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Jury Finds LA. Man Innocent of  Firearm Possession Charge

(Re-printed with permission from the SUN HERALD)

Friday, February 10, 1995

Section: FRONT

Page: A10



A federal jury found a Louisiana man innocent Thursday night of possession of a

firearm by a convicted felon.


Jurors deliberated for about three hours before finding that Philip Rizzuto was

justified in using a firearm during a July 25, 1993, fight at Grand Casino in Gulfport.

Rizzuto shot his nephew, Joe F. Gagliano, with a .22-caliber pistol outside the casino

after a verbal confrontation.


Federal law prohibits convicted felons from using firearms, unless the use can be

justified by an unexpected need for self-defense.


Rizzuto's criminal history includes a 1982 federal conviction for attempting to bribe a

federal judge in California. The same case eventually convicted organized crime boss

Carlos Marcello of New Orleans, who died in 1993.


Authorities have linked Rizzuto and Gagliano to organized crime. Gagliano was one

of 17 people indicted last year for racketeering, including allegedly skimming profits

for the Marcello, Genovese and Gambino crime families in Louisiana and New York.


In closing arguments, government prosecutors and defense attorneys reminded jurors

that testimony conflicted over when Rizzuto possessed the gun. The defense

contended that Rizzuto responded to an attack by Gagliano by grabbing the pistol

from the glove box of a borrowed vehicle he was driving. The gun belonged to an

employee of Rizzuto's sister, who told jurors Wednesday that he had accidently left

the weapon inside the van.


The defense argued that Gagliano knocked Rizzuto to the parking lot pavement, then

repeatedly kicked him.


Government prosecutors responded that Rizzuto and his party had passed several

security guards inside and outside the casino without seeking their help.


Government prosecutors argued that Rizzuto had known about the weapon and that

he had carried it inside the casino either ``inside his right pocket or inside his



``He possessed that firearm, and he broke the law,'' Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter

Barrett told jurors. ``He isn't a regular citizen, he's a convicted felon.''


Defense attorney Boyce Holleman retaliated, ``Mr. Rizzuto has paid his debt to



Judge Walter J. Gex III will sentence Rizzuto PUT DATE HERE in Biloxi.




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