Anthony Tatti switched from prosecutor to witness for about an hour Tuesday morning. Now he's afraid that change could become permanent. Tatti is the main prosecutor against John Barrett, who will stand trial next month on charges that he killed four men in Floral City as part of what authorities called a botched murder-for-hire scheme.
In an unusual move, defense attorneys this month asked Tatti to give a deposition explaining what he saw, heard and did during the investigation against Barrett.
Tatti invoked a legal technicality, fearful that he could become a witness at trial and thus kept from prosecuting the case.
But the defense kept after him. So at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Tatti sat down at the Citrus County Courthouse and answered questions.
"We were going to resist it (the subpoena) with every lawful method. It appeared to us we had no lawful method left," said Ric Ridgway, chief assistant to State Attorney Brad King.
Still unclear Tuesday was whether the public defender's office will list Tatti as a trial witness. Ridgway pledged to fight any such move.
Tatti, who is assigned to prosecute murder cases in Citrus, Marion, Hernando, Sumter and Lake counties, shadowed the investigators almost from the moments the four bodies were discovered in Jo Ann Sanders' home Aug. 3, court records showed.
He was present when the investigators interviewed key players in the case, including Barrett and Barrett's common-law wife, Paula Barrett.
Defense lawyers said that involvement qualified Tatti as a witness whose testimony was necessary to put the Barretts' words into context.
Prosecutors didn't buy that argument. They said the move was a plot to delay Barrett's case and to throw a wrench into the prosecutors' plans.
Prosecutors asked County Judge Gary Graham to quash Tatti's subpoena, but the judge refused. They went to Circuit Judge John Booth late Monday to seek additional relief, but again lost.
The state even asked the 5th District Court of Appeal to order Graham to reverse his previous ruling. That was rejected, and prosecutors had no time for an appeal to the Florida Supreme Court, Ridgway said.
If Tatti did not show up Tuesday, Ridgway said, he could have been accused of contempt of court.