Bookmaker Is Found Guilty In '93 Murder He Could Get The Death Penalty. He Shot A Man At A Meeting Over A Debt.

Posted: July 02, 1994

Charles Giordano, a part-time bookmaker from Norwood, Pa., who was facing $11,000 in gambling debts in December, could now face the death penalty after a jury yesterday rejected his assertion that he killed a bookmaker because he feared being shot himself.

After three hours of deliberation, the Delaware County Court jury found Giordano guilty of first-degree murder. On Tuesday the jurors will return to decide whether Giordano, 26, will receive the death penalty.

Giordano killed James Pirollo Sr., 52, at a morning meeting Dec. 18. The two men were supposed to discuss a $7,500 gambling debt Giordano owed to Pirollo's bookmaking operation.

Instead, the prosecution said, Giordano pulled out a semiautomatic handgun, killed Pirollo, wounded a second man and took $4,000. Later that day, prosecutors said, Giordano paid off a second debt, $3,565, one he owed to another group of bettors.

Pirollo's family, sitting in the front row of the courthouse, erupted with cries of joy when the jury returned the first-degree murder conviction. ''Yes!" said one son, while other family members hugged each other.

"We feel good," Pirollo's stepson, Michael Gavetti, said later. "He had no right to take my father's life, no matter what the circumstances."

There was little reaction from Giordano, who sat straight-backed and motionless through much of the trial. Giordano's family members initially appeared stunned at the verdict. After a few moments, some relatives began to cry.

"Oh my God, what do we tell the kids? They are babies," Giordano's mother, Joanna, said as she sat in the courtroom. Giordano, divorced, has custody of his two children, said defense attorney Eugene P. Tinari.

Giordano was also convicted of attempted murder in the shooting of the second man and of robbery for taking the cash.

A construction worker who was also a member of Pirollo's bookmaking operation, Giordano testified that he panicked and started firing because he thought the elder Pirollo was going for a gun when he opened a desk drawer.

But Deputy District Attorney Daniel J. McDevitt said no gun was found in the drawer or at the scene. He also said prosecution witnesses had testified that Pirollo "had no reputation for being a violent person or using threats of violence. . . . You owed him money, you don't bet with him any more."

Prosecution witnesses testified that the night before the shooting, three men to whom Giordano owed $3,565 visited him at midnight and told him to pay up or else.

"All three of us gave him alternatives as to what was going to happen if he didn't pay us," one of the three testified during the trial.

Wounded in the incident was David Segich, who testified he was shot in the face and then ran from the basement of Pirollo's rowhouse.

On Tuesday, McDevitt will argue that Giordano deserves the death penalty. Tinari said he would tell jurors that Giordano has a gambling addiction and that the episode was "completely out of character."

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