Galati guilty in plot targeting daughter's boyfriend

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Defense attorney Anthony Voci: "Obviously, it's a huge disappointment for [the family]. . . ."

As the jury filed into the courtroom, Vicky Galati clenched family photos in one hand and a tissue in the other, waiting to hear what fate awaited her husband, accused of conspiring to murder their daughter's boyfriend.

The case, which had put the South Philadelphia family's sordid dramatics on display over two weeks, ended Tuesday afternoon with the jury convicting Ronald Galati on all counts.

Vicky Galati, a petite woman with straight brown hair, gasped as the forewoman read the verdict. Family members steadied her. Ronald Galati sat stone-faced at the defense table.

Galati, 64, faces at least 15 years in prison and a maximum of life.

The former owner of American Collision & Automotive Center in South Philadelphia, and an alleged mob associate in the city, was found guilty of hiring three hit men to shoot his daughter's boyfriend, Andrew Tuono, on Nov. 30, 2013, in Atlantic City.

Galati was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder for hire, murder for hire, and associated weapons charges. He has two additional cases pending against him in Philadelphia - another murder-for-hire case, in which he is charged with conspiring to kill a rival auto shop owner and his son, and an insurance fraud case.

Galati, who wore a black toupee and took intermittent puffs from an inhaler throughout the trial, waved to his family as he was handcuffed and led away by U.S. marshals.

"Ronald Galati hired two men to kill his daughter's boyfriend outside his home. This reprehensible conduct has no place in civilized society," U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said in a statement. "We are grateful to the jury for bringing Galati to justice."

Tuono was shot three times as he walked to his car from his apartment with Tiffany Galati by his side. He survived the attack. Both he and Tiffany Galati testified against her father during the trial.

The admitted hit men, Ronald Walker, 49, and Alvin Matthews, 47, and driver Jerome Johnson, 45, all pleaded guilty in the case and testified, saying they were hired by Galati, who sent them hunting for Tuono in the weeks leading up to the shooting with instructions that if there was a girl present, she was not to be harmed.

"Obviously, it's a huge disappointment for [the family]; they felt all along that Mr. Galati did not do this, could not have done this. The jury found otherwise," defense attorney Anthony Voci said after the verdict.

"Speaking frankly, when you have a conspiracy of four people and the government gets three of them to flip and point the finger at the fourth, it's an uphill battle, and we knew that going in," Voci said.

With its verdict, the jury rejected Voci's argument that Tiffany Galati - who one year prior to the shooting had asked Johnson to beat up an ex-boyfriend - could have orchestrated the attack. Voci also suggested that Tuono could have been shot as part of a drug feud. Tuono took and dealt pills, according to testimony, and one of the hit men was a drug dealer.

There was no physical evidence tying Galati to the crime.

U.S. Assistant Attorney Jason Richardson argued that Galati was angry that Tuono and Tiffany Galati had moved to Atlantic City with his grandson and felt that Tuono had disrespected his son, Ron Jr., when he sent him a text message calling him a "pussy."

According to testimony, Galati made no secret of wanting Tuono dead. In June 2013, he told witnesses he would "kill him myself, I will strangle him, I will poke his eyes out."

The jurors deliberated for an hour Monday and three hours Tuesday before they sent a note to Judge Joseph Rodriguez telling him they were hung. Rodriguez told them to keep trying. Less than an hour later, they had a verdict.

Voci, a former assistant district attorney, said he had never seen a jury indicate it was hung so quickly. "They went out to continue to deliberate, and I guess they resolved whatever differences they had," he said.

Outside the courthouse, each member of the jury individually declined to be interviewed. One woman, who would not give her name, said, "Most of us were not hung."

No information about Galati's pending charges, or his alleged association with organized crime in Philadelphia, was permitted in the trial. Voci said an appeal was unlikely because he had won every pretrial motion he filed.

"It's like we got too fair of a trial," Voci said. "I can't think of one ruling that the judge made that would be subject to federal review such that this case would be overturned."

Neither Tuono nor Tiffany Galati was present for the verdict. Tiffany Galati testified she had not spoken to her father since two days after the shooting. In May, she and Tuono broke up.

Ron Galati Jr. arrived at the courthouse just after the verdict and, upon hearing the news, stormed out of the courtroom and slammed his hand against the wall. His mother quietly walked into the elevator, appearing stunned. Both declined to be interviewed.

The two conspiracy counts and the murder-for-hire count each carry a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison. The firearms counts carry a mandatory minimum consecutive sentence of 10 years and a maximum of life in prison. Each count carries a maximum $250,000 fine.

A sentencing date was not set.


jterruso@phillynews.com

856-779-3876 @juliaterruso