Thursday, August 30, 2007

Onlookers Flock to Family Secrets Trial

"There he is, there's Calabrese and there's the Indian and there's Joey the Clown," said Lee Anne Roggensack, excitedly pointing out three of the elderly defendants in the Family Secrets mob conspiracy trial, where closing arguments conclude Thursday. Roggensack, 48, skipped a planned vacation so she could attend, sitting in the courtroom for at least 18 days.

The 10-week trial has spawned a subculture of its own: Chicagoans who feel as if the mob was a shadowy but ever-present force as they grew up in this city, and who wanted to see some of its most flamboyant characters in the flesh -- and put behind bars.

In Roggensack's case, a mobster's godchild was her stepdaughter's godfather, she said, "but he wasn't in the mob." And her son-in-law worked at a hot dog stand owned by a jailed mobster.

"Everybody of a certain age and beyond in Chicago has an organized crime story," said John J. Binder, author of "The Chicago Outfit," a history of the city's mobsters. "They either lived near someone or their grandfather drove a beer truck during Prohibition or there was this bar they used to go into."

Decades after its heyday, the Chicago mob is still famous around the world. Untouchable Tours buses weave through the city daily, showing the site of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre and other notorious locales. When the Biograph Theater reopened last year, much was made of its fame as the spot where federal agents gunned down John Dillinger.

Mobsters are often romanticized and glorified, but most people at the trial had a decidedly negative view of the five defendants -- Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, Paul "the Indian" Schiro, James Marcello, former cop Anthony Doyle and Frank Calabrese Sr. -- who among them are charged with 18 murders, racketeering, extortion, loan-sharking, gambling and other crimes. The alleged victims include Outfit members Michael and Anthony Spilotro, brothers who were beaten and buried alive in an Indiana cornfield in 1986.

"It's been undermining the integrity of our city forever," said Pat Reynolds, 73, who spent 24 days in the courtroom and fears that a planned vacation to Telluride, Colo., will make her miss the verdict. "I've always had to explain my city, that it's wonderful and beautiful in spite of this."

Paul Bird, 83, and Robert Madden, 80, said they went to Oak Park High School just west of Chicago with reputed mobsters and their children. Al Capone lived not far from them at one point, they said, and Bird said he went to summer school with a daughter of William "Sweet Willie" Bioff, known for extorting Hollywood studios through the movie projectionists union.

The trial featured Calabrese Sr.'s own son, Frank Jr., as well as Frank Sr.'s brother Nicholas, himself a member of the Outfit, both testifying against him. In conversations secretly taped by Frank Jr. in a federal prison in Milan, Mich., Calabrese Sr. described burning prayer cards on the hands of "made" members and covering a body with "the lime that eats."

He testified he was merely trying to impress his son, since he was jealous of Frank Jr.'s close relationship with Nicholas.

Thanks to Kari Lydersen

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Arrivederci to a Chicago Hero from Little Italy

In federal court Tuesday morning, lawyers for five accused mobsters were poised to try and sell a jury on the sad, sad story about how their clients were misunderstood. Not murdering gangsters. And not guilty.

But somehow, sitting there, all I could think about was Florence Scala, who died that very morning, just hours before defense attorneys embarked on the last lap of a historic trial.

Florence certainly didn't need to stick around for that. Nor would she have bought a word of it.

She knew everything she needed to know about the Lombardos, Marcellos, Calabreses and their kind in 88 years spent on Taylor Street in the heart of Chicago's Little Italy. On the Near West Side where she lived and worked and died, she had no patience for these "other" Italians and said so many times.

"They were men from the old country who lorded it over people in the area," she once told author Studs Terkel. And those men had sons and their sons had sons. Some of them were politicians like John D'Arco Sr., the committeeman of the mobbed up First Ward. And Pat Marcy, the political rainmaker of the First Ward, who made sure the right kind of people became judges so they could guarantee "the right" kind of verdicts were handed down in Cook County. Harry "The Hitman" Aleman got one of those lucky decisions once. So did Anthony "The Ant" Spilotro. But Harry, in federal prison, isn't lucky anymore, and Tony is dead.

