Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Family Secrets Trial Kicks Off

Friends of ours: Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, James Marcello, Frank Calabrese Sr., Paul Schiro, Anthony Doyle, Nicholas Calabrese, Tony "the Ant" Spilotro, Michael Marcello, Frank "The German" Schweihs, Joseph Venezia, Nicholas Ferriola,
Friends of mine: William Hanhardt, John Ambrose

It's a homecoming of sorts for reputed mob boss Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo.

Joey 'The Clown' LombardoLombardo was convicted in Chicago's skyscraper federal courthouse in 1982 of conspiring with then International Brotherhood of Teamsters President Roy Lee Williams to bribe then Sen. Howard Cannon, D-Nev.

After emerging from a decade in prison, Lombardo took out a newspaper ad declaring he was not a "made guy" and vowing to steer clear of the mob. But the 78-year-old Lombardo was back at the courthouse Tuesday as jury selection was to get under way in a trial experts say will take a bite out of the city's entrenched organized crime family -- The Chicago Outfit.

"This will hurt the mob," says Gus Russo, author of "The Outfit," and other books about organized crime. "But it won't end it."

"They always find a way to redefine themselves and bounce back," says Russo. "It probably won't be as strong in the short run."

Charged with a racketeering conspiracy that included at least 18 murders are Lombardo, James Marcello, 65; Frank Calabrese Sr., 70; Paul Schiro, 69; and Anthony Doyle, 62.

Lombardo, Marcello and Calabrese are alleged to be members of the Outfit's hierarchy and are in federal custody. Schiro was convicted five years ago of taking part in a jewel theft ring run by the Chicago police department's former chief of detectives, William Hanhardt. Doyle is a former Chicago police officer.

All five men have pleaded not guilty.

By midmorning Tuesday, jury selection had not yet started as attorneys consulted with Judge James B. Zagel. Zagel has ordered an anonymous jury with lawyers having only limited information about its members.

Defense attorneys had objected, arguing it could make jurors think the defendants must be dangerous. "Traditionally, the public has a right to know. So in the interest of the public, we believe the public had a right to know who the jurors were," Joseph Lopez, an attorney for Frank Calabrese Sr., said as he entered the federal courthouse Tuesday morning. "It would be nice if they did all juries anonymous, then maybe we wouldn't have this situation," he said.

The star witness is expected to be Calabrese's brother, Nicholas Calabrese, who has pleaded guilty to the charges and is being closely guarded by federal lawmen to prevent mobsters from getting anywhere near him.

Nicholas Calabrese says he has been a "made guy" in the Outfit for decades and knows who is responsible for many of the mob murders.

Among those killed was Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, once the Chicago mob's man in Las Vegas and the inspiration for Joe Pesci's character in the movie "Casino."

Spilotro and his brother Michael were found beaten to death and buried in an Indiana cornfield, victims of an internecine feud inside the mob.

Plainly someone is worried about what Nicholas Calabrese might say.

A federal marshal, John T. Ambrose, is charged with leaking information about Nicholas Calabrese's whereabouts while in Chicago to testify before a federal grand jury. Ambrose has pleaded not guilty.

The number of defendants in the case has dwindled steadily since the first day the indictment was unsealed and one of those charged was found dead of natural causes in his suburban hotel room.

Last week, Marcello's brother, Michael, pleaded guilty along with two other men. And Zagel severed alleged mob extortionist Frank "The German" Schweihs from the trial for health reasons.

On Monday, two other defendants, Joseph Venezia and Nicholas Ferriola, pleaded guilty to gambling and other charges, bringing the number of those due to go on trial to five.

Thanks to Mike Robinson

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