Attorney Edwin Jacobs on Thursday told a jury in a federal courtroom in Philadelphia that his client, Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and others are the victims in a federal racketeering case.
"You're looking at seven innocent people who shouldn't be here," Jacobs told the jury during opening arguments.
"The only things you could say we are guilty of are these; one, we live in South Philly; two, we are Italian-Americans; and three, we're rumored to be connected to the mob. And that's it. We didn't do any of the stuff in this indictment, none of it."
Ligambi is accused of running the South Philly-based crime family, La Cosa Nostra. An indictment accuses the defendants of gambling, loansharking and extortion under their acting boss, Ligambi.
Prior to the defense making its opening statements, federal prosecutors laid out their case, in which prosecutors read quotes said to be from the mob boss himself.
"'Everybody is making money and I can't get mine. You can't get out of this situation. I'm going to have to hurt this guy,'" U.S. Attorney Frank Labor read to the jury.
"Those words define what this case is about, those define who each of those defendants are," Labor said.
The trial is expected to go on for weeks.