Florence fought the Chicago Outfit in the early 1960s. And the politicians on their payroll. Not to mention big business and real estate interests that saw a huge payday in gentrifying her neighborhood. And the genteel boards of upstanding civic organizations who sympathized with powerbrokers more than ordinary citizens. In her view, they all sold out the melting pot of immigrants whose modest houses and hard lives filled the enclave that was her community by never once consulting them. And when this small Italian woman with olive skin and big, dark eyes didn't blink, they didn't like it. And when she began to organize young and old, Italian and non-Italian, students and laborers to demand a voice in civic decisions, they couldn't believe the nerve of a Taylor Street housewife.

That's why, in 1962, the thugs who did the bidding of the bosses bombed her back porch as she tried to run for alderman herself. She lost a lot of wars but held the hearts of grateful people who marvelled at her courage.

"She tried to save the soul of Chicago," Studs Terkel told me by phone Tuesday. "It was a glorious sight."

Some of us who loved and admired Florence wanted to honor her before she died. In 2005, I wrote a column suggesting the city rename the library in Little Italy for her because she was instrumental in getting it put there.

A note from Florence arrived two days later. "Libraries should be named for authors, poets and writers who enrich our lives. I do not agree with proposing my name to rename the Roosevelt Library. Happy New Year Carol & thanks. Florence S."

When Florence said no, she meant no. That went for the Outfit, City Hall or an upstart columnist. Not a sentimentalist or a silly dreamer, she was a revolutionary in sensible shoes. She will always be my hero.

Arrivederci, Florence.

Thanks to Carol Marin

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Dueling Closing Arguments in Federal Court Over Family Secrets Case

Prosecutors and defense attorneys dueled in closing arguments at the "Family Secrets" mob trial Tuesday, each putting their own views on the evidence presented over the last 10 weeks.

Prosecutors asked jurors not to buy the spin of defense attorneys while the defense, in turn maintained it was the government's witness who is not believable.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Markus Funk, continuing his presentation from Monday, focused on the murder of Anthony and Michael Spilotro, two mobsters who were themselves brutally beaten to death in 1986.

Prosecutors, relying on the testimony of turncoat mobster Nick Calabrese, maintain the two were lured to a home near Bensenville or Wood Dale and killed there by a dozen other mobsters, including defendants James Marcello of Lombard and Frank Calabrese Sr.

International Wine AccessoriesThe Spilotros were killed in 1986 after Anthony Spilotro began attracting too much "heat," or attention to mob activities, in Las Vegas. "And why was Michael killed? Because he was Tony's brother," contended Funk, noting that the mob couldn't take the chance that Michael Spilotro might seek revenge on them. And he ridiculed Frank Calabrese Sr.'s testimony that had him claiming he only found out after the fact about Nick Calabrese killing fellow mobster John Fecarotta when he went to see Nick Calabrese, his brother, recovering from a bullet wound sustained during the killing.

"Now, of course, in Frank Calabrese Sr.'s world, he's totally uninvolved," scoffed Funk.

Why then, is Frank Calabrese Sr. on tape, discussing with his son how he was just a few blocks away at the time of the killing, driving around in vain trying to find Nick?

"Once again, what is Frank Calabrese Sr. doing? 'Play-acting' (on tape?) Trying to impress his son?" said Funk. "It's laughable."

But after Funk's presentation, Marcello attorney Mark Martin keyed in on a statement made by Nick Calabrese that high-ranking mobster Rocky Infelise was at the Spilotro slayings. He pointed to transcripts of phone recordings made of Infelise's home that show him making and receiving phone calls during the alleged time of the killings.

That proves Nick Calabrese is a liar, Martin said. "If you find he's lying about the Spilotro murders -- and he is -- then you can't believe a word he says," said Martin. "Heaven help us if his word is proof beyond a reasonable doubt."

Lombardo's lawyers next took the podium, with Susan Shatz pointing out that the man Lombardo worked with, Irv Weiner, had more reason to murder plastics plant owner Daniel Seifert than Lombardo did. In fact, both men stood to go to prison from Seifert's testimony in an upcoming criminal trial regarding theft of union funds.

Prosecutors say Irv Weiner was under Lombardo's control while defense attorneys say it was the other way around.

The fact that Lombardo's fingerprint is on the application to the title of a car used in Seifert's killing is explainable, they maintain, by the fact that it was notarized in Weiner's office where Lombardo spent a lot of time, Shatz said. "I think it is reasonable" to believe that, Shatz said.

