Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Fed Request Cloaked Jury for Chicago Mob Trial

Friends of ours: Joseph "Joey The Clown" Lombardo, Frank Calabrese Sr., William Dauber

Federal prosecutors in one of the most significant Chicago mob cases ever are moving to cloak the names of jurors in secrecy. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mitch Mars told a federal judge last week prosecutors intend to ask for an anonymous jury -- a move defense lawyers in the case are likely to oppose. The request is considered rare and extreme. It's typically reserved for cases in which alleged mobsters, terrorists or drug kingpins are on trial.

Mars did not say in court why he wanted to keep jurors' names secret, but usually prosecutors make the move to reduce jury tampering. Also, the feds can ask for an anonymous panel when jurors would have a reasonable concern about their safety.

Some of the defendants on trial have a history of allegedly tampering with the judicial system.

Reputed top mobster Joseph "Joey The Clown" Lombardo is accused of killing a witness against him in another federal case in 1974.

Another defendant, brutal mob loan shark Frank Calabrese Sr., is accused of taking part in the murder of mob enforcer William Dauber and his wife, Charlotte, in 1980. William Dauber was cooperating with federal investigators when he was slain.

In the mob case, jurors are expected to have to fill out a questionnaire. But potential jurors would not even put their names on the questionnaire, instead only using their juror number, if U.S. District Judge James Zagel grants the prosecution's request.

Defense lawyers in the case have signaled they would object to an anonymous jury. Jurors may already be on edge hearing evidence in an organized crime case. To be told their identities are being kept secret could create bias or fear concerning the defendants, according to defense lawyers involved in the case.

Judges don't always grant a request for an anonymous jury. In the Chicago trial of two men charged with racketeering and allegedly tied to the terrorist group Hamas, prosecutors wanted an anonymous jury, but the judge denied the request. This month, the men were found not guilty of the most serious charge against them but convicted on lesser charges.

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