Irv and Chris Lorenzo’s defense lawyers made their case today: exactly one witness, about two hours of questioning, cross-examination included. I don’t think this is just arrogance; the prosecution seems to have a flimsy case, and I just can’t imagine any scenario in which the Lorenzos will be found guilty. The defense lawyers had hoped to bring the prosecution’s star witness, poor Donell Nichols, back to the stand because of some new evidence (supposedly a recorded conversation), but the judge wouldn’t allow it. Either way, the defense made its case effectively, and I got to leave the courtroom while it was still light out for the first time, so I’m happy.
The defense’s one witness today was John Ryan, a forensic accountant and former IRS agent that the defense lawyers had hired as an expert witness. Ryan has testified on the government’s behalf before, and he did freelance work for the IRS even after he retired from it, though he did admit under cross-examination that he never served as the lead agent in a money-laundering case and that money-laundering isn’t his primary area of expertise. I had trouble following most of today’s testimony; a whole lot of numbers were flung around, and I didn’t see how any of them established the guilt or innocence of the defendants, though I imagine that’ll become more apparent tomorrow when both sides make their closing arguments. In direct examination, Ryan said that Chris and Irv Lorenzo only deposited a small amount of cash in their various bank accounts despite the hundreds of thousands that Nichols had said were coming in. Chris Lorenzo had withdrawn hundreds of thousands from ATMs in the two-year period that the trial covers, often in Las Vegas or Atlantic City, though I can’t tell what his gambling habits show. In cross-examination, Ryan said that he didn’t analyze all of Chris and Irv’s personal cash deposits (“most, but I’m not sure I could tell you all”), and he seemed to get pretty flustered when Assistant US Attorney Carolyn Pokorny questioned his credibility. He also said that Chris had appeared to have cashed checks for a number of third parties, often employees who may not have had checking accounts, though I’m not sure that proves anything other than that Chris Lornezo is a pretty good boss. He also said that Chris spent more money than he made over two years, not counting his massive gambling debts. Again, this didn’t prove much of anything. Murder Inc. also had some discrepancies on their tax returns; they listed checks to Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff’s film company Picture Perfect as fees and money to bail out a jailed Supreme associate as promotional expenses, but they aren’t on trial for filing tax returns wrong. Things are looking good for the Lorenzos.
The big day is tomorrow; both sides will make summation arguments, and the jury will probably deliver its verdict, which means the courtroom is going to be a zoo. Today was relatively calm; there were plenty of empty seats, though Ashanti showed up for the first time since the trial’s opening and Lyor Cohen, who doesn’t seem all that tall, showed up as well. I’m guessing we’ll see even more celebrities at the courthouse tomorrow, and I’m pretty excited about being there when the verdict is read.
I hope I’m not getting ahead of myself here, but the real question for Irv Gotti seems to be what’ll happen when he gets off. Murder Inc. hasn’t especially been setting the world on fire lately. Ja Rule’s career isn’t quite over, but it’s suffered some serious blows since 50 Cent rose to fame while bashing Ja every chance he got. Ja’s only real hit in the last couple of years has been “New York,” and Fat Joe and Jadakiss pretty much carried that one. He was the first major character to get bodied in the Assault on Precinct 13 remake, and nobody even saw that. Black Child and Cadillac Tah aren’t going to be releasing albums anytime soon. Lil Mo and Charli Baltimore don’t appear to be associated with the label anymore. Ashanti is the only remaining artist on Murder Inc. who still moves units, and Allhiphop rumors reported recently that Bad Boy Records may be trying to steal her away, and there’s rumored to be tension between Irv and Ashanti (they allegedly had an affair a while back, and he was supposedly heated when she started dating Nelly). Irv’s received a lot of publicity from this trial, but he’s going to have to work to turn the publicity into anything resembling a commercial comeback.
Voice feature: Tom Breihan on the Murder Inc. trial
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 29, 2005