Police didn't inform Kelly of the threat, but began tailing him around the clock.
Paciello was right to worry about the competition. Since opening, crobar has begun a successful Sunday gay night in direct competition with Liquid. And Level initiated a soul and funk-theme night to go up against Liquid's Monday night mainstay, Fat Black Pussycat. Between Paciello's arrest and the formidable competition, Liquid is hemorrhaging patrons, nightlife observers say.
Perhaps the ultimate humiliation: As South Beach's king of clubs sits in a New York jail unable to meet bail, Liquid employees last week were selling furniture to raise cash.
Paciello's lawyers are trying to make sure his social prominence and good deeds work to his advantage in the upcoming trial. At the Miami bond hearing, attorney Howard Srebnick told the court that Paciello has donated to dozens of charities and held fundraisers at his clubs. The lawyer aims to cast prosecutors as petty and vindictive government agents out to get an honorable man.
That's funny, says one law-enforcement source close to the case. "When we started this thing and his name came up, we had no idea who he was," comments the source, who asked to remain anonymous. "It was only afterwards, when the press started going nuts, that we figured he was a big deal."
But the press adoration of Paciello highlighted an important aspect of the young entrepreneur's purported role: He represented much-needed new blood for the Mafia. Two decades of intense federal pressure had broken the spine of traditional Mafia businesses, and wild-eyed hoods from Eastern Europe and South America have outgunned La Cosa Nostra. So now the dons are pinning their hopes on smart, business-savvy young men to maneuver their assets into the future, says the law-enforcement source, who adds, "This guy Paciello, he was the future of the mob."
The pressure apparently was a burden on Paciello. He confided his concerns to Det. Andrew Dohler in an October 31 conversation. At the time Paciello was depressed about the struggle to keep his clubs competitive.
Dohler: How's everything else going?
Paciello: Oh, bullshit. All the shit going on this year.
Dohler: What's the matter?
Paciello: There's fifteen clubs opening. Million and millions they're putting into these clubs.... Warsaw, Cameo, Glamsham. God, I mean nonstop.... Ah, fuck everyone.
Dohler: At least you got [Joia]. These clubs come and go.
Paciello: That's right. Bar Room ain't goin' nowhere. Joia's doin' well, and Liquid's doin' all right as long as I can hang in there. It's rough.
Then Paciello let slip a mysterious phrase. His lawyers claim it is an innocent reference. Prosecutors say it is an allusion to his rowdy thug days in New York, when he earned the nickname Binger, allegedly because of his propensity to binge on violence.
Paciello: I'll tell you the truth. I feel like putting on my costume -- going trick or treatin.' You understand?
Dohler: Yeah, I hear you. There might be a time and place for that, things get bad enough. As long as we do it here, I'll take care of the [police] reports.
Paciello: I'm tellin' ya. I gotta come out of fucking retirement. I've become a big pussy down here. A big sucka.