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Witness threatened violence against well-known lawyer

By Milton J. Valencia
Globe Staff / June 2, 2012
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The key government witness in the trial of attorney Robert A. George told his girlfriend from prison in 2008 that he was ­angry at George for cheating him out of money, and that he was going to “smash his head in” if George did not repay him, the witness was forced to acknowledge in US District Court in Boston.

“He knows what I’ll do to him if he doesn’t pay me my money,” the witness, Ronald Dardinski, told his girlfriend, according to recordings of a phone call played in court Friday.

“I know where he lives,” he said.

After the recordings were played, Dardinski admitted he had made the threats and that he was angry at George.

On Thursday he testified that he could not recall making such threats.

When Dardinski was ­released from prison on ­Martha’s Vineyard in early 2009, he had what he called a chance encounter with George at a Braintree shopping mall. He said George offered to help him launder, or “clean,” profits from his past crimes.

But defense attorneys for George allege he was set up, that Dardinski was cooperating with authorities, and that he targeted him out of retaliation.

Throughout Friday, defense attorney Robert M. Goldstein sought to discredit the testimony of the 44-year-old Dardinski, a twice-married unemployed father of six who cooperated with prosecutors against George.

As an example, Dardinski acknowledged Friday that he had filed an affidavit with a state court in 2004 saying he fled criminal charges in a separate case because he was an ­informant against the Mafia and feared for his life, a reason far different from what he had told the jury a day earlier for the prosecution.

“Did you lie to the jury yesterday or did you lie to the judge in 2004?” Goldstein asked. Dardinski said he did not recall the affidavit in his earlier testimony.

George, 57, a father of three and an attorney for more than 30 years, is accused of money laundering and structuring payments. Prosecutors say he helped Dardinski “clean,” or ­legitimatize, $200,000.

George is also accused of receiv­ing a $25,000 retainer from a prospective client who he thought was a drug dealer and depositing the money in a bank in smaller amounts to avoid transaction-reporting ­requirements. That way, prosecutors allege, he could hide where the money came from.

Dardinski was a former client of George who said George voluntarily offered to help him “clean” his profits when they randomly met in Braintree. He said he referred him to a mortgage broker who took 20 percent and split it with George.

But George’s lawyers say that he did nothing wrong.

Goldstein used the recorded conversations between Dardinski and George to show that his client repeatedly had said that he wanted nothing to do with transactions with the mortgage broker.

He also sought to show that Dardinski sought out George, calling him repeatedly, to try to ensnare him.

Goldstein used Dardinski’s testimony to describe him as a career criminal who cheated people out of car deals, who has not paid taxes in more than 15 years, and who has lied to investigators and to a state court. He showed that Dardinski was committing crimes while he was a US Drug Enforcement Administration informant, in violation of his agreement with that agency.

Goldstein also had Dardinski acknowledge that he has been paid more than $75,000 for being an informant for the DEA, including $25,000 for his involvement in the George case. He would also receive 10 percent of assets the government would seize if George is convicted. “You would say you have a vested interest in the outcome of this case, wouldn’t you?” Goldstein asked.

Dardinski said he would.

Milton J. Valencia can be

reached at mvalencia@ Follow him

on ­Twitter @miltonvalencia.

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