A defense witness for Christian Tarantino, a Dix Hills gym owner accused of orchestrating three murders, testified Tuesday that Tarantino had no role in one of the killings.
The witness, Peter Pistone, who had pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact in the killing of Louis Dorval, one of Tarantino's purported victims, said he had never met Tarantino. He testified that the defendant was not involved in the Dorval slaying, under questioning by defense attorney James Froccaro in federal court in Central Islip.
But federal prosecutor James Miskiewicz, in a blistering cross-examination, pointed out that Pistone had significantly changed his story of the Dorval murder five or six times in interviews over the years with federal officials.
When questioned by Miskiewicz about details of the crime, or discrepancies in his testimony, Pistone often said he could not recall or had only a vague recollection.
Miskiewicz noted that Pistone's truthfulness was so questionable in the eyes of federal officials that they had declined to give him a letter asking a judge to grant him a reduced sentence for cooperation. Pistone has served 100 months in prison for being an accessory in the Dorval murder, he said.
Federal prosecutors say that Tarantino and Dorval took part in a 1994 robbery in Muttontown in which armored-car guard Julius Baumgardt was shot and killed. Tarantino then had Dorval and another associate, Vincent Gargiulo, killed, prosecutors charge, because he feared the two would inform on him to the FBI.
Pistone testified he was told Dorval was killed because he was not sharing money made from illegal drug sales with organized-crime members.
Pistone was the first defense witness called after the government rested its case Tuesday in the trial before U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert, which started on March 28. So far, there have been only 10 days of actual testimony because of holidays and other court matters.
The prosecution evidence includes hairs found in a getaway vehicle by Nassau police shortly after the armored car robbery.
The mitochondrial DNA on one hair matches that of Tarantino and only 1 percent of the Caucasian male population, according to a prosecution expert. Similar odds apply to the mitochondrial DNA on the second hair, Dorval's hair and that of the Caucasian male population, the expert said.
The prosecution has also offered a tape that Gargiulo supposedly made in which Tarantino allegedly talks of his role in the armored car robbery and the Dorval killing.
Michael Rosen, another of Tarantino's defense attorneys, has sought to discredit the evidence by saying that the odds of a DNA match are still such there is no proof that the hairs are that of Dorval and Tarantino. Rosen contends the government has also not proven the validity of the tape recording.