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Both sides sum up in Tarantino trial

A file photo of Christian Tarantino leaving FBI

A file photo of Christian Tarantino leaving FBI Headquarters in Melville to be arraigned. (Sept. 24, 2008) Credit: Howard Schnapp

Federal prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed Wednesday that Vincent Gargiulo was murdered.

They sharply disagreed, however, on who murdered him.

Both sides summed up their cases at the trial in federal court in Central Islip of Dix Hills gym owner Christian Tarantino, who's accused of killing Gargiulo in 2003.

To Eastern District federal prosecutors Sean Flynn and James Miskiewicz, it's clear that the killer was Tarantino, who feared that Gargiulo, 39, of Sunnyside, Queens, was trying to extort $500,000 from him over Tarantino's involvement in two murders.

They say Gargiulo had told Tarantino that he had recorded him in 2000 admitting to two murders -- that of armored-car guard Julius Baumgardt, 47, in 1994 and Louis Dorval, 30, of Elmont, a partner in the robbery of Baumgardt's armored car who Tarantino suspected might become an informant. Tarantino was convicted of their murders last year. A mistrial was declared over whether he was responsible for killing Gargiulo.

To one of Tarantino's defense attorneys, Stephen Rosen, Gargiulo was shot and killed on a Manhattan street by a fellow drug dealer -- "a crack head" -- because of a deal that had gone wrong. Just because Tarantino had a motive to kill Gargiulo did not mean that he actually had Gargiulo killed, Rosen argued.

Flynn told the anonymous jury that the government had presented overwhelming evidence that "Tarantino was a cold and calculating killer." The jurors in the three-week-old trial have not been publicly identified because of the violent nature of the case.

Flynn said the evidence included testimony by Tarantino's longtime friend and business partner, Scott Mulligan. Mulligan testified that after the Gargiulo killing, Tarantino said, in effect, "it's over now."

The jury was not supposed to know that Tarantino was convicted last year of the Baumgardt and Dorval murders. And Rosen said that the issue was not whether Tarantino murdered them. The issue was whether Tarantino was involved in the Gargiulo killing.

Rosen said a government witness in the case, Pablo Amador, who claimed to be the lookout in the Gargiulo shooting, was the actual shooter, suggesting it was because of a drug deal that had gone bad. Rosen added that a defense eyewitness at the scene had identified Amador as the shooter.

Miskiewicz scoffed at Rosen's claims, saying that the supposed defense eyewitness, Richard Tramble, had gotten most of the details of the shooting wrong and could not identify Amador in a lineup.

Jury deliberations are expected to continue Thursday.

If convicted of conspiracy and murder by obstructing justice, Tarantino could be sentenced to life in prison. Tarantino already faces two other life sentences following his convictions on the murders of Baumgardt and Dorval.

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