City worker Carozza, who ran loan-sharking business, gets life for killing addict

April 26, 1991|By Sheridan Lyons

Still proclaiming his innocence and denouncing prosecutors, who call him "the infamous 'Crowbar,' " Dominic J. Carozza was sentenced yesterday to life in prison plus five years for the murder last June of a drug addict who owed him money.

"You're looking at an innocent man. You know the state bought a case against me," Carozza angrily told Judge Hilary D. Caplan, who responded mildly to Carozza's outbursts and mutterings throughout the sentencing.

Later Carozza told the judge, "You can put me in the lions' den. I don't care: I'll fight them."

Carozza, 59, of Albemarle Street in Little Italy, was a city public works supervisor at the Leadenhall Yard until his conviction last month. Prosecutors said he devoted many working hours to his loan-sharking business. On crutches as the result of a car bomb years ago, he has been acquitted in two previous murder cases.

After handing Carozza concurrent life sentences for murder and conspiracy, plus five years for the use of a gun, Judge Caplan turned to sentence co-defendant Robert Vizzini, 26, of the 200 block of Dorell Road in Essex.

Known as "Tattoo Bobby" to prosecutors, Vizzini was said to be Carozza's enforcer. Vizzini also received two life sentences and a concurrent five-years.

A third defendant on the murder-conspiracy charges, William Kenneth Brooks, 32, of the 400 block of Margaret Avenue, is to be tried nextmonth.

In motions before the sentencings, Vizzini's lawyer, Raphael J. Santini, and Carozza's lawyer, Phillip M. Sutley, argued that the prosecution brought up the car bomb to insinuate that this was a Mafia trial.

Judge Caplan also denied a motion for a new trial on Vizzini's claim that a remark by Carozza during the trial -- that a sheriff's deputy should be sent "back to Africa [to] swing from the trees like an orangutan" -- had hurt Vizzini's chances with the jury. Vizzini and Carozza were found guilty March 5 of killing Russell C. Baker, 42, a drifter and drug addict who was found dead of six gunshots on Pier 7.

Witnesses said Mr. Baker had borrowed $2,400 to buy heroin in New York for a drug deal with Carozza's girlfriend and another woman, but lost the money because they used the drugs themselves instead of selling them to make a profit -- and to repay Carozza.

Mr. Baker was killed about 4 a.m. June 23 as he stood outside a car in the 800 block of Lancaster Street shouting obscenities at Carozza and the co-defendants, said prosecutor Timothy J. Doory. A homeless man living in a makeshift shelter witnessed the the killing.

Carozza testified that he had been drinking with Mr. Baker and Vizzini on the night before the murder, but was home sleeping off the hangover when the killing occurred the next morning at 4 a.m.

He portrayed himself as a soft touch who gave the $2,400 to his girlfriend to buy a car, and who often forgave $1,000 debts.

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