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Deliberations begin in Thornton trial

Ronald Thornton hired a

Ronald Thornton hired a "death squad" to kill James DiMartino on Oct. 20, 2008, outside a restaurant on Jericho Turnpike in Commack, prosecutors said. Credit: Suffolk County Police Department

The attorney for a Nesconset mortgage broker on trial for murder in Riverhead said Monday the broker was the intended victim of a robbery by three people who instead killed his friend and business partner.

In closing arguments at the trial of Ronald Thornton in Suffolk County Court, prosecutors said phone and bank records, security videos and secretly recorded conversations link Thornton to the Oct. 20, 2008, killing of James DiMartino.

Jurors began deliberations Monday afternoon. They were unable to reach a verdict. Deliberations will resume this morning.

Prosecutors say Thornton, 39, paid three people about $10,000 to kill DiMartino because he knew about real estate frauds allegedly perpetrated by Thornton.

"Actions speak louder than words, and it's all here," Assistant District Attorney Nancy Clifford said, holding up a copy of records of cell phone calls she said Thornton made to three co-conspirators.

Thornton has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and first-degree conspiracy for the slaying of DiMartino, 44, of Nesconset, in a Commack parking lot. DiMartino was shot once in the forehead. Thornton faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole if convicted of murder.

Thornton also is charged with first-degree conspiracy for allegedly trying to arrange the kidnapping of the daughter of a woman who agreed to testify against him.

Thornton's attorney, Glenn Obedin of Central Islip, told jurors Monday that prosecutors built their case on "speculation."

He pinned blame for DiMartino's death on Monique Randall, an exotic dancer who pleaded guilty in November 2008 to second-degree murder for her role in the killing. Obedin said Randall, her boyfriend and another man planned to rob Thornton, but killed DiMartino when Thornton failed to show up outside a Commack restaurant.

"What we know is that Monique Randall and her two thugs robbed and killed James DiMartino - simple as that," Obedin said.

Randall, 30, of St. Albans Queens, testified that Thornton paid her, Donovan Raysor, 22, of St. Albans, and Darnell Festus, 24, of Queens, about $10,000 to kill DiMartino. Raysor and Festus are awaiting trial.

The jury Monday asked to hear a read-back of testimony by DiMartino's widow, Diane. Late in the day, they asked to hear Randall's testimony.

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