Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Secret Prison Video Highlights Testimony at Mob Leak Trial

Secretly-recorded video of two Chicago Outfit members discussing mob hit man Nicholas Calabrese's cooperation with federal investigators highlighted the first testimony in the trial of Deputy U.S. Marshal John Ambrose in local federal court today.

Grainy footage of James and Michael Marcello, taken from the waiting room of a Michigan federal prison in 2003, showed the brothers using code words, subtle gestures and whispers to discuss what information Calabrese was sharing on dozens of mob murders in the Chicago area.

"He admitted to being involved in 19 of them things," Michael Marcello told his brother in one recording, referring to Calabrese and the number of mob murders he had disclosed to authorities.

FBI Special Agent Michael Maseth said such discussions were the first clue to authorities of a significant leak about Calabrese's cooperation with investigators. "We were shocked," said Maseth, describing the response of agents when they heard specific information about Calabrese's disclosures being discussed by the Marcellos.

Prosecutors say Ambrose, who protected Calabrese during two visits to Chicago in 2002 and 2003 as part of his witness security detail, was the original source of the "highly sensitive" information that eventually made its way to the Marcellos.

Video recordings were also played of the Marcellos, seated side-by-side in a waiting room with their heads almost touching, discussing that the leak's source was the son of a figure arrested in the Marquette 10 police corruption trial in the 1980's. Ambrose's father, Thomas, was convicted on felony bribery charges in 1982.

Earlier, Maseth gave the jury a crash course in the Chicago Outfit, describing the structure of the organization and defining what made particular figures "made members." Maseth also described Calabrese as "the most important organized-crime witness that has ever testified in this district and perhaps in the United States."

Assistant U.S. Atty. Diane MacArthur asked Maseth what consequences Calabrese could face if his cooperation was discovered by members of the Outfit. "The level of risk was the ultimate level of risk. He could be killed," Maseth said.

Thanks to Robert Mitchum

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