Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Family Secrets Bomb Threat a Fake

Friends of ours: Frank Calabrese Sr., Joseph "Shorty" LaMantia, Nicholas Calabrese

On the day a historic Chicago mob trial began in federal court, the estranged son of one of the men on trial -- reputed mob hit man Frank Calabrese Sr. -- got the shock of his life on the back porch of his north suburban home: A plastic bag containing a digital clock, wires and what looked like three sticks of dynamite.

The device looked deadly but turned out to be a fake. But the fear it created was all too real as police evacuated homes around the Kenilworth house of Kurt Calabrese and his family.

The device was the latest in a series of anonymous threats Kurt Calabrese has received, from menacing letters to dead rats placed at his home, authorities said.

What's puzzling about the threats is that Kurt Calabrese has nothing to do with the current Family Secrets case involving his father, Frank Calabrese Sr.

Other family members do. Frank Calabrese Sr.'s brother, mob hit man Nicholas Calabrese, will testify against him and describe various mob killings the two allegedly did together.

Frank Calabrese Sr.'s oldest son, Frank Jr., also will testify against his father about secret tape-recordings Frank Jr. made of his dad while they were in prison together.

Kurt Calabrese has nothing to do with his father and had only a marginal role in the 1995 loan sharking case that put Frank Calabrese Sr. in prison for nearly 10 years.

There's no love lost between father and son. Frank Calabrese Sr. allegedly repeatedly physically and verbally abused Kurt over the years, family friends have told the Sun-Times.

What's more, a rift grew between Frank Calabrese Sr. and his brother Nick Calabrese over the way Frank Calabrese Sr. treated his own two sons, such as selling them out during plea negotiations during the 1995 case.

Kurt Calabrese hasn't been subpoenaed to appear at the trial, nor is he cooperating in the case, authorities said.

Frank Calabrese Sr.'s lawyer, Joseph Lopez, said late Tuesday his client had nothing to do with the bomb threat. "My client has the perfect alibi," Lopez said. "He was sitting in a federal courthouse."

Law enforcement sources said there was a note in the bag containing the fake bomb, but it was destroyed when law enforcement obliterated the package with a water cannon.

The package was discovered about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday as Kurt Calabrese headed to his backyard. He was home alone, sources said. As he went down his porch steps, he came upon a large, clear, plastic bag. Inside, he found what appeared to be three sticks of dynamite wrapped at both ends by black tape. In the middle was a digital clock connected to two wires.

There were reports of a strange car with its lights off cruising around the Calabrese neighborhood early Tuesday, but it's unclear what connection, if any, it had to the threat.

Authorities ran a bomb-sniffing dog through the Calabrese home, which is modest for the affluent suburb, and through Calabrese's car but found nothing. Residents were allowed to return to their homes about 3:30 p.m., police said. Neighbors were stunned by the development, with one calling Calabrese and his wife "nice people who keep to themselves."

The bomb scare happened as lawyers in the Family Secrets case made significant progress in selecting a jury Tuesday. Twelve jurors and six alternates could be selected by today, and opening statements could start as early as Thursday. The courtroom was crowed with observers, including Rocky LaMantia, the son of the late mob boss Joseph "Shorty" LaMantia.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

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