Sparks flew this week between an attorney for Michael Sarno and Sarno's alleged victim when he took the witness stand.
Vincent Dublino, who acknowledges he still leases illegal video poker machines to bars, engaged in verbal combat with Sarno's veteran defense attorney, Terry Gillespie, as Gillespie tried to undermine Dublino's stories about being threatened by his client.
Dublino said that in summer 2002, Sarno accosted him outside the Berwyn bar that Dublino owned, called Forget About It, as Dublino was working to put his video poker machines into a business where Sarno already had his machines.
Dublino recalled that Sarno pulled up and screamed at him: "I want to talk to you, you f------ punk."
Dublino testified he swore at Sarno, then went across the street to talk to him.
"I swore at him because he called me a f------ punk," Dublino explained in the normally profanity-free environment of a federal courtroom in Chicago.
Sarno warned him not to put his machines in a restaurant in Lyons, but Dublino said he balked.
"I don't work for you. You go f--- yourself, fat ass," Dublino said he responded.
Gillespie approached Dublino on the witness stand and asked Dublino to simulate between the two of them how close Sarno supposedly was to Dublino during the argument.
Dublino hopped off his chair, and Gillespie went behind the witness stand, so there was no barrier in the way and the two men could stand toe-to-toe.
Dublino suggested Gillespie stand behind the witness chair and Dublino stand on a step below, since Sarno is quite a few inches taller than the 5-foot-9 Dublino.
Dublino then repeated for Gillespie what he told Sarno.
"You go f--- yourself," Dublino said, with great emphasis, before amending his testimony.
"I called him fat ass. I forgot."
Dublino agreed that Sarno never touched him or threatened him after the argument.
"Did he say 'go f--- yourself, shorty?' " Gillespie asked Dublino.
"No," Dublino said.
"Did he say go 'f' yourself, skinny?'" Gillespie asked.
"No," Dublino replied.
Later on, federal prosecutor Amarjeet Bhachu asked Dublino if Sarno needed to touch him to get his point across.
"No," Dublino said.
Dublino said he was scared of Sarno, but Gillespie pointed out that Dublino had bought a home only a half block away from where Sarno lives in the west suburbs.
Dublino, whose testimony was compelled by a grant of immunity, acknowledged walking his dog, Enzo, in the neighborhood and seeing Sarno but said he had no idea Sarno lived in the neighborhood when he bought the house.
In February 2003, Dublino's video poker machine business in Berwyn was destroyed in a pipe-bombing the feds link to Sarno, who is on trial with four other men.
Dublino indicated at trial that various people had tried to intimidate him, but none mentioned Sarno's name.
When he was competing with Sarno, he indicated he got threatening phone calls, including one caller who threatened to put him "in a box."
Another time, two men came into his bar and threatened to have the clocks run backwards. Dublino was not allowed to explain to the jury what he thought that meant.
Well after the bombing, when the criminal investigation into it got some publicity, a group of bikers came into his bar, which did not cater to that clientele, he said. One man, who identified himself as Big Pete, went into the women's restroom and yanked open the door of a stall with a woman inside, shocking her. Dublino testified he got into an argument with Big Pete. The group eventually left without hurting anyone.
On Friday, key prosecution witness Mark Hay, a career burglar, hit the stand to detail his role in a crew that hit jewelry stores and which sold its goods allegedly to Mark Polchan, another defendant on trial with Sarno.