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Murder Retrial Sought After Informer Seen With Denise Brown

March 23, 1995

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Two convicted murderers filed for retrial Wednesday because Anthony Fiato, a key prosecution witness and shadowy mob informer, emerged from hiding in a public relationship with Nicole Brown Simpson’s sister.

The Superior Court retrial motion was filed by attorney Barry Levin on behalf of Ronald Coe and Alan Betts, who were convicted Feb. 3 of killing tough-guy actor Frank Christi in a murder-for-hire scheme.

``These actions by Mr. Fiato, placing him in the public eye via a high-profile relationship and posing for photographers in a public place, directly contradict claims made by the prosecution at trial,″ Levin said.

At trial, Levin said, authorities claimed ``the disclosure of even the slightest detail of his whereabouts or his current business would put (Fiato) in danger.″

Prosecutors told jurors that Norman Freedberg hired Coe, Betts and Harvey Rosenberg to kill Christi because of a dispute over a woman.

Fiato, a former organized crime enforcer known as ``Tony Rome″ and ``Tony the Animal,″ testified for three days that Freedberg tried to hire him to kill Christi but he turned the job down.

Defense lawyers were blocked from delving into Fiato’s background because prosecutors said revealing his whereabouts would endanger the federally protected witness.

``Fiato was allowed to testify that he once led a life of crime, and now he’s St. Peter. We don’t believe that’s true,″ said Levin, adding the defense could have destroyed Fiato’s credibility in front of the jury.

Fiato recently surfaced in a high-profile relationship with Denise Brown, sister of O.J. Simpson’s slain ex-wife. Photographs of Fiato and Brown have appeared in newspapers and supermarket tabloids.

In a telephone interview, Denise Brown said: ``There is no relationship.″ She declined further comment.

The informer ``suddenly appears at the side of Denise Brown, posing for the cameras. Fiato is letting the world know who he’s seeing and where he’s seeing her,″ Levin said.

Christi, 52, whose credits included a role in ``The Godfather,″ was killed July 9, 1982, at his Hollywood Hills home. Police arrested the four men 11 years later, after the case was profiled on ``America’s Most Wanted.″

Jurors convicted Coe and Betts but deadlocked on Freedberg. Rosenberg has died. Coe and Betts are scheduled to be sentenced March 31 to life in prison without possibility of parole, while a retrial is planned for Freedberg, said Sandi Gibbons, spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office.

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