NAPLES — UPDATE: Angiolillo fully satisfied the judgment, paying it all off, on May 24, 2010.
After getting his three days in court, former sheriff candidate Vinny Angiolillo left the courthouse smiling Wednesday after a judge cut $2,000 off legal bills he objected to paying.
It was the end of a lawsuit filed by his former attorneys' law firm, Lucarelli, Beavin and Quinn PA of Naples.
“It’s always sad to see the breakdown of an attorney-client relationship,” Collier County Judge Vince Murphy said before making his ruling. “It’s always sacred under the law. Sometimes, when it gets to this point, each of us feels the need to vindicate what we did. ... Sometimes, we dig our heels in to the point where we win or die.”
The judge noted he’d heard Angiolillo’s version, and the testimony presented by his former attorneys, Domenic Lucarelli, Karen Beavin and Jeffrey Quinn. But “somewhere in between” was his ruling.
The judge ordered Angiolillo to hand over $2,209.73, plus interest dating to August 2008, for past legal bills involving his former attorneys’ representation in civil cases and a domestic violence criminal case that was dropped the day of trial, June 4, 2008.
It was that $2,500 trial fee that Angiolillo objected to most, contending there was no trial and that he, not Lucarelli, gathered the evidence — and he’d already paid Lucarelli $7,500.
The judge agreed he shouldn’t pay the full trial fee, but awarded Lucarelli $500 for two hours of work that day, agreeing there were ambiguities. Quoting road-gang boss Strother Martin in the movie “Cool Hand Luke,” the judge added, “What we had here was a failure to communicate.”
The judge also ruled Angiolillo must foot the bill for the firm’s lawsuit against him and its costs at this trial, an amount that hasn’t been submitted yet.
“I’d love for the two of you to go out and have a beer and say, ‘Let bygones be bygones.’ But that’s not going to happen,” the judge concluded.
“You’re right, your honor,” Angiolillo replied before leaving court.
“It wasn’t a matter of winning or losing,” Angiolillo said afterward. “It was a matter of the truth coming out. With people who represent you, there’s always questions, whether they’re lawyers or not.”
He hoped the ruling would make others question their lawyers’ representation.
“It’s all about money,” he added, praising the judge for listening to his testimony and closing argument. “He’s very honest, very fair and very attentive. I’m very pleased with the three days we spent in court, and that I was heard. I was tired of all the lies.”
Quinn declined comment for the firm.
It was a colorful trial that began last fall and lasted 10 hours, including Angiolillo’s 30 minutes of testimony Wednesday and his 15-minute closing arguments.
“I am not just the fat guy that rode the elephant down Airport Road, trying to display the big problems in Collier County, or just the limousine driver who knows nothing about the law...” he said during closing arguments.
The snappy suits Angiolillo wore while defending himself pro se — acting as his own attorney — were a stark contrast to the tuxedo shorts outfit and bow tie he was known for during his bid for sheriff. The tuxedo is his uniform as the owner and driver for Class Act Limousine, and at 5-foot-7 and 205 pounds, he bore a striking resemblance to cartoon character Fred Flinstone.
At trial, he cross-examined his former attorneys and their employees. He also called them as defense witnesses in December, when he presented testimony by various witnesses, including his “wife and friend” Susan.
On Wednesday, he read his testimony — a 21-page statement — over Beavin’s objections. Angiolillo contended there was a conspiracy against him, that he was arrested Oct. 15, 2007, the day he announced his candidacy against undersheriff Kevin Rambosk, because local attorneys feared he’d take away their lucrative business of representing clients in drunken driving cases.
He noted that one of his campaign promises, announced at a public forum, was that no one would be arrested without his knowledge or approval and that anyone who couldn’t drive or who was drunk could call the sheriff’s office for a ride.
Angiolillo admitted he may have made a dumb move by accusing the sheriff of campaigning on office time and trying to expose what he called Collier’s corrupt system. “Had I taken on the entire system? Absolutely,” he said. “Was there potential for retaliation? Absolutely.”
But he maintained he was innocent, arrested illegally, without any probable cause, and every attorney he hired wanted him to accept a plea bargain and serve some jail time. But he refused, proclaiming his innocence and desire to protect his integrity.
He also condemned his own attorneys for believing false claims that he was having an affair with the alleged victim in the domestic violence case, Crystal, a former business partner he’d sued.
“I had to play him like a cheap, fragile violin,” Angiolillo said of Lucarelli, who respresnted him after Beavin and Lee Hollander.
At trial, Angiolillo said he accrued the more than $4,300 debt and others, including credit card bills and a foreclosure, after defending himself following his October 2007 arrest. That came a week after announcing he was running for sheriff. He was charged with two misdemeanor counts of violating a domestic violence injunction.
He’d provided testimony to show he’d already paid the firm $30,000 in legal fees and accused them of changing prior written and oral agreements, charging for work he never asked them to do, and lying in court. Asking the judge to dismiss the case, he said: “Integrity is mine and they have none.”