TORONTO â€” Three men who sent each other text messages advocating revenge against a rival were simply engaging in “macho nonsense,” not plotting a murder, a defence lawyer told a Toronto courtroom Wednesday.
All the messages show is “people play-acting like they’re in a Scorsese movie or something” in order to appear tough, lawyer Alan Gold said.
And while the group may have wanted retribution against John Raposo, they sought to get it by stealing a shipment of drugs worth millions of dollars from him, not by having him killed, he said.
“It was a drug conversation, not a killing conversation,” the lawyer argued in his closing submissions.
Prosecutors allege a thirst for money and revenge led the men, all of whom were involved in cocaine trafficking, to orchestrate a hit on Raposo, who was also a drug trader.
They argue the group believed Raposo had ratted one of them out to authorities, which resulted in a raid.
The Crown alleges Nicola Nero, Martino Caputo and Rabih Alkhalil were the masterminds of the plan, while a fourth accused, Dean Wiwchar, was the contract killer tasked with carrying out the job.
It’s alleged Wiwchar came from Vancouver and dressed up as a construction worker â€” complete with hard hat, reflective vest and dust mask, as well as a wig â€” to shoot Raposo in the head and neck in broad daylight.
All four are charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder, to which they have pleaded not guilty.
Raposo was fatally shot on the patio of the Sicilian Sidewalk Cafe on the afternoon of June 18, 2012, as soccer fans gathered to watch a Euro Cup game.
Wiwchar was arrested three days later. Nero and Caputo were arrested in early 2013 â€” the latter in Germany â€” and Alkhalil was arrested in Greece the following year.
During trial, jurors saw a series of encrypted messages intercepted by police as part of an investigation into Nero’s alleged drug activities.
Earlier Wednesday, the Crown argued those messages linked the four accused, who addressed each other by nicknames, and laid out their plans for Rapozo’s death.
In at least one of those messages, Nero called Raposo a “rat” who deserved to die for the harm he had caused.
“This is macho trash talk from a bunch of criminals,” Gold, who represents Nero, told the court.
Saying you want someone dead doesn’t make you a party to murder, he said, arguing there is “simply no evidence of him doing anything.”
What’s more, roughly a quarter of the text conversations presented in court don’t even include Nero because they were sent after May 23, 2012 â€” the day he was arrested on drug charges and put behind bars, where he remains to this day, the lawyer said.
Gold urged the jury not to be swayed by the fact that his client was far from an upstanding citizen, with a “deplorable lifestyle of illegal money,” saying none of that makes him a murderer.
Defence lawyers for Caputo, Alkhalil and Wiwchar are expected to give their closing submissions Thursday.
Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press