COLLIER COUNTY — Vinny Angiolillo was known for his tuxedo shorts and bow tie during his failed bid for Collier County sheriff.
But on Thursday, Angiolillo wasn’t wearing the outfit he wears for his business, Class Act Limousine. He was defending himself in court, known in legal lingo as “pro se.” He dressed the part of a lawyer, looking snazzy in a black suit and pink tie, the four corners of a pink handkerchief peeking out of his blazer pocket as he questioned witness after witness, including three lawyers, a legal assistant and his own wife Susan.
He’d refused to pay defense attorney Dominic Lucarelli and his law partner, Karen Beavin, for their representation in a domestic violence criminal case that was dropped and a civil case involving a dispute over property. Another partner in Lucarelli, Beavin and Quinn PA, Jeffrey Quinn, angrily suggested Angiolillo never bothered to sign and return his contract — and is using that as an excuse not to pay about $4,300.
And as pro se trials usually go, tempers flared, objections were lengthy and turned into testimony, and testimony took twice as long as it normally would.
“The question here is, ‘Did he ask you yada, yada, yada,’” Collier County Judge Vince Murphy told Susan Angiolillo, who didn’t understand a lengthy question by Quinn that Murphy had paraphrased once before.
There were allegations Vinny Angiolillo had an affair with his former business partner, Crystal; that Lucarelli cursed at the Angiolillos when they questioned his strategy; and that he didn’t follow their wishes to keep them apprised of all hearings and depositions.
“Your case was such a jumbled mess,” Lucarelli testified during questioning by Angiolillo, who called him as his witness. “You were calling me all day … and your friends were dropping things off at all hours of the night.”
“You were considered a high-maintenance client,” Lucarelli testified later, his voice rising. “I took good care of you. … I met with you on Sundays and Sunday evenings.”
By 4:30 p.m., the trial had already lasted nearly eight hours over two separate days and the star witness has yet to testify: Angiolillo himself.
The judge wasn’t certain when he’d have time to finish hearing testimony and closing arguments.
“This hurts me to suggest this, but if you there’s any way you could resolve this, I’d encourage that,” Murphy told Angiolillo and the three attorneys.
Outside court, Angiolillo said he’d already paid the firm about $30,000 for several cases, even this, but refuses to pay for fees, including a court reporter’s bills, unless he’s provided with an itemized list. He’d already shown he’d hired another attorney, Peter Flood, to help gather evidence for his trial and wasn’t going to pay Lucarelli for that pretrial preparation.
And what he objected to most is a $2,500 “trial fee” because his case was dropped June 4, 2008, the day his domestic violence trial was to begin.
“The jury was never empaneled so I owe him nothing,” Angiolillo said. “That’s what this is all about.”
Angiolillo said he accrued this debt and others, including credit card bills and a foreclosure, after defending himself in court following his October 2007 arrest, which came a week after announcing he was running against Kevin Rambosk, who was then the undersheriff and won. Angiolillo was charged with two misdemeanor counts of violating a domestic violence injunction.
He rejected all plea bargains and dropped defense attorney Lee Hollander after he negotiated two 180-day consecutive jail terms. Then he hired Beavin, who withdrew over an ethical dispute, so he hired Lucarelli.