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In the meantime, Richard said he had his bagman and driver, Tony Rucereto, sound out the union reps to see if they'd appreciate $50,000 in exchange for what he called "labor peace." Rucereto, who also testified for the prosecution, said that Forde never said a word when the bribe was offered, only staring back at him "stone cold." Later, Forde added, cryptically: "No non-union men."
Still, Richard was so convinced they had a deal that he set up another meeting for the payoff, at the Hooters restaurant across the street from the hotel. He said Rucereto brought $10,000 cash and that, while he never saw the money change hands, it was gone when they left the restaurant. Rucereto added to the mystery by saying he must have missed the payoff while he was in the bathroom. Richard's clearest recollection—one he has stuck to for eight years—was that as the men sat and drank, Forde made a small joke: "Mr. Forde said he shouldn't be having a beer; they were cracking down at the union."
In their summations, defense attorneys Dowd and Lankler said that Richard, who once bragged about buying champagne at the Oak Room and trinkets for a stripper named Lola, was a "pathological liar," even reading about the malady from medical dictionaries.
"If he was a pathological liar," responded assistant D.A. Scotto when his turn came, "you'd think he would've come up with a better lie."
Whatever the truth of the matter, this time the jury wasn't buying. It deliberated all of 90 minutes on the evening of June 10 before voting to acquit both defendants. "The circumstantial evidence was compelling," said one juror a few days later. "Still, the defense piled on the nagging doubts, and I wasn't convinced enough to send the guys to jail."
After the verdict, Mike Forde, who is trying to quit, lit up a victory cigarette. He deserved it. It is not every day you beat a mob curse.