The Chicago Syndicate: Calabrese Pleads with Judge for Better Conditions

Montana West World

Montana West World

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Calabrese Pleads with Judge for Better Conditions

A reputed leader of Chicago's organized crime family pleaded with a federal judge Tuesday for more space in jail while he awaits trial on charges of plotting 18 murders going back three decades.

''I'm taking 15 medications and my back is killing me,'' Frank Calabrese Sr., 69, told U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel. He said overcrowding on his floor at the Metropolitan Correctional Center is so bad that he can't concentrate on court papers and study the charges against him.

A chronic back problem only makes matters worse, he said. ''All I want to do is be in a two-man room so I can study my case,'' said the portly, bearded defendant, clad in the bright orange jumpsuit of a federal prisoner.

To underline Calabrese's woes, defense attorney Joseph Lopez asked permission from Zagel for his client to sit down during the hearing.

FineStationery.comCalabrese is among 14 reputed mob figures charged in a racketeering indictment that alleges at least 18 murders going as far back as 1970.

Zagel was holding a hearing on complaints by a number of the defendants charged in the FBI's Operation Family Secrets that their health and related problems are not being met in the MCC -- a skyscraper federal jail a block from the Dirksen Federal Courthouse in downtown Chicago.

Calabrese was the only defendant to come to court. But other attorneys said their clients had urgent medical needs ranging from a new hearing aid to a fresh set of false teeth.

Calabrese said his hearing wasn't that good, either. ''I can't hear out of one ear and the other ear is partially working and partially not,'' he said. ''And anything I could get to help me I would appreciate.''

Zagel and federal prosecutors said that they would look into the matter but stopped short of promising any quick relief.

Zagel said that getting Calabrese into a different room might require putting him on a different floor, which in turn could bring him into contact with other defendants in the case -- something federal prosecutors have sought to avoid. ''I would be reluctant to interfere with the separation order,'' he said.

Thanks to Mike Robinson

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