Thursday, August 23, 2007

Mob Plea Deal by Dad to Help Sons?

Frank Calabrese Sr. was never a part of the Chicago Outfit, he told a prosecutor Tuesday, and he only pleaded guilty to mob-related loan-sharking in the 1990s to get two of his sons better deals in the same case.

Anyone who didn't believe him should ask one of the sons, who was sitting in court, Calabrese testified, suddenly pointing over the shoulder of Assistant U.S. Atty. John Scully at his son Kurt, who was sitting in the third row of the gallery at the Family Secrets trial.

"There's my son," Calabrese said loudly, rising out of his chair slightly. "Ask him, he'd be glad to tell you."

With that remark, Kurt Calabrese stood up and left the courtroom, waving his hand over his head back toward his father as he went through the doors.

With lawyers in the case preparing to make closing arguments as soon as next week, the landmark trial has increasingly become a showcase for how the Calabrese family splintered and what those divisions allegedly meant for Chicago organized crime. Frank Calabrese Sr. has seen his brother, Nicholas Calabrese, a made member of the mob, testify against him, and another of his sons, Frank Calabrese Jr., has done the same.

On Tuesday, Scully cross-examined Frank Calabrese Sr. using tapes Frank Calabrese Jr. secretly made of their conversations when the two were imprisoned together beginning in 1999.

For hours, Scully and the elder Calabrese argued and talked past each other, with Scully asserting that Calabrese was talking with his son about specific murders that are part of the case, and Calabrese insisting either that he was not, or that he was just trying to impress his son.

Prosecutors contend Calabrese mentions three of his four co-defendants in the case, including James Marcello, Joey "the Clown" Lombardo and former Chicago Police Officer Anthony Doyle. They, along with Paul "the Indian" Schiro, are alleged to have been a part of the broad conspiracy to further Outfit interests.

An intense Calabrese seemed to be trying his best to explain what he contends he was talking about Tuesday, answering questions in an earnest tone as if begging those in the courtroom to believe him. He leaned on the witness stand, shifted in his seat and at times sneered at Scully.

He wore a gray jacket and a dark shirt buttoned all the way up to his neck, looking like he might pop one of those buttons as he grew animated on the stand. Calabrese his said brother lied "like a pig" when he accused him of taking part in 13 murders for the mob.

"I never killed anybody," Calabrese said. He added that if he had killed someone, he would have killed the man who he believes shot his former partner, Larry Stubich. If he were a made member, "How come I don't get paid?" Calabrese said, arguing that no one has helped him financially since he has been incarcerated. "How come I don't get things like that? You know that."

Calabrese said he was jealous that his brother had better relationships with his sons than he did, so he tried to impress Frank Calabrese Jr. by talking about murders and a mob making ceremony with candles and burning of religious cards. But he said he got his knowledge from books, magazines and movies.

In the tape-recorded conversations, heavy with code, Calabrese allegedly can be heard talking about some of the high-profile murders in the case. Scully asked about the killings of Anthony and Michael Spilotro, William and Charlotte Dauber, William "Butch" Petrocelli, Hinsdale businessman Michael Cagnoni, Richard Ortiz and Arthur Morawski.

In a recording made in February 1999, Calabrese can be heard telling his son that the Spilotros were killed because Joseph "Doves" Aiuppa, the reputed head of the mob at the time, was angered that Anthony Spilotro was growing boastful. "It was on the street," Calabrese said Tuesday. "Everybody knew about that."

Calabrese denied helping to plan the bombing of Cagnoni, whose Mercedes was blown up on a ramp to the Tri-State Tollway. He said he was moved when Cagnoni's widow testified earlier in the trial.

In a March 1999 recording, Calabrese could be heard telling his son about placing a person under a spot near Comiskey Park that is now a parking lot, which prosecutors contend was the murder of Michael "Hambone" Albergo.

Calabrese first told Scully he was actually talking about burning a garage, but then said he was just impressing his son with a story when confronted with the portion of the transcript where he said he threw lime on the person's body. "Did you find a person there?" Calabrese asked Scully. A search of the spot in 2002 did not turn up human remains.

Calabrese also said he was not being truthful when he bragged in a recording to his son that Ortiz and Morawski had been torn up by "double-ought buckshot."

"I wanted to win my son over," he said.

Calabrese's other son, Kurt, is not expected to be called as a witness in the case, even after Calabrese's outburst. But the government may call Calabrese's former attorney, Jeffrey Steinback, after Calabrese testified earlier Tuesday that his 1997 guilty plea in the loan-sharking case was not fully explained to him. Calabrese said he didn't read the document and understand that he was pleading guilty to leading an Outfit crew that collected on juice loans by making threats.

Scully asked if he had admitted to making "multiple extortionate extensions of credit."

Calabrese said he didn't understand and had never looked at the allegation word for word. "I probably would've looked cross-eyed at myself," he said.

Thanks to Jeff Coen

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