The very mixture of respect and resentment in Wallace B. Agnew's voice as he spoke of Dominic F. Antonelli was a mark of Antonelli's influence and power in the Washington real estate business.
"He understands the business very well," said Agnew, a longtime real estate broker in the District. "I've found him a very lucrative customer over the years."
Sandwiched between intricate explanations of District government leasing policies and discussions of the relative merits of "net leases" and "extended leases," Agnew's testimony today gave the jurors in U.S. District Court here a glimpse of the personality of Antonelli, the multimillionaire charged with bribing former Department of Human Resources director Joseph P. Yeldell.
Antonelli and Yeldell are being retried here on the bribery and conspiracy charges brought against them by federal prosecutors in the spring of 1978. Agnew, a former senior vice president of the real estate brokerage firm of Walker & Dunlop Inc., served as a go-between for the purchase and leasing of property at 60 Florida Ave. NE.
The circumstances surrounding the sale of that property to an Antonelli-controlled partnership and the District government's decision to lease the rundown, two-story office building there are central elements in the case.
Prosecutors charge that Yeldell engineered a $5.6 million, 20-year government lease on the property in exchange for a secret $33,000 loan from Antonelli.
For months, Agnew -- who had been hired by People's Drug Store, Inc. to try to find a buyer for its old corporate headquaters on Florida Avenue -- shuttled between Antonelli's office and various District government offices, trying to work out a deal.
Antonelli's interest in buying the property increased when he learned that a government agency might lease it, Agnew testified. Then, in the fall of 1975, after Agnew had taken DHR employes on tours of the building, the broker learned that another prospective buyer had also offered to lease the same property to the District government.
When Antonelli learned of his competition, Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard L. Beizer asked yesterday, "What did Mr. Antonelli say?"
" . . . We were both surprised," Agnew responded. "I wanted to work on a [new] proposal [for a lease with the D.C. government]. But he told me to get out of it, and he'd take over. I'd invested over three years of time on this deal, but he said, 'You'll get your commission, don't worry. I'll take over,'" Agnew testified.
Prosecutors throughout the case have been weaving together circumstantial evidence to show that the eventual lease of the building was the result of an arrangement between Antonelli and Yeldell.
Following that track, prosecutors today questioned former Department of General Services director Sam D. Starobin about Yeldell's efforts to have the District government lease 60 Florida Ave. so he could move several DHR services, including a medical clinic, into the building.
Starobin, who headed the government's housekeeping and property management agency, said that those efforts continued throughout most of 1975. In September of that year, Starobin said, he decided to reject Antonelli's lease proposal for the building.
A month later, when Antonelli's competitor, Emmanuel Logan, offered his own leasing proposal to Starobin's agency, a DHR official, Virgil McDonald, "informed me that the Department of Human Resources had decided not to proceed with the lease," Starobin testified.
Starobin was the 13th witness to testify for the prosecution in the retrial, which was moved to Philadelphia because of widespread publicity in the Washington area concerning the earlier convictions of Antonelli and Yeldell last October.
Those convictions were overturned by U.S. District Judge Gerhard A. Gessell, who is also presiding at this trial, after it was learned that a juror in the case had withheld information that would have led defense attorneys to remove her from the panel.
This retrial is moving along much more swiftly than the original trial; which took more than three weeks. Prosecutors said this evening that they might conclude their case on Saturday.