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Defense challenges pivotal witness in Graziano murder-for-hire case

LARGO — Ed Graziano's lawyer in his murder-for-hire case says the state's primary witness — a private investigator hired by Graziano — broke the law when he cooperated with police.

As a result, attorney John Trevena argued in court on Tuesday, the investigator's testimony should not be allowed.

Trevena said investigator Jeff Wilson breached confidentiality when he reported to authorities private conversations between Wilson and his client.

But Assistant State Attorney Scott Rosenwasser said Trevena is "trying to create a privilege where none exists."

Instead, Rosenwasser said, another statute governing private investigators is clear that Wilson would have been assisting in committing a crime had he not reported Graziano to law enforcement.

"By law, he was actually required to tell the police," Rosenwasser said.

Graziano, 54, is the father of John Graziano, who was seriously injured in a crash involving Nick Bollea, son of professional wrestler Terry Bollea, who is better known as Hulk Hogan.

According to court documents, Graziano hired Wilson to follow his estranged wife, Debra. Wilson said Graziano approached him about hiring a hit man to kill Debra and he reported it to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office in December 2008. Wilson then began recording conversations with Graziano while acting as a confidential informer for the Sheriff's Office.

Ari Morse, vice president of a private investigation firm and president of the Florida Association of Private Investigators, said he requires all clients of his company, Locaters International, to sign a contract with a confidentiality clause. The clause states information will remain confidential unless it's determined it may be being used for "illegal, immoral or unlawful" purposes, in which case confidentiality is waived.

A hearing on whether to suppress Wilson's testimony is scheduled for Friday.

On Tuesday, Rosenwasser asked Pinellas-Pasco Judge Timothy Peters to postpone that hearing, saying he needed time to prepare because he didn't receive the filing until Jan. 25.

Peters initially denied the request, but after the hearing, agreed to rehear Rosenwasser's motion this morning.

Rita Farlow can be reached at farlow@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4157.

Defense challenges pivotal witness in Graziano murder-for-hire case 02/02/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 2, 2010 10:17pm]
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