The bitter civil trial over the estate of boxer Arturo Gatti is approaching its end in a Montreal courtroom, with lawyers presenting closing arguments to a judge who will decide who should inherit the dwindling fortune.
The boxer’s widow, Amanda Rodrigues, is being challenged by Gatti’s mother, Ida, and brother, Fabrizio.
The Gatti family claims the boxer was duped into signing a document just weeks before he died and says Rodrigues should be declared unfit to receive the inheritance.
In his closing arguments, Gatti family lawyer Carmine Mercadante said the widow shouldn’t inherit a penny of his estate.
He labelled her a master manipulator who has tried to whitewash her image in court. He accused her of forcing the boxing champion to sign a will that left her everything.
Mercadante argued that Gatti didn’t understand the documents he signed — neither the will that left Rodrigues everything, or a second contract that would have given Rodrigues $1 million if he ever cheated on her.
Both were drafted by a Montreal notary. Rodrigues had referred to the fidelity contract as “cute” during her earlier testimony. But on Monday, Mercadante said he wondered why anyone would be asked to sign such an agreement.
“Would a reasonable person have signed a document that gives his wife everything if he cheats on her?” Mercadante asked.
“It’s all one-way (agreements). Arturo had to prove his love to this woman — always with his money.”
The Gatti family lawyer said the 2009 will was equally confusing. Mercadante said the boxer wouldn’t have understood what he was signing.
He contended that Arturo Gatti was a gentleman, albeit one with a very limited education.
“I read a few paragraphs and I didn’t understand it — and I’m familiar with wills,” Mercadante told reporters outside the courtroom.
The lawyer said it was clear to his entourage that Arturo Gatti was preparing for a divorce.
But Mercadante said Rodrigues knew Gatti’s weakness and used it against him: his young son.
He said Gatti signed the will to ensure Rodrigues wouldn’t take Arturo Jr. away to Brazil if they split.
“He’d been through the same thing, (estrangement) with (his daughter) Sofia, and he didn’t want to go through the same thing,” Mercadante said.
“She knew all his weak spots…
“Who else would be in a position to know this? She knew how much he loved Junior and she knew that he didn’t want to lose him.”
Just weeks after signing the will, the popular Canadian fighter was found dead of an apparent suicide in an apartment at a Brazilian resort town called Porto de Galinhas.
Mercadante’s attacked Rodrigues’ credibility Monday.
He noted that her testimony often didn’t coincide with witnesses he called to the stand.
In one example, the lawyer said a New Jersey club owner testified that Rodrigues had worked at a strip club called the Squeeze Lounge and had met Gatti there in 2006.
But Rodrigues said she’d met Gatti walking dogs that summer and she denied ever having been an exotic dancer.
Mercadante said she was trying to hide her past from the court — and avoid any discussion about her possible motives for marrying Gatti.
“She wants to come across like someone who is beyond reproach, who is white like snow,” Mercadante said.
“I say this person is not white like snow. On the contrary, she has a mean streak.”
Mercadante said other witnesses painted the true picture of who Rodrigues was — reprehensible, temperamental and unpredictable.
“When you take your time and listen to everything she said, I have trouble believing her,” Mercadante said.
Rodrigues’ lawyer, Pierre-Hugues Fortin, will deliver his closing arguments later this week.
The Gatti family has argued that an earlier 2007 will is the rightful inheritance document, but have been unable to produce a signed copy.
That document leaves everything to Gatti’s mother, Ida, and to Sofia, his young daughter from a previous relationship.
The fortune is valued at $3.4 million but the judge presiding over the case has warned that the money is quickly being eaten up by separate legal disputes in the United States.
Justice Claudine Roy has said she will take the case under advisement and come back with a decision at a later date.
The case has been overshadowed by happenings outside the Montreal courtroom:
— A wrongful-death suit launched in New Jersey.
— A privately financed report declaring Gatti’s death a homicide.
— A commitment from Brazilian authorities to take a second look at the case.
— Three television documentaries exploring the boxer’s death.
The boxer’s family does not accept the conclusion of Brazilian authorities that he committed suicide.
But documentaries that aired last month painted Gatti as suicidal and depressed for years leading up to his death.
The Gatti family has said it wants the fortune be split equally between Gatti’s child with Rodrigues and his child from a previous relationship.
The Gattis have said they don’t want any of the money for themselves. The two sides appeared close to an agreement on a settlement, but it never materialized.
Three days are set aside this week for closing arguments.