feeling. DiLorenzo, too, puts on his jacket in an effort to warm himself or, perhaps, to show respect for the propriety of the court.
Inside the courtroom, as prosecutor Garrett Dameron begins his questioning, DiLorenzo goes to great lengths to express his disgust at having ever associated with Gargiulo. He recalls with disbelief that 10 years ago, the two were close enough that DiLorenzo invited the alleged killer to his baby shower. At the time, the two men were coworkers at the legendary Sunset Blvd. rocker hangout The Rainbow Bar & Grill. The two eventually became friends, grabbing the occasional drink after work.
DiLorenzo testifies that on one of their outings, Gargiulo drunkenly told him about the Chicago murder of Tricia Paccacio, Gargiulo’s childhood neighbor and his best friend’s sister. According to DiLorenzo, Gargiulo bragged between drinks, “I buried the bitch,” to which DiLorenzo responded, “Bullshit.” At this point, DiLorenzo clarifies to the court that Gargiulo was prone to making things up. “Just kidding,” DiLorenzo remembers Gargiulo saying, “I left her on her doorstep to die.”
After Dameron finishes, defense attorney Dale Rubin rises and proceeds to pick apart everything DiLorenzo has said. In earlier testimony, as Rubin points out, DiLorenzo stated that Gargiulo made his “just kidding” comment after all of his previous statements about the night. Rubin asserts that the placement of the “just kidding” in Gargiulo’s bragging is critical to discerning whether or not this was a factual story that he let slip while drunk or merely an example of Gargiulo’s habitual lying. “You did just say he was prone to telling tall tales,” the defense observes. When questioned about this, DiLorenzo becomes frustrated. “I don’t know. He said something like, ‘just kidding, I left the bitch to die,’ or something like that. I don’t remember EXACTLY the placement of the words. It’s been years!”
Rubin is clearly trying to wear DiLorenzo down. He asks DiLorenzo about another man, Temer Leary, a friend and coworker of his and Gargiulo’s who was also with them that night. Apparently, Leary had traveled from New York to LA with DiLorenzo as they had both been involved in criminal activity back east and wanted to start anew. Years later, Leary would see an episode of “48 Hours” about the Paccacio murder and call DiLorenzo, remembering what Gargiulo told them on their night out.
Rubin asks DiLorenzo about Leary, suggesting that, since the two were both frequently in trouble with the law, the purpose of DiLorenzo’s testimony was to help him clean up his own criminal record. DiLorenzo glares at Rubin. “You’re making things up,” he grumbles, “I’m here because it’s the RIGHT THING to do.”
Rubin keeps the pressure on DiLorenzo. He asks the witness about the motives behind his decision to speak with authorities in Chicago about the Paccacio homicide investigation:
RUBIN: HE WAS TEXTING ABOUT GOING TO CHICAGO AND TALKING TO THE AUTHORITIES; RIGHT?
DILORENZO: THAT’S CORRECT. THAT’S WHAT BEST FRIENDS DO, DON’T THEY, STAND BY EACH OTHER.
RUBIN: OKAY. SO YOU WENT TO CHICAGO AS A FAVOR FOR YOUR BEST FRIEND?
DILORENZO: NO, I DIDN’T GO AS A FAVOR.
RUBIN: WELL, YOU SAID, THAT’S WHAT BEST FRIENDS DO. YOU JUST SAID IT.
DILORENZO: I DIDN’T SAY ANYTHING ABOUT A FAVOR, DID I? I SAID, THAT’S WHAT BEST FRIENDS DO, THEY STICK BY EACH OTHER. OKAY. I DIDN’T DO ANYTHING AS A FAVOR. I DID IT BECAUSE IT NEEDED TO BE DONE. IT’S THE TRUTH.
RUBIN: YOU STUCK BY MR. LEARY; IS THAT RIGHT THAT’S WHO YOU WERE STICKING BY?
DILORENZO: AS IN WHAT? WHAT DO YOU MEAN STICK BY?
RUBIN: WELL, YOU’RE THE ONE THAT SAID YOU STICK BY FRIENDS.
DAMERON: OBJECTION, THIS IS ARGUMENTATIVE.
JUDGE FIDLER:: WE’RE GETTING INTO A COLLOQUY. JUST QUESTION AND ANSWER, PLEASE.
RUBIN: YOU WENT TO CHICAGO TO GIVE TESTIMONY AT THE REQUEST OF MR. LEARY; CORRECT?
DILORENZO: IT WAS MORE THAN MR. LEARY.
RUBIN: OKAY. YOU WENT TO CHICAGO AT THE REQUEST OF MR. LEARY BECAUSE MR. LEARY WAS LOOKING AT GETTING SOMETHING?
RUBIN: IN —
DILORENZO: THAT’S NOT TRUE.
RUBIN: WELL, WHAT DOES IT MEAN IN THAT —
DILORENZO: I HAVE NO IDEA ABOUT MR. LEARY GETTING ANYTHING. I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT.
RUBIN: I SAYS —
DILORENZO: YOU’RE MAKING THINGS UP RIGHT NOW.
RUBIN: YOU JUST TESTIFIED ABOUT THIS. CALL ME. MY LAWYER SAID DO NOT GET ON THAT PLANE, NOT TILL WE GET OUR IMMUNITY ON PAPER. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT IMMUNITY IS?
DILORENZO: YES —
DAMERON: OBJECTION, YOUR HONOR. THIS IS ARGUMENTATIVE.
JUDGE FIDLER: THE TONE IS ARGUMENTATIVE. JUST QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS. THANK YOU.
Rubin apologizes to Judge Fidler with a polite, unperturbed smile. DiLorenzo is fuming, but after several more intense rounds of direct and re-direct examination, he is finally excused from the witness stand.
Outside the courtroom, DiLorenzo laments to a friend about Rubin with his head in his hands, face wet with tears. His friend nods sympathetically. DiLorenzo, still emotional but resolute, finally stands, wipes his face, and leaves the building. As he exits, he removes his leather jacket, revealing a perspiration-soaked shirt underneath, and walks back into the beating sun. Rubin follows close behind, wearing the same calm grin that he wore when he questioned DiLorenzo and when he was admonished by Judge Fidler. He takes his coat off, too. No sweat.