Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Mob Killings Outlined for Jury

A day after jurors handed down guilty verdicts in Chicago's biggest mob trial in years, a prosecutor asked them yesterday to take the next step toward sending four defendants to prison for life for a series of "brutal and heinous" gangland killings.

"There was no mercy with regard to these murders — they were cruel, they were ruthless," prosecutor Mitchell A. Mars told jurors as he described the slayings of mobsters Tony "The Ant" Spilotro and his brother Michael Spilotro.

Morgan MintThe same jury on Monday convicted five men of racketeering conspiracy and other charges involving decades of loan sharking, gambling extortion and 18 unsolved organized crime killings tied to the Chicago mob.

Prosecutors now want the jury to hold four of the defendants responsible for specific killings, qualifying them for life sentences. U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel will make the final decision on each defendant's sentence.

Mr. Mars described the 18 killings outlined in the indictment and what prosecutors see as the role of each defendant.

His voice cracked with emotion as he recalled how a bomb planted in businessman Michael Cagnoni's car almost killed Mr. Cagnoni's wife and child. "I can't think of anything more shockingly evil than the homicide of Michael Cagnoni," Mr. Mars said.

Facing life sentences are purported mob boss James Marcello, 65, purported capo Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, 78, convicted loan shark Frank Calabrese Sr., 70, and convicted jewel thief Paul Schiro, 70. The fifth defendant convicted Monday, retired Chicago policeman Anthony Doyle, 62, is not accused of taking part in a killing.

Calabrese is accused of the most killings: 13. During the trial, he denied being a mob member and said he did not kill anyone.

Marcello is blamed for the June 1986 killings of Tony Spilotro, long the Chicago mob's man in Las Vegas and the inspiration for Joe Pesci's character in the movie "Casino." He and his brother were fatally beaten and buried in an Indiana cornfield.

The government's star witness, Nicholas Calabrese, brother of Frank Calabrese Sr., testified that he helped kill Michael Spilotro while other mobsters killed Tony Spilotro in the basement of a suburban home. He testified that Marcello lured the Spilotros to their death.

Marcello defense attorney Thomas Breen appealed to jurors to disregard the testimony of Nicholas Calabrese, saying he was an admitted hit man who would say anything to get a deal from prosecutors that would keep him from the execution chamber.

Mr. Breen said Nicholas Calabrese thought that to cut a plea deal, "the marquee, the five-star case that has to be cleared, is the Spilotro case."

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