An electrician whose lover was embroiled in a bitter breakup with her millionaire husband brutally bludgeoned the man to death in the bedroom of his East Hampton mansion because he was infuriated over her share in the divorce settlement, prosecutors said Wednesday.
Daniel Pelosi, 41, is charged with second-degree murder in the bludgeoning death of Theodore Ammon, a Manhattan investment banker and chairman of Jazz at Lincoln Center, who was found naked and beaten in a bedroom of his sprawling home. Nearly three years to the day after Ammon was found dead, opening arguments began Wednesday in a packed Suffolk County courtroom.
The defense argued that Pelosi was miles from the Ammon house when he was killed and said there is forensic evidence and other possible links to an unknown killer. Suffolk County assistant district attorney Janet Albertson said Pelosi, who oversaw the installation of a security system in Ammon's home, had both the means and motivation to want Ammon dead.
The prosecution contended that Pelosi was enraged by the proposed divorce settlement between the victim and his lover, Generosa Ammon, because she stood to receive just $25 million out of an estate that some have estimated to top several hundred million dollars. Pelosi, prosecutors say, had grown accustomed to an opulent lifestyle in the months he had spent living off his wealthy girlfriend. "This case is very simple--it's about more money," Albertson said.
They alleged that Pelosi's intimate knowledge of the security system allowed him to disable it, adding that the computer hard drive that operated it was missing when police came to the house.
Defense attorney Gerald Shargel insisted that Pelosi was nowhere near the Ammon house the night of the killing. He used a six-foot-long cardboard map of Long Island to illustrate how his client was traveling from New York City to his sister's home in Center Moriches, a town nearly 40 miles from where Ammon was found slain. Ammon, who ran the private equity firm Chancery Lane Capital, suffered
fractures to his hands and ribs and was beaten in the head with a blunt object more than 30 times. The sheets were missing from the bedroom where he was found.
Shargel told the jurors that they will hear about two key pieces of forensic evidence--blood and a strand of hair--found at the crime scene that don't belong to either the victim or Pelosi, suggesting a possible unknown killer. "Danny Pelosi did not murder Ted Ammon," Shargel said.
The defense suggested to the jury that Ammon was "conflicted about his sexual orientation" and that may be a link to his killer. Shargel said the victim had visited a gay beach hours before he was killed, according to a friend who spoke to Ammon that evening on his cell phone. "He didn't go for some casual stroll that night," Shargel said.
Pelosi, who has been animated in past courtroom appearances, winking to relatives and chattering at reporters, did not speak or show emotion during opening statements. If convicted, Pelosi faces 25 years to life in prison. Testimony began Wednesday afternoon with a woman who was Ammon's personal
assistant since 1984. She testified that she was not aware of any sexual ambiguity in his lifestyle, but on cross-examination conceded that she knew few details at all about his personal life.
The trial had been delayed two weeks after the prosecution announced evidence that Pelosi told inmates in Suffolk County jail that he killed Ammon and then later tried to intimidate inmates he believed were scheduled to testify against him. He will be tried separately on new charges, including attempted witness
tampering and intimidation, after his murder trial.