Evidence stands in Graziano murder-for-hire case

Judge refuses to throw out evidence in Graziano murder-for-hire case
Curtis Krueger
January 8, 2011
St. Petersburg Times

LARGO — An attempt to throw out evidence in the murder-for-hire case against Edward Graziano has failed.

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Timothy Peters ruled Friday that the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office did not break any rules by going outside Pinellas to investigate some aspects of the case in Hillsborough County. And Peters threw aside a claim that a private investigator broke the rules of his profession by giving police information about Graziano, who was a client of his.

Although private investigators are not supposed to share information they gather for a specific client, it’s also obvious that people “cannot lawfully participate in a murder for hire scheme,” Peters wrote.

Graziano, 55, is accused of trying to hire a hit man to kill his wife, Debra, for $1,100 in cash, a personal check for $1,000 and a gift card to Westshore Pizza for $13.06.

He is the father of John Graziano, who was severely injured in a car driven by Nick Bollea in August 2007 during a crash during a street race in downtown Clearwater. Bollea’s father, Terry, is the professional wrestler known as Hulk Hogan.

Peters found that private investigator Jeff Wilson went to authorities because he “was not willing to stand silent at the risk that Mr. Graziano would follow through on his apparently credible threat to find someone to kill his wife or to murder her himself and then commit suicide.”

Defense attorney John Trevena had argued that undercover deputies kept returning to Graziano even though he was expressing doubts about whether he wanted to go through with it.

“The problem with this argument is the evidence establishes the only concern of Mr. Graziano was getting caught,” Peters wrote.

Trevena said “we are disappointed with the court’s ruling and we will take the matter up to the 2nd District Court of Appeal at the appropriate time.”

But Assistant State Attorney Scott Rosenwasser said the ruling shows the Sheriff’s Office acted properly, and that the private investigator “not only acted lawfully but took the necessary steps to prevent the death of Debra Graziano.”