Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Dentist and Lawyer in Heated Courtroom Exchange

Friends of ours: Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, Anthony Spilotro, James Marcello, Nicholas Calabrese
Friends of mine: Michael Spilotro, Michael Marcello

Joey "the Clown" Lombardo spent months eluding federal authorities after he was indicted in the Family Secrets mob-conspiracy case, but he couldn't outrun the pain of an abscessed tooth.

So in January 2006, he quietly made arrangements to see his dentist, Patrick Spilotro, after Spilotro's Park Ridge practice had closed for the night. But Lombardo didn't know that Spilotro was an FBI tipster, hoping to help solve the murders of his reputed mobster brothers, Anthony and Michael Spilotro.

Testifying Tuesday at the Family Secrets trial, a sometimes tearful Patrick Spilotro said he told the FBI about a second clandestine appointment a few days later with the fugitive -- this time to adjust a bridge.

"They knew the exact time" of the visit, he testified in the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse, providing the most complete account yet of how Lombardo was captured after nine months on the lam. The reputed mob boss was arrested in Elmwood Park that same day.

Lombardo is one of five men on trial in the sweeping conspiracy case involving 18 previously unsolved murders, including the Spilotros' killings in 1986.

During the visit for dental work, Spilotro said he pressed Lombardo again about what had happened to his brothers. Lombardo, who was in prison when the slayings occurred, had always told him the slayings wouldn't have happened if he had been free, Spilotro said. But this time the answer changed. "I recall his words very vividly," Spilotro testified. "He said, 'Doc, you get an order, you follow that order. If you don't follow the order, you go too.'"

Lombardo occasionally leaned over on his cane to talk with a lawyer during Tuesday's testimony.

Upon cross-examination, Lombardo's lead attorney, Rick Halprin, asked Spilotro whether the person he treated was simply an old man with a bad tooth. Lombardo, whose defense strategy suggests he is preparing to testify on his own behalf, contends he is only a mob-connected business man, not an Outfit boss.

U.S. District Judge James Zagel is expected to ask each of the five defendants whether they plan to testify as soon as Wednesday.

Spilotro also testified that his brother, Anthony, was in his office on June 12, 1986, just two days before he vanished. While there he had access to a phone, and apparently called the home of defendant James Marcello, according to phone records displayed Tuesday.

Marcello, the reputed leader of the Chicago Outfit, already has been blamed in the Spilotro killings by the trial's star witness, mob turncoat Nicholas Calabrese. And Michael Spilotro's daughter has testified that Marcello called her father at home the day he and his brother disappeared.

Patrick Spilotro's testimony Tuesday led to one of the most heated cross-examinations to date in the trial.

Marcello's lawyer, Thomas Breen, asked Spilotro about his decision to clean out Anthony Spilotro's hotel room before he had been reported as a missing person and before police had searched the room for fingerprints.

"It's what I did at that time," said Patrick Spilotro, who seemed to struggle with his emotions throughout his testimony. "I really didn't have my whole head on at that time."

Breen asked what would have happened if the Spilotro brothers had returned to the room and thought there had been a burglary. They had been missing for barely 24 hours when Patrick Spilotro cleaned out the room.

"That would've been a blessing for me then," said Spilotro, who said he knew enough at the time to guess that his brothers would never be coming back. His sister-in-law, Ann, had told him that her husband, Michael, believed he could be in danger.

"She told me where they went," Spilotro said, raising his voice slightly. "They went with Marcello."

At that remark, Breen paced around the lectern, then walked up to Spilotro. Breen told Spilotro his sister-in-law never mentioned Marcello by name during her testimony. "You were the first person to ever share that, doctor," Breen said sarcastically. "Ever report that to the FBI?"

"The FBI was aware that Marcello had called there and [my brothers] went to meet him," Spilotro answered.

"Yeah, right," Breen shot back. "That's the problem when somebody does [their own] investigation."

Prosecutors ended the day by playing recordings made while Marcello was being visited by his brother, Michael, at a federal prison in Michigan. The men, who did not know they were being recorded, spoke about the Family Secrets investigation with code and hand gestures.

Allegedly referring to Nicholas Calabrese as "Slim," authorities said the men can be heard speculating about whether Calabrese is cooperating with them.

In a later video from January 2003, the brothers are seen sitting side-by-side in a prison visiting room. They are heard discussing a source -- who authorities contend was a U.S. marshal (John Ambrose) working a witness security detail. The source had confirmed for the brothers Calabrese's cooperation with the authorities.

The source had seen a summary from Calabrese outlining the participants in some 18 homicides, including the slayings of the Spilotro brothers, which the Marcellos referred to in code as "Zhivago."

"All your names are on that [expletive]," Michael Marcello could be heard to say.

"You're kidding," his brother replied.

Thanks to Jeff Coen

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