Monday, August 20, 2007

Outburst in Court Leads to Judge Threatening Family Secrets' Defendant with Contempt

A federal judge warned Monday that he would hold alleged Chicago mobster Frank Calabrese in contempt of court if he continued to try to testify about evidence already ruled inadmissible at his racketeering conspiracy trial.

The warning followed a flare-up of emotion on the part of Calabrese, a convicted loan shark who is one of five alleged members of the Chicago mob on trial in the Operation Family Secrets case.

"I will not allow you to introduce evidence that is inadmissible," U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel told Calabrese in his second day on the witness stand. Zagel told Calabrese to stop trying to introduce evidence that "you personally think should be introduced" even though it already had been ruled out.

"You will not question my rulings in the presence of the jury," Zagel said. He said he would hold Calabrese in contempt it if happened again.

Earlier, Calabrese had blurted out a claim concerning an alleged robbery in which he had been the victim. When prosecutors objected -- evidence concerning the robbery had been ruled inadmissible -- Calabrese became upset. "Your Honor, how am I going to defend myself?" Calabrese asked Zagel.

At that, Zagel sent the jury out of the courtroom, admonished Calabrese and warned Calabrese's defense attorney, Joseph Lopez, against "your client's intention to get into evidence material that I'm quite sure you told him he could not get into evidence."

Calabrese, 70, is accused by federal prosecutors and witnesses of doubling as a mob hit man when not operating a loan sharking business. His brother, Nicholas, testified earlier that Frank Calabrese on a number of occasions strangled victims with ropes then cut their throats to make sure they were dead.

Also on trial are Joseph (Joey the Clown) Lombardo, 78, James Marcello, 65, Paul Schiro, 70, and Anthony Doyle, 62. They are accused of taking part in a racketeering conspiracy that involved extortion, gambling, loan sharking and 18 long unsolved murders.

On Thursday, Frank Calabrese testified that he knew many people involved in organized crime, hung out with them and did business with them but did not belong to the mob. He denied ever committing any of the murders alleged in the indictment produced by an FBI investigation known as Operation Family Secrets.

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