Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Dueling Closing Arguments in Federal Court Over Family Secrets Case

Prosecutors and defense attorneys dueled in closing arguments at the "Family Secrets" mob trial Tuesday, each putting their own views on the evidence presented over the last 10 weeks.

Prosecutors asked jurors not to buy the spin of defense attorneys while the defense, in turn maintained it was the government's witness who is not believable.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Markus Funk, continuing his presentation from Monday, focused on the murder of Anthony and Michael Spilotro, two mobsters who were themselves brutally beaten to death in 1986.

Prosecutors, relying on the testimony of turncoat mobster Nick Calabrese, maintain the two were lured to a home near Bensenville or Wood Dale and killed there by a dozen other mobsters, including defendants James Marcello of Lombard and Frank Calabrese Sr.

International Wine AccessoriesThe Spilotros were killed in 1986 after Anthony Spilotro began attracting too much "heat," or attention to mob activities, in Las Vegas. "And why was Michael killed? Because he was Tony's brother," contended Funk, noting that the mob couldn't take the chance that Michael Spilotro might seek revenge on them. And he ridiculed Frank Calabrese Sr.'s testimony that had him claiming he only found out after the fact about Nick Calabrese killing fellow mobster John Fecarotta when he went to see Nick Calabrese, his brother, recovering from a bullet wound sustained during the killing.

"Now, of course, in Frank Calabrese Sr.'s world, he's totally uninvolved," scoffed Funk.

Why then, is Frank Calabrese Sr. on tape, discussing with his son how he was just a few blocks away at the time of the killing, driving around in vain trying to find Nick?

"Once again, what is Frank Calabrese Sr. doing? 'Play-acting' (on tape?) Trying to impress his son?" said Funk. "It's laughable."

But after Funk's presentation, Marcello attorney Mark Martin keyed in on a statement made by Nick Calabrese that high-ranking mobster Rocky Infelise was at the Spilotro slayings. He pointed to transcripts of phone recordings made of Infelise's home that show him making and receiving phone calls during the alleged time of the killings.

That proves Nick Calabrese is a liar, Martin said. "If you find he's lying about the Spilotro murders -- and he is -- then you can't believe a word he says," said Martin. "Heaven help us if his word is proof beyond a reasonable doubt."

Lombardo's lawyers next took the podium, with Susan Shatz pointing out that the man Lombardo worked with, Irv Weiner, had more reason to murder plastics plant owner Daniel Seifert than Lombardo did. In fact, both men stood to go to prison from Seifert's testimony in an upcoming criminal trial regarding theft of union funds.

Prosecutors say Irv Weiner was under Lombardo's control while defense attorneys say it was the other way around.

The fact that Lombardo's fingerprint is on the application to the title of a car used in Seifert's killing is explainable, they maintain, by the fact that it was notarized in Weiner's office where Lombardo spent a lot of time, Shatz said. "I think it is reasonable" to believe that, Shatz said.

Rick Halprin, another Lombardo lawyer, conceded that Lombardo's testimony at times was not credible, particularly when he maintained that when he was recorded using the word "we" to discuss shaking down massage parlor owners, he didn't really mean "we."

"He (Lombardo) was made to look like a fool by a very skilled prosecutor," said Halprin.

Lombardo's shaky testimony was due to the fact that he doesn't believe jurors, aware of his past convictions for mob activities, would give him a fair shake, Halprin said.

What Lombardo doesn't understand, Halprin maintained, was that those tapes don't matter much because they don't clearly show the activity was done for the Chicago mob, something required to convict of conspiracy. And Halprin also attacked other prosecution witnesses like Patrick Spilotro, brother to the slain mobsters and dentist to Lombardo. He called Patrick Spilotro's testimony that Joseph Lombardo discussed the murders with him "not credible."

Patrick Spilotro, who was present for closing arguments, said it was Lombardo's team that wasn't credible. "Smokescreen, lies and deception," Patrick Spilotro said of Halprin's arguments. "They're doing what they have to do, but truth and justice will prevail."

Thanks to Rob Olmstead

International Wine Accessories

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