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Archive for Sunday, December 4, 2005

Executive acquitted in money laundering case

December 4, 2005

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— A hip hop music producer who cultivated a gangster image by taking the last name "Gotti" finally has something in common with the late Teflon Don: an acquittal.

A federal jury in Brooklyn found Irving "Irv Gotti" Lorenzo and his brother Christopher not guilty Friday of laundering piles of drug money for a notorious crack kingpin.

Jurors also acquitted the Lorenzo's record company, until recently known as Murder Inc., at a trial that was followed closely by some of the music industry's big stars.

Supporters in the gallery erupted in cheers after the acquittals were announced. Amid the jubilation, a small group of jurors asked that the Lorenzos and their mother be taken into an antechamber with them so they could congratulate them in private.

Irving Lorenzo's two attorneys then carried him out of the courthouse as he shouted: "We did it! We did it!"

Minutes later, he threw his arms around juror Gloria Menzies, who called the brothers "my boys" and invited Irving to attend church with her.

"They had nothing to pin on these two guys," Menzies said. "It was so weak."

Beaming, Lorenzo accepted her invitation and said the trial had brought him closer to God. He also promised that his legal troubles were behind him for good.

"I'm never going to get into any other trouble, no jaywalking, nothing," he told reporters.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Sean Haran said he would respect the jury's verdict.

The Lorenzo brothers had faced up to 20 years in prison if convicted. They were accused of agreeing to launder money for Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff, a man a prosecutor called "one of the biggest, baddest, most dangerous drug lords in New York City."

McGriff allegedly funneled more than $1 million in drug money through Murder Inc. in return for providing protection for the Lorenzos. A government witness who once worked at the label testified that he saw a "huge amount" of money delivered in shopping bags and a shoe box.

Murder Inc. cut tens of thousands of dollars in checks for corporations controlled by McGriff, including a movie company that produced a straight-to-video film called "Crime Partners 2000." The label also covered his expenses as he traveled around the country, ostensibly working as an entertainment executive.

The defense said the Lorenzos were businessmen whose associations with McGriff were legal. The brothers said they decided to invest their own money in McGriff's movie because he was an old friend from their Queens neighborhood.

The trial was a spectacle for celebrity watchers.

Courtroom supporters included Jay-Z, Fat Joe and Russell Simmons, along with Ja Rule and Ashanti, the platinum-selling artists signed by the defendant's Murder Inc. label.

Ja Rule, on hand for the verdict, said he was elated.

"I can't even explain the feeling that's in my body."

Murder Inc. changed its name to The Inc. last year after executives said the label's image was hurt by the racketeering case.

Christopher Lorenzo said outside the courthouse Friday that the gangster motif, including his brother's adoption of the "Gotti" name, was always just show business.

"You want to know his real name?" he said. "It's Magoo, because he squints all the time."

He said the pair would now work on reviving the business, which he said had been hurt financially by the case's "black cloud."

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