LARGO — The man accused of hiring someone to kill his wife for $2,100 and a $13.06 Westshore Pizza gift card denies he did anything to hurt her, and says he hopes to get out of jail soon and join her in caring for their son.
"I am not guilty of what they're accusing me of, and I'm confident that I'll be fully acquitted," Edward Graziano said in an exclusive jailhouse interview Thursday with the St. Petersburg Times and Bay News 9.
"I didn't try to do anything to hurt my wife," he added. "I love my wife very much."
Graziano, 53, is the father of John Graziano, who was seriously injured in a crash involving Nick Bollea, son of professional wrestler Terry Bollea, better known as Hulk Hogan.
Graziano said his son is "going for some hyperbaric chamber treatments right now and … my wife and I are hoping for the best results out of that." He said his son gets the treatments every day.
The elder Graziano was arrested in February on a charge of solicitation for murder. Based on advice from his attorney, John Trevena, he would not answer specific questions about the case Thursday.
But he said he believes his wife "is extremely hurt over these allegations … that I would try to do something to her."
Graziano said he and his wife, Debra, were not living together at the time of the arrest, but they were working together to help their son. He said both made daily visits to be with their son in the hospital, and went to doctor appointments together.
Asked about his history of alleged domestic violence documented in court records, he said, "I had no history of any kind of violence before 5 1/2 years ago. That's when my wife decided that she didn't want to be married to me any longer and basically turned my life upside down. And that was the start of the, I guess, you know, demise."
Graziano was arrested after numerous conversations with a confidential informant in which, officials say, he discussed plans to have her killed. Among his recorded comments, according to court records: "I mean yes it would be nice to f------ kill her (laughter). Well I don't know if I wanna f------ leave my kids motherless."
During the interview Thursday, Graziano also complained about the influence of the Bollea family, which he thinks led to a light sentence for Nick. He was incredulous when he learned during the interview that Nick Bollea is now licensed to drive in other states.
"There's too many people being paid off. That's my theory on that. It's really ridiculous. This kid (Bollea) has suffered no consequences to his actions whatsoever and I have my son who's serving a life sentence. Is that fair?"
Assistant State Attorney Scott Rosenwasser denied that the Bollea family had undue influence over the legal system. And he scoffed at the suggestion made by Trevena that he had some sort of conflict of interest because he prosecuted Nick Bollea and now was prosecuting Graziano.
"I'm sorry that I wasn't invited to the show, and I have to imagine that this was a show," Rosenwasser said. As to the case against Graziano, he said, "The evidence will speak for itself."
Attorneys for John Graziano have filed a lawsuit against the Bolleas.
Ed Graziano said he had made no attempt since his arrest to contact his other children.
He also denied being suicidal when he was booked into the Pinellas County Jail, but said he was very depressed. Not the least of his problems was that "I was spending most of my days at the hospital; it was just killing me seeing my son like that every day. You don't realize … what it does to someone just seeing your son like that on a daily basis.
"I want to get back to taking care of my son," he said.
"I feel that he needs me. And my presence in his life, and my voice, and my touch, and taking care of him is going to help him as much as hers does."
Curtis Krueger can be reached at (727) 893-8232 or firstname.lastname@example.org.