Friday, August 17, 2007

Frank Calabrese Sr. Takes Witness Stand

In the Family Secrets mob trial Wednesday there was testimony from "Joey the Clown." Thursday, it was "Frankie the Breeze." In an unusual strategy, the two top defendants in the federal case have now taken the witness stand.

We know from his testimony that mob boss Joe Lombardo fancies himself as one of those movie gangsters played by Jimmy Cagney. In the Hollywood vein, then Frank Calabrese's testimony Thursday qualifies Calabrese as the flimflam man. For three hours in the witness chair Thursday afternoon, Calabrese admitted to being a part of the Chicago mob, explained how the Chicago mob operates and who else is in it, then tried to convince the jury that he had nothing to do with any mob murders.

Frank Calabrese Senior's education was on display Thursday in court. Frank "the Breeze," as he's known, was a fourth grade drop out who twice went AWOL from the military. Now, at age 70 and claiming to be hard-of-hearing, the convicted outfit boss is fighting to stay out of prison for the rest of life in operation family secrets.

Calabrese is charged with 13 gangland murders as part of the mob conspiracy. Calabrese denied them all, saying "No way, I loved that guy" when asked about them. He appeared in court well groomed and dressed in a Palm Beach-style sportcoat fit for a croquet match. His lawyer Joe Lopez dazzled the jury with a pink shirt and banana-colored tie. Calabrese peppered his testimony with a sorrowful tale of his poor upbringing. "We ate oatmeal many nights," he said, "because we had no money."

Calabrese admitted to being a streetfighter: "I hated bullies and I still hate them today." Then he boasted, "I was very good with my hands." he was also well connected, he said, to the late, corrupt 1st Ward Alderman Fred Roti, Calabrese's brother-in-law was hotel restaurant union boss Ed Hanley, whom Calabrese claimed once offered him a job as president of the union local in Las Vegas.

Despite claiming he couldn't do arithmetic and barely literate, Calabrese admitted to a career as a mob loanshark, illegally lending hundreds of thousands of dollars to people who couldn't get bank loans at interest rates sometimes 10 times the going rate and keeping the accounting books. But Calabrese claimed: "There was never a time that anybody got a beating from me for not paying...I'd sit and talk to them."

In a remarkable confession, Calabrese talked about the structure of the outfit: There are "heavy workers" who do the killing, he said, and there are "money makers" who control the finances. Said Calabrese: "I was a money maker, I mean millions. When would I have time for" the killing?

Calabrese said Joseph "Joey Doves" Aiuppa was the outfit's top boss who oversaw what were called "sit downs," meetings to solve mob problems. "It was all done diplomatically," stated Calabrese. "At the head was someone very important, usually Joey Auippa."

We know from his testimony Wednesday that mob boss Joe Lombardo fancies himself as one of those old Hollywood gangsters played by Jimmy Cagney. Judging by the jury's reaction to Frank Calabrese's testimony, Calabrese might be better suited for a role in the old classic movie "Born Yesterday."

Jurors who have been taking non-stop notes the past eight weeks, Thursday took down nothing that Calabrese said. One juror spent the afternoon doodling on the back of his notebook.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

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