After listening to eight days of testimony detailing a nasty, longstanding skirmish in Little Italy, Baltimore jurors began deliberating last night about whether to award $1 million in damages to the president of the neighborhood association.
Plaintiff Roberto Marsili, president of the Little Italy Community Organization, sued community residents Rosa Aquia and her daughter Gia Blatterman for malicious prosecution and abuse of process, saying they brought an erroneous harassment suit and other legal action against him.
The case, heard in Baltimore Circuit Court, was punctuated by heated testimony, accusations, name-calling and an appearance by Orioles Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer.
Marsili, 72, says he has known Palmer for 10 years. The Baltimore sports legend showed up for about an hour this week to support him, Marsili said.
"Palmer thinks Mr. Marsili is a character," said Marsili's lawyer, Domenic R. Iamele.
But Gerald C. Ruter, who represents Blatterman and Aquia, painted a different picture of Marsili.
"Mr. Marsili had the audacity to bring Jim Palmer into this courtroom to try to buy your vote, and that is deplorable," Ruter said in his closing argument yesterday. "He's a bully, and you need to send him back to Little Italy with no money in his pocket."
Defendants Aquia, 78, and Blatterman, 55, have sued Marsili or accused him of crimes on several occasions, including once in 1997, when Marsili pleaded guilty to assaulting Blatterman with his car. He received a sentence of six months' probation.
In 1999, Blatterman pressed charges against Marsili after accusing him of being a "peeping Tom." The charge was dropped by the state's attorney's office.
In 1998, Aquia charged Marsili with assault and harassment, and in 2000 she sued him for defamation. The jury sided with Marsili.
That suit contended that Marsili defamed Aquia in his neighborhood newsletter, The Guardian, by criticizing a $250,000 no-payback loan Aquia received from the city for renovating two houses.
Marsili's lawyer has said that the women had wanted to stop him from putting out The Guardian.
Yesterday, Blatterman took the stand, and her testimony was so impassioned that she and Iamele argued for the better part of three hours, prompting Judge John N. Prevas to tell her several times to stop talking.
In his closing argument, Iamele said that Marsili deserves the $1 million "for the hell he's had to go through all these years."