Rick Halprin, another Lombardo lawyer, conceded that Lombardo's testimony at times was not credible, particularly when he maintained that when he was recorded using the word "we" to discuss shaking down massage parlor owners, he didn't really mean "we."

"He (Lombardo) was made to look like a fool by a very skilled prosecutor," said Halprin.

Lombardo's shaky testimony was due to the fact that he doesn't believe jurors, aware of his past convictions for mob activities, would give him a fair shake, Halprin said.

What Lombardo doesn't understand, Halprin maintained, was that those tapes don't matter much because they don't clearly show the activity was done for the Chicago mob, something required to convict of conspiracy. And Halprin also attacked other prosecution witnesses like Patrick Spilotro, brother to the slain mobsters and dentist to Lombardo. He called Patrick Spilotro's testimony that Joseph Lombardo discussed the murders with him "not credible."

Patrick Spilotro, who was present for closing arguments, said it was Lombardo's team that wasn't credible. "Smokescreen, lies and deception," Patrick Spilotro said of Halprin's arguments. "They're doing what they have to do, but truth and justice will prevail."

Thanks to Rob Olmstead

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Reputed top Chicago mobster Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo was "not truthful" at times in his testimony in the Family Secrets trial and was made to look like "a ridiculous old fool" under cross-examination -- but he was nothing more than a "rent-a-mobster," Lombardo's own attorney told jurors in his closing argument Tuesday.

Lombardo's lawyer, Rick Halprin, said Lombardo was never a made member of the mob but hung out and hustled with businessmen with deep mob ties. At times, Lombardo hustled himself into prison, Halprin said.

Lombardo has long retired from any Outfit connections, Halprin said, invoking the so-called withdrawal defense that's unique to Lombardo's case. "We are not talking about redemption here," Halprin intoned toward the end of his argument. "We are talking about a decided change in lifestyle."

"Redemption, I dare say, for Mr. Lombardo is in the not-too-distant future," Halprin said. Lombardo, at 78, is the oldest of five defendants on trial.

Prosecutors have tried to tie Lombardo to more recent Outfit activity by the testimony of Pat Spilotro, who was Lombardo's dentist and the brother of slain mobsters Anthony and Michael Spilotro. Pat Spilotro turned Lombardo in to the FBI when he was on the lam last year.

In court, Spilotro testified that his longtime patient mentioned his troubles, including that the New York mob was trying to muscle into Chicago. Halprin called Spilotro's testimony "not credible."

Outside the courtroom, Spilotro said he was telling the truth. "They're doing what they have to do up there," Spilotro said of the defense attorneys. "But the truth and justice will prevail."

Lombardo didn't always tell the truth on the witness stand, Halprin acknowledged. "He's frightened to death of you," Halprin told the jury. Lombardo didn't tell the truth when he pretended not to know what certain mobsters were the area bosses of. He is afraid jurors will judge him for his past. "He truly believes, no matter what his lawyers tell him, that you're going to punish him for that," Halprin said.

Another defense attorney, Marc Martin, gave the first closing statement, for reputed Outfit boss James Marcello, and focused on savaging the credibility of the government's star witness, Outfit killer Nicholas Calabrese.

Calabrese testified that Marcello took part in three murders and one attempted murder, but Martin argued Calabrese lied to save himself from the death penalty. "Do you think he would lie?" Martin asked of Calabrese. "Do you think he would lie to save his life?"

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Prosecution Reminder - Cross the Outfit: End Up Dead

Defense attorneys were to get their last shot Tuesday after a federal prosecutor reminded jurors at a big Chicago mob trial what happens to people who cross the Outfit: "You end up dead."

That's according to assistant U.S. Attorney Markus Funk in a 280-minute closing argument that stretched over two days.

Defense attorneys were to start their arguments Tuesday afternoon.

Five defendants are accused of taking part in a conspiracy that included 18 long-unsolved murders, illegal gambling, loan sharking and extortion. They are reputed mobster Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, 78; convicted loan shark Frank Calabrese Sr., 70; convicted jewel thief Paul Schiro, 70; reputed mob boss James Marcello, 65; and retired Chicago policeman Anthony Doyle, 62.

