The Irv Gotti Trial: Still Going


I’m really going to have to watch this movie sooner or later

I’ve been covering this trial beat for a week now, and I haven’t yet said anything about Judge Edward Korman, the guy overseeing this whole shit. So here it is: he’s getting on my nerves. It seems like he’s kept the jury out nearly half the time I’ve been in the courtroom so he can hear the prosecution and defense teams argue about bits of evidence: the 50 Cent shooting, most obviously, but also song lyrics and letters from Supreme’s incarcerated associate Prince to the Lorenzos. And Korman never seems to make up his mind; as far as I know, he still hasn’t ruled on the 50 Cent thing. This stuff is all fairly peripheral to the case; it doesn’t seem like it should be too hard for him to decide. But he just lets the lawyer teams bicker away, sighs, mumbles something, and then puts it off again. And this happens several times every day. The jury didn’t even get to enter the courtroom for more than an hour this morning because the lawyers were arguing. It’s like: you’re a judge! Judge something!

There haven’t been any stars in the courtroom for the past few days: no Ja Rule, no Ashanti, no Dame Dash. Most of the reporters left today before the day was over, and no cameras were camping outside waiting for everyone to leave. The trial made the cover of the Daily News today, but that won’t be happening tomorrow. Chris Lorenzo’s lawyer Gerald Shargel wanted to admit today’s Daily News into evidence, in fact, since he felt that the story would help sway the jury; Korman agreed to ask any of the jurors if they’d been reading the papers, and none of them said that they were. But we’re getting into nuts and bolts now: scraps of paperwork, IRS agent testimonies, money trails. The prosecution expects to finish on Monday when the trial resumes, but for now the glamor is gone, and we’re deep into figuring out whether Irv and Chris Lorenzo laundered any money for Supreme or not.

Irv’s lawyer Gerald Lefcourt finished cross-examining yesterday’s witness, former Supreme associate John Ragin, this morning. Lefcourt continued to drive home the point that Ragin is a guy who has no problem lying, and he continued to create the image that the Crime Partners movie and soundtrack were legitimate enterprises, getting Ragin to admit that Def Jam was only interested in buying the soundtrack because Irv was involved and that Supreme had previously managed to compile a soundtrack album for a movie he had tried to make, Black Gangster. The soundtrack had featured songs from Jay-Z and Ja Rule and 50 Cent, and Supreme had bragged that they’d agreed to appear on the album simply because of who Supreme was. But Assistant US Attorney Carolyn Pokorny asked Ragin a few more questions, and he said that Supreme definitely had a checks-for-cash scam going with the Lorenzos, that Irv had provided the songs for the soundtrack instead of Supreme, and that many of Supreme’s associates had jobs at Murder Inc. Nothing earth-shattering.

The rest of the day was given over to the testimonies of a number of law-enforcement agents who’d participated in a search of the Murder Inc. offices in 2003. One found a budget that included pencilled-in payments to Supreme and his associates, one found $35,000 in cash in a safe, one found paperwork showing that Murder Inc. had paid for trips that Supreme had taken. An expert witness, FBI forensic examiner James Douglas, explained that an e-mail showed that Chris Lorenzo owed over $200,000 to a bookie. The defense didn’t contest much of the information that was found, other than to suggest that some of the paperwork could have been wrongly interpreted and to keep some of the prosecution’s evidence from being admitted. It’ll be interesting to see how the defense builds its case, but it looks like we’ll have to get through more paperwork before that happens.

Voice feature: Geeta Dayal interviews Irv Gotti attorney Gerald Lefcourt