Information the jury is not allowed to see or hear is beginning to emerge as a major development in the murder trial of Christopher Porco.
While the jury listened to several hours of testimony Wednesday, July 19, ranging from a confidential secretary of the State Appellate Court to Christopher Porco’s college roommate, two witnesses sat in a waiting area all afternoon who may have been able to shed even more light on the case.
Assistant district attorney for Albany County and chief prosecutor for the people, Michael McDermott, said after the day’s proceedings that a witness who heard that Christopher Porco stood to gain several million dollars from his grandmother’s trust was ready to testify. A second witness from an investment firm was ready to tell how Porco met with him to establish an investment schedule for his potential nest egg.
The two witnesses were going to explain that Christopher Porco was to gain $2.8 million from his grandmother by the end of 2004, and that summer the defendant met with a financial planner from Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance to discuss an investment strategy, McDermott said.
When asked why the witnesses were not allowed to testify, McDermott said Judge Jeffrey Berry, who is presiding over the trial in Orange County, believed the information was too remote.
The simple fact, according to McDermott, is that Porco’s grandmother did not have anywhere near $2.8 million in any trust or savings.
`This case is riddled with Christopher Porco telling ‘tall tales’ about his wealth,` said McDermott.
Those ‘tall tales,’ according to the prosecution, include forging his father’s signature on two loans totaling close to $50,000 to pay for his Jeep Wrangler and to pay for his college tuition. That information, along with today’s information about a trust that never existed, has yet to reach the jury. The prosecution believes inheritance is a motive for murder in this trial.
When asked to offer a motive for Porco’s alleged `tall tales,` McDermott said, `either Christopher Porco is engaging in fabrication as a pastime or Christopher Porco was exploring investment strategy in anticipation he would come into some money in the future.`
Earlier in the day, Julia Cannizzaro, the confidential secretary to Third Appellate Department Judge Anthony Cardona, Peter Porco’s employer, was called to testify on several key points, one of those concerning a will drawn up by Peter Porco. Assistant District Attorney David Rossi tried to have the will offered as evidence, to strong objection from the defense.
`There is no evidence Christopher (Porco) ever knew this will existed,` said Defense Attorney Laurie Shanks. `Nor is there any evidence that he knew he was a beneficiary in this will.` At first, Berry was ready to offer up the will as evidence to the jury.
`The people have a right to establish there was a will and defendant could gain from it,` Berry first stated.
`Whether the people can link that will to the defendant’s knowledge is a completely different issue,` the judge added. Berry then took a few moments to read the will before deciding `it is not coming in today, only if I find a connection.`
Cannizzaro testified that she did not remember any phone calls coming into the Appellate Department office for Peter Porco from his son Christopher on Monday morning, Nov. 15, a few hours after the law clerk’s murder.
`I do not,` Cannizzaro said as to whether she remembered Christopher Porco calling. `I remember very much that morning.`
Christopher Porco repeatedly told friends and frat brothers from his college fraternity at the University of Rochester that he made several calls on Sunday and Monday morning before and after his parents were violently attacked. Witnesses, including close friend and college roommate Matthew Ambrosio, testified that Porco could not reach either parent.
`He mentioned he hadn’t contacted them (Porco’s parents) in a couple of weeks, and he tried to contact them on their house, work and cell phones,` Ambrosio said.
A three-page long computer instant message between Ambrosio and Porco two weeks after the crime was read aloud to the jury. In the message, Ambrosio offered to help Porco, and the two discuss his mother Joan’s condition, and the Bethlehem police department, which interrogated Porco and questioned Ambrosio about his knowledge of Porco’s activities prior to the crimes.
`I’m sorry you had to deal with that whole cop thing,` wrote Porco to his friend, using the computer screen name of jeffsalosa.
`They are lying idiot b..ards,` said Porco.
`Hey man, I’d do anything for you,` said Ambrosio under the alias Pygmyhippo.
`Does it look like you’re gonna have to go to court?` asked Ambrosio
`Hopefully soon, the cops are going to talk to my mom, and as soon as she says it wasn’t me, it should be over,.but they are doing their best to put it all on me,` Porco said.
The two continued their chat.
`Did you talk to Bethlehem cops or Rochester?` asked Porco
`Bethlehem,` said Ambrosio.
`They are morons,` said Porco.
`Dude, please just tell me you were somewhere Sunday night into Monday morning, I don’t care where, just tell me you are going to be fine,` asked Ambrosio.
`I’ll be fine, dude, I was on the hall (Munro Hall Dormitory, University of Rochester),` Porco said. `The cops know that.`
Several students from the University of Rochester testified Tuesday and Wednesday, July 18 and 19, that they never saw Christopher Porco at Munro Hall during the overnight hours of Nov. 14 and 15, 2004. The instant message text between Ambrosio and Porco concluded shortly after that point.
`Best wishes to your mom,` said Ambrosio.
`Later, bro,` said Porco. `Say hey to people for me when you get back.`
`I love you all.`
`I love you too,` said Ambrosio
`Bye man,` Porco signed off.
There is no mention of Porco’s murdered father Peter in the entire text.
Christopher Porco is charged with murder and attempted murder of his parents Peter and Joan Porco who were attacked in the middle of the night in the bedroom by someone wielding an ax and striking the two between 10 and 30 times. Porco could face life in prison if convicted.