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Gatti widow's courtroom testimony gets off to pugnacious start

Amanda Rodrigues, widow of former boxing champion Arturo Gatti, leaves court in Montreal with her lawyer, Pierre-Hughes Fortin, on Wednesday.

Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

If the Brazilian widow of boxer Arturo Gatti wants to reverse her courtroom portrayal as a hothead and a liar, she got off to a rough start.

Amanda Rodrigues, who was married to the former world champion for 22 months before his death, began defending her grip on Mr. Gatti's rapidly diminishing fortune in the witness box Wednesday.

The mild-mannered Quebec Superior Court judge twice reined in the 25-year-old woman as she flew off topic to deliver spirited professions of love for her dead Canadian husband, with whom she fought constantly. She was also caught in a number of contradictions and gave a surprising account of the start of their relationship.

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Several times Ms. Rodrigues ignored the advice of her own lawyer to keep quiet, and even steamrolled through the judge's ruling on one of a number of objections.

"Do you need a judge or not?" Madam Justice Claudine Roy said to Ms. Rodrigues. "You don't need to scream. I have very good hearing and we are here for many days."

Mr. Gatti, who Brazilian authorities say committed suicide in July of 2009, left everything to his wife in a will that was rewritten just weeks before he died. His family wants Judge Roy to throw out the will. The family contests the suicide ruling and has filed suit in New Jersey accusing Ms. Rodrigues of killing him.

Judge Roy urged the two sides of the dispute to settle the matter Wednesday morning. Mr. Gatti died with about $6-million, but a recent accounting found the fortune has diminished to $3.4-million because of languishing investments and legal fees. Outstanding lawsuits threaten to drain what's left.

Outside the courtroom, Ms. Gatti brushed aside her lawyer's advice to be quiet. "I'm not going to negotiate," she told assembled reporters, putting an end to any hope of an out-of-court settlement.

The Gatti family said settlement would be best. Mr. Gatti left behind a five-year-old daughter who lives with her mother in New Jersey, and a toddler boy, Arturo Jr., who lives in Brazil with Ms. Rodrigues. The girl was cut out of the most recent will.

Ms. Rodrigues, who lived in Hoboken from age 14 into her 20s, spoke with a heavy New Jersey accent and peppered her speech with "like" as she depicted the start of a whirlwind romance.

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She said she met Mr. Gatti in July of 2006 while they were both walking their dogs in Hoboken. She was 19, he was 35. (Other accounts have suggested they met in a strip bar, where she worked. She denied it in testimony.)

For four months, they saw one another nearly every day. But, she said, she had no idea he was a prominent boxer with millions in the bank, even though Mr. Gatti was in intensive training for a boxing match. She didn't notice the artwork depicting Arturo (Thunder) Gatti in the entrance of his apartment.

She also barely noticed the cut and mashed face he suffered under one eye on July 22, 2006, during a ninth-round knockout loss in Atlantic City. They had just started dating.

"He was very good with bruises. Marks were never with him for very long," Ms. Rodrigues said, before eventually recalling a small bruise under his eye. She chalked it up to a workout accident.

"What was special about our love is I fell in love before I knew what he did for a living," she testified.

The couple signed a prenuptial agreement and got married in Las Vegas in August of 2007. By the new year, husband and wife were each arrested in a number of domestic disputes. One witness said Ms. Rodrigues threatened three times to kill him if she ever got him to Brazil.

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By the spring of 2009, Mr. Gatti and Ms. Rodrigues had each consulted divorce lawyers, something she initially denied in sworn testimony before letting it slip over the objections of her own lawyer.

The point may be important because Ms. Rodrigues maintains they were rebuilding their relationship during those months. The Gatti family says the marriage was all but over and Mr. Gatti was coerced into signing a new will, under threat he'd never see his son again.

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About the Author
National correspondent

Les Perreaux joined the Montreal bureau of the Globe and Mail in 2008. He previously worked for the Canadian Press covering national and international affairs, including federal and Quebec politics and the war in Afghanistan. More

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