Funk sought to recap for jurors highlights of the trial that started June 21. He detailed gruesome killings, including events leading up to the trial's most high-profile death -- that of Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, who was beaten to death along with his brother, Michael, and buried in an Indiana cornfield.

Tony Spilotro, known as the mob's man in Las Vegas, was the inspiration for the Joe Pesci character in the 1995 movie "Casino." In the film, Pesci's character was beaten with bats and buried alive.

Thanks to NBC5

Prosectors Begin Closing Argument in Family Secrets Mob Trial

To acquit the men on trial in the "Family Secrets" mob case, prosecutor Markus Funk told the jury Monday, jurors have to believe that three of the defendants caught on tape talking about their crimes were simply unlucky enough to be recorded while they were "play acting."

"The evidence tells you that these men are guilty," said Funk, referring to defendants Frank Calabrese Sr. of Oak Brook, Joseph Lombardo of Chicago, Michael Marcello of Lombard, Paul Schiro of Phoenix and Anthony Doyle of Wickenburg, Ariz.

It would be enough, Funk said, to convict the men on racketeering charges if they simply knew of mob activities and helped plan them. But each defendant, Funk alleged, personally committed the crimes as well.

For four of them, that means murder. And with that, Funk began to recite the circumstances of each of the 18 murders alleged in the case.

One of those was the 1974 killing of Daniel Seifert in Bensenville. He was gunned down at his factory after signing up to testify against Lombardo for stealing from Teamster funds.

Lombardo testified he didn't know Seifert was going to testify against him, but Funk noted that as part of the case, Lombardo would have had papers delivered to him notifying him of Seifert's testimony. Seifert was killed and the government dropped the case because their key witness was dead.

"So it (the murder) paid off, in a perverse way, for Mr. Lombardo," Funk said.

In that case, the evidence against Lombardo includes two store clerks testifying it was Lombardo who bought the police scanner recovered from a car used in Seifert's murder. Seifert's brother also testified that Lombardo, a few weeks before the killing, called him and warned him to "straighten out" Danny.

"What additional proof could one want?" asked Funk. "How 'bout a fingerprint?"

Lombardo's fingerprint was found on the title application for the car used in the murder, he said.

He also took time to debunk Lombardo's alibi, that he was filling out a police report on a stolen wallet that day. He noted that when Lombardo was asked immediately after the killing where he had been, he never mentioned the stolen wallet or police report. And the report, noted Funk, was taken at a police station where another mobster reported cops were being paid off by the mob.

Funk also hammered home the case against Frank Calabrese Sr. in the 1970 murder of Michael Albergo, a juice loan collector and partner to Calabrese. Authorities were issuing subpoenas in the juice loan business at that time, and Albergo had received one, Funk said. "Albergo said, 'I'm not going to jail by myself.' That's a mistake to say something like that to these men," Funk said.

Nick Calabrese, the brother of Frank Calabrese Sr., testified that he, Calabrese Sr., and Ronald Jarrett picked up Albergo near Sox Park and Frank Calabrese Sr. strangled him. "He (Calabrese Sr.) cut Mr. Albergo's throat as well, just to make sure," Funk said.

Nick Calabrese said the body was buried at a warehouse on the 3300 block of South Shields in Chicago. At the time, it was under construction. Now, it's a parking lot for U.S. Cellular Field.

That, Funk said, explains why the body was never recovered. The building was razed and the earth on the spot -- about 5 feet deep -- was hauled away, Funk said. "Mr. Albergo's remains were removed over 20 years ago in the back of a pickup truck somewhere," Funk said.

Then he predicted, "I suspect you're going to hear (from defense attorneys) that Nick Calabrese invented all of this."

But besides Nick Calabrese's testimony, Funk told jurors, are tape recordings of Frank Calabrese Sr. and his son, Frank Calabrese Jr., who cooperated with prosecutors. In the recording, Calabrese Sr. discusses with Calabrese Jr. what Nick Calabrese could testify to, and he apparently talks about multiple murders, describing some in gruesome detail, including the shotgun slaying of Richard Ortiz and Arthur Morawski in Cicero. Ortiz, Calabrese tells his son, was the target and Morawski just happened to be there.

"The Polish guy (Morawski) that was there happened to be a nice guy," said Calabrese Sr. on the recording. "Wrong place at the wrong time."

