The three-month sentencing was even more interesting. Prosecutors claimed Brandreth had intimidated witnesses and even threatened to kill assistant U.S. Attorney Ben Greenberg. One inmate said Brandreth had grumbled about wanting to do away with Agent Bliss. Another claimed Brandreth was a stand-up guy. Still a third, Roberto Casanovas, called Brandreth a blowhard. "Paulie brags about everything, about a cup of soup; he'll brag about a cup of coffee."
In September 2005, Judge Jordan handed down a 20-year prison sentence, and the next day, a state grand jury indicted Brandreth in Citranglo's murder. If convicted, he faces the death penalty.
Had he simply cooperated with police, maybe he wouldn't be facing a lethal injection, Arlene Ellis says. "He's stubborn. I think that's gotten him into quite a bit of trouble. I don't believe that about the murder. I'm shocked that it's gone this far."
"I have a TV in my cell," Brandreth says during a jailhouse interview. He's handsome, broad-shouldered, and muscular. Despite several months in solitary confinement, Brandreth still has creamy skin and neatly slicked-back hair, which is going gray. His eyes are intense, a piercing ice-blue. He wears a red jumpsuit, and his wrists and ankles are shackled.
"I watch shows all night and sleep during the day," he says. Then he ticks off a list of programs: "Prison Break, American Idol, Law & Order, Poker After Dark, Cops at 2 a.m. I also like the cooking show. It's on at 4:30 a.m., and I sit there and starve." He laughs. "I miss real pizza. I also miss my girl's cooking. Lisa. She's Latin, y'know?"
He says he didn't shoot Citranglo. The others who were in the Coral Gables condo that night — Lehmann, Hbaiu, and Keneuker — have tried to frame him. He spends hours every day poring over court documents in an attempt to find inconsistencies in depositions. Citranglo was his friend, Brandreth says, and he was never angry about Citranglo's possible role in his brother's death, as Lehmann theorized. "I'm a drug dealer. I'm not a murderer."
Brandreth also says he had nothing to do with the Boulis killing. "I never heard of Gus until later," he explains.
Indeed, only one of Brandreth's six arrests before the murder charge involved violence: a 2002 bar fight in Key West. So, is he a killer or simply an unlucky drug dealer? Was he set up? Did Lehmann, Hbaiu, and Keneuker coordinate their stories to receive lesser sentences?
The three were initially charged with first-degree murder, but they all copped a plea deal at the end of 2007. Keneuker pleaded to second-degree murder and received a six-year prison sentence. Hbaiu got five years. (He has already been released.) Lehmann, ringleader of the drug-dealing network, is serving a six-year federal sentence on the trafficking charges. He has yet to be sentenced in the murder case.
"Everyone down here is a rat," Brandreth sighs. "To be honest with you, I wish I had never come down to Florida."
Brandreth's tough-talking lawyer, Michael Walsh, adds there's no physical evidence linking his client to the crime. But he's worried about Lisbet Colon, the dog walker who allegedly saw two men carry a body out of Lehmann's apartment.
Prosecutor Michael Von Zamft is confident he will win a conviction despite his star witnesses' contradictory accounts of the details. "[There are] different versions of events," he says. "[But] the core of what they are all saying is the same."
Brandreth's behavior will work against him. He has refused to cooperate with police — "I don't talk to cops," he says — and he recently called Von Zamft a "cocksucker" in open court.
While awaiting his trial, which is scheduled for April, he does triceps dips, pushups, and sit-ups a couple of days a week in a small caged area in the prison yard. In his cell, he reads the Bible. "Jeremiah 29:11," he says. "It's stopped me from going crazy and shit.
"For I know, the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
Says his lawyer, Walsh: "One thing Paul's not good at is lying. No whiny, no bitchy, little-boy attitude."