Calabrese Sr. said that to call off a hit because an innocent person was in the way couldn't be done because other Outfit leaders might think you were weak for "freezing."

Funk encouraged jurors not to simply believe or disbelieve the testimony of Nick Calabrese, who he conceded was a "cold-blooded" killer. But additional forensic evidence, he said, corroborates Nick Calabrese's testimony and makes it believable, which means jurors should convict, Funk said.

"Who gives them the right to take the lives of other human beings?" asked Funk. "How is it that they can just walk into a business and demand money? "Because they know how to instill fear in other human beings," said Funk, answering his own question. "Kill another human being if he gets in your way."

Funk will continue his closing argument Tuesday and defense attorneys will then respond, after which prosecutors will get another chance to speak. Closing arguments are expected to continue through Thursday.

Thanks to Rob Olmstead

Monday, August 27, 2007

Family Secrets Closing Arguments This Week

With the presentation of evidence expected to wrap up Monday, the Family Secrets trial has been among the most riveting and eye-opening in Chicago history, putting the violent realities of Outfit life and death on display for nine weeks.

Among the trial's highlights, three reputed "made" members of the Chicago Outfit each testified -- one, the star government witness, and two key defendants.

Nicholas Calabrese, confronted with DNA evidence tying him to a 1986 murder, turned on the mob, betraying his brother and providing an insider's view on many of the 18 gangland slayings at the heart of the prosecution's case.

In a rare move for accused mobsters, Calabrese's brother, Frank Calabrese Sr., who is implicated in 13 of the murders, and Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, perhaps Chicago's best-known reputed Outfit figure of the past three decades, took the witness stand in their own defense.

In closing arguments this week, lawyers will guide jurors through the testimony of dozens of witnesses and hours of secretly made recordings.

Calabrese, Lombardo and three co-defendants -- James Marcello, Paul "the Indian" Schiro and former Chicago police officer Anthony "Twan" Doyle -- are charged in a conspiracy that allegedly involved murder, racketeering, extortion and threats.

The first count of the indictment charged that the Chicago mob killed its "members, associates and others to advance the interests of the Chicago Outfit's illegal activities." If any of the defendants are convicted of the first count, U.S. District Judge James Zagel decided last week, jurors will be asked to deliberate separately on whether any defendants committed specific murders. That finding could trigger a stiffer sentence -- up to life in prison.

The most damning evidence against Frank Calabrese Sr. came from his brother, and his son, Frank Calabrese Jr. Nicholas Calabrese spent a week on the stand, calmly testifying in vivid detail about how his brother slowly lured him into Outfit life. By the time he committed his first murder with his brother in 1970, he testified he believed it was a test of his manhood. "We gotta put somebody in a hole," he quoted his brother as announcing. Nick Calabrese testified that his brother's preferred method of murder was to strangle his victims with a rope and then cut their throats.

In hours of conversations secretly taped by the FBI and played for jurors while he was imprisoned, Frank Calabrese Sr. could be heard discussing some of the murders with his son. He also talked about participating in a mob-making ceremony, complaining that holy pictures had been burned in his hand. "That bothers me," Frank Calabrese Sr. said on the tape.

In his closing argument, Calabrese's lawyer, Joseph Lopez, is expected to contend that Calabrese's brother and son testified for the government as part of a plot to steal some $2 million from him.

In testifying, Frank Calabrese Sr. flatly denied killing any of the victims with an emphatic "No way," sometimes as he thumped his fingers down on the witness stand.

He said he ran a loan business with Outfit connections, but he never used threats to collect debts. Telling jurors he was jealous of his brother's relationship with his sons, Frank Calabrese Sr. said he boasted to impress his son when he appeared to be discussing mob activity.

Prosecutors contend Marcello is another longtime Outfit figure, trumpeting him as its then-current leader when he was arrested in 2005.

Nicholas Calabrese implicated Marcello in perhaps the case's most notorious slayings, those of brothers Anthony and Michael Spilotro. He allegedly lured them to their deaths, driving them to the Bensenville residence where they were beaten to death, Calabrese testified.

Prosecutors have tried to strengthen their case with tapes of Marcello talking in prison with his brother, Michael, who previously pleaded guilty in the Family Secrets case. The Marcellos can be heard talking in code and speculating about whether the government was building a case against them.

Prosecutors also presented the testimony of Spilotro family members, including Michael Spilotro's daughter, who said it was James Marcello who called her family's home the day her dad vanished.

Marcello's defense team likely will argue to the jury that the government's case is too speculative, that Nicholas Calabrese, an admitted serial killer, can't be trusted and that no physical evidence connects Marcello to any of the slayings.

Prosecutors alleged that Lombardo, the reputed boss of the mob's Grand Avenue street crew, was behind the murder of Daniel Seifert, his onetime business partner, though the evidence is largely circumstantial. Seifert was due to testify against Lombardo in a fraud case when he was ambushed by gunmen outside his Bensenville office and killed.

Lombardo's fingerprint was found on the title application of one of two getaway cars found about two miles from the scene of the murder.

Lombardo's lawyer, Rick Halprin, has argued that his client was a hustler but not a gangster, a legitimate businessman with mob connections.

Lombardo testified earlier this month, drawing dozens to the courtroom to watch the notorious reputed Outfit leader. He was asked by a prosecutor whether he is a capo in the Chicago Outfit. "That is positively no, sir," Lombardo said.

Prosecutors alleged that Schiro, a reputed Spilotro associate who was part of the Chicago mob's western operations, helped stalk federal witness Emil Vaci in Phoenix in 1986.

Nicholas Calabrese told how Schiro allegedly helped a mob hit squad locate and target Vaci before Calabrese shot him in the head. Schiro and his lawyer, Paul Wagner, have chosen to put on no witnesses. Wagner has argued that Nicholas Calabrese was the real killer and cannot be trusted.

The case against Doyle centers mostly on the bloody glove that linked Nicholas Calabrese through DNA to a 1986 murder. In 1999, when the Outfit had gotten wind of the federal mob investigation and began to fear that Calabrese would cooperate, Doyle allegedly passed information about the glove to Frank Calabrese Sr.

In testifying last week, Doyle said he visited Calabrese in prison out of loyalty to a lifelong friend and tried to shift blame to a former police officer who also had been charged in the case, but died before trial.

Closing arguments by the attorneys could begin as soon as late Monday. Jury deliberations likely will begin later in the week.

Thanks to Jeff Coen

Charles Tyrwhitt

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Paris Hilton - A Mafia Princess?

Now this is what we call casting news. You 'll never guess who was hand-picked by mafia princess Antoinette Giancana to play her in an upcoming cable TV movie: Paris Hilton!

Yes, you read right. PARIS HILTON! What's THAT about? A TV movie was made in 1986 based on Antoinette's book Mafia Princess and Antoinette wasn't thrilled with Susan Lucci's performance. (Tony Curtis played her father Sam Giancana.) The mobster's daughter decided the actress made her look like a "weakling." Apparently she's hoping for some spunk from Paris Hilton in this new untitled movie.

Antoinette Giancana and Paris Hilton - Mafia Princesses?

Back in the 80's, Antoinette was featured in Playboy but the only photo we could find of her was this one advertising her pasta sauce. She looks more like a reformed nun than a princess.

Thanks to Janet Charlton

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Sopranos Season 6 to be Released 10-23-07.

Last year, Tony Soprano cheated death when he was shot by his now institutionalized Uncle Junior. While Tony continues to muse about his second chance at life, he faces a myriad of immediate, stress-inducing crises at home, at work and from the law. Tony's wife Carmela plans for a future she's not sure will arrive, and son AJ and daughter Meadow find that adulthood holds its own surprises. Meanwhile, at work, Tony comes to doubt the allegiances of many of those closest to him - no one, not Paulie, Bobby, Silvio or even Christopher is above suspicion. The clock is ticking. Time is running out. But on who?


* Making "Cleaver": Behind the scenes of Christopher's horror film
* The Music of The Sopranos: Creator David Chase, cast and crew discuss the songs from the show
* Four audio commentaries with cast members Dominic Chainese, Robert Iler, Arthur Nascarella, Steven R. Schirripa and Stevie Van Zandt

The Chicago Mob Still Influential

Jurors have heard testimony about a Judas kiss like the one Michael Corleone gave his brother Fredo in "The Godfather."

They're heard about mobsters initiated as "made guys" by getting their fingers cut and having holy pictures burned in their bare hands in secret ceremonies. And they've heard about how those who crossed the "Chicago Outfit" sometimes ended up in the trunk of a car.

The city's biggest mob trial in years, involving five men in their 60s and 70s accused of crimes ranging from loan sharking to 18 long-unsolved murders, has lifted the curtain on the secrets of the mob - as it was decades ago. Most of the allegations date to the 1970s and '80s. But what about today? Experts say the mob is alive and well in the town that was once Al Capone's.

"People sayThe Chicago Outfit, 'Look at how old these guys are on trial, it's a geriatric organization,' " said John Binder, author of "The Chicago Outfit (IL) (Images of America)."

"What you're seeing is just part of the organization," he said. "They're still doing gambling, they've still got some labour racketeering, they've got their hooks into some unions (and) they're still doing juice lending."

A few years ago, plans for a casino in the suburb of Rosemont were derailed amid concerns about mob ties in the village. And in the late 1990s, one of the largest unions in the United States, the Laborers International, publicly launched an effort to drive organized crime out of its Chicago District Council.

Jurors in the latest trial heard a secretly recorded tape of one of the defendants, Frank Calabrese Sr., talking about collecting "recipes," code for payoffs, in the late 1990s - while he was behind bars.

"What the trial has made clear is even when they are in prison they continue to exert influence and control," said James Wagner, the head of the Chicago Crime Commission, who investigated the mob for years when he was an FBI agent. And although the current trial's defendants are aging, others point out that the Outfit still has people ready to step in and take over for the old mobsters, known as "Mustache Petes."

"They're still there, there's still young guys coming up," said Jack O'Rourke, a retired FBI agent who also spent years investigating the Chicago mob. "And they're still powerful enough to kill guys."

Binder compared the mob to a corporation. "It's important in management to groom people," he said. "The Outfit is good at it; they've shown the ability to bring people up."

Still, the Chicago Outfit is showing its age, say some who have studied it.

"The Chicago mob used to be big timeThe Outfit, and now it's just local thugs like Tony Soprano," said Gus Russo, author of a best-selling book about the Chicago mob titled simply "The Outfit."

"There's no doubt they still have some cops on the take, some lawyers, a judge here and there and labour unions. But now they are just a local mob," he said.

Chicago's mob probably lost some of its power because many of the illegal activities it once made money from are now legal, like casinos and state-run lotteries.

In addition, Russo said: "They had pornography, and now that's big business."

The Outfit has other opportunities, however.

"They've still got the sports betting," O'Rourke said. "They've controlled that forever and it is illegal."

But even that business has changed, O'Rourke said, because they way they collect the money has got a bit more genteel than in the old days.

"Now with the gamblers, they don't get tough any more and extort them," he said. "Instead, they're saying, 'You can't play any more.' To the gamblers, that's worse than getting beat up."

Even though some of its influence may be waning, the trial suggests the mob can still pull off the kind of tricks that made it infamous.

After rumours that he would testify at the trial, reputed mobster Anthony Zizzo vanished last year.

Then in January, a deputy U.S. marshal was charged with leaking information to reputed mob boss John (No Nose) DiFronzo about the co-operation and travel plans of Nicholas Calabrese, a key government witness and the brother of defendant Frank Calabrese Sr.

"Now they are more surreptitious than ever before, more cunning and intelligent in the way they operate," Wagner said. "They're not less dangerous or influential."

Thanks to Don Babwin

Playing Dumb is Wrong Prescription on Witness Stand

Anthony (Passafiume) Doyle, the hulking former Chicago cop tied to the Chicago Outfit, doesn't look like a guy who takes many beatings.

Known as "Twan" on the street, Doyle looks more like a guy who gives them for free. But he needed a doctor after the beating he took on the witness stand Thursday in the Family Secrets Outfit trial.

After a severe cross-examination by Assistant U.S. Atty. Markus Funk, Doyle looked flat and gray, like the pork chops in the sandwiches at the Maxwell Street Polish stand on 31st Street byda viaduct.

Twan looked like he needed a doctor.

So I drove over after testimony was done, for a pork-chop sandwich, to the doctors office there, to see if Dr. Frank "Toots" Caruso would make a house call and tend to his lifelong friend.

Federal authorities consider Caruso, a former labor leader ousted from his union for crime connections, to be a major street boss in the Outfit. Funk kept referring to him in open court as "The Doctor," which he said was Outfit code, in the tape recordings from the federal prison in Milan, Mich., where Doyle visited Chinatown loan shark Frank Calabrese.

Prosecutors say Calabrese wanted the doctor to make a visit, to tend to sickly friends who might talk to the feds.

Since I was hungry, and Doyle appeared in need of doctorly advice, there was only one place to go. This doctor's office smelled of onions and grilled meat, which is nicer than antiseptics.

Is Dr. Toots here? Where's Dr. Toots?

"Toots no here," said the grill man through the window.

So I left my office number and ordered two pork-chop sandwiches, or sangwiches as they are called, one for me and one for my trusty colleague, the Polish Spartacus.

Light on the onions, I said. "I'll take mine regular," Spartacus said.

We stood outside, eating our tasty sangwiches at the counter on the sidewalk, reflecting on the testimony and anticipating walking across the street for a fine cigar.

Doyle's testimony had been rather predictable. He didn't know nothing. He didn't know why he used code words so easily that he appeared quite fluent in the obscure Chinatown dialect of the Outfit language.

It's not Chinese. It's not classic Italian. It's Chitalian.

On tape, Doyle and Frank Calabrese spoke of "doctors" (Caruso) and "purses" (bloody gloves sought by the FBI) and "sisters" (gangsters) and "sickly sisters" (guys who might testify against the Outfit) and the "family" (you know) and so on.

It sure sounded incriminating, but Doyle had a reason. He testified that he played along with the Calabrese code he called "gibberish" and "mumbo jumbo" because he didn't want to look stupid. So he kept talking, incriminating himself into a federal charge that as a cop in the police evidence section, he warned Outfit bosses that the FBI was looking for a bloody glove that would frighten "sickly sisters." At least, that's his theory.

"I gave him lip service," Doyle said. "I didn't know what he was talking about. I don't wanna look like a chumbolone, an idiot, stupid," Doyle said from the witness stand.

There is a tasty Sicilian Easter cake called ciambellone, but Twan doesn't look like a tasty Easter cake. He looks more like the guy you never want to meet in a parking lot at night.

He was especially upset that prosecutors dropped the portion of the tape on him where he keeps referring to "the doctor." He didn't want to be a chumbolone about "the doctor" either, but that put him in a bind with prosecutor Funk.

"I never heard of a name called 'doctor,'" Doyle said of Caruso. "And I've known him my entire life!"

He denied this, he denied that, and if I hadn't been reading the transcripts and watching the tapes along with the jury, I'd have believed him. Perhaps they do believe him.

Outside the federal building, Hollywood producers were filming another exciting Batman movie -- this one about Batman fighting the Chicago Outfit.

The streets were crowded with extras and trucks, and production crew members told me that the big trucks with the equipment belonged to "Movies in Motion," the company founded by William Galioto, another former Chicago cop and brother-in-law of Jimmy Marcello, one of the other Outfit bosses on trial in Family Secrets.

They must think we're chumbolones. We reflected on this, walking across the street to the cigar shop, hoping to find Dr. Toots enjoying a stogie. We had two fine cigars ourselves, but the Doctor wasn't in.

Three Chicago Police detectives were inside, smoking cigars, resting their paws on their guns on their belts.

How's crime? "It always goes down when it rains," said one detective, and everybody laughed.

The TV was on, with a rerun of a M*A*S*H episode, and Col. Sherman T. Potter was speaking kindly, giving fatherly advice. I wonder if Dr. Toots would give his friend Twan that same medicine.

Thanks to John Kass

Former Chicago Cop Admits to Disgracing Badge while Moonlighting for the Mob

In the Operation Family Secrets mob trial today, a Chicago Police officer admitted that he had a year's-long relationship with top ranking members of the Chicago outfit.

Former Chicago cop Anthony Doyle is one of the five men charged with outfit crimes in Operation Family Secrets. While many Chicago Police officers moonlight to supplement their city salaries, federal prosecutors say Doyle's side job was with the outfit as a loan shark and an informant, that he gave mob bosses inside police department information about evidence in a gangland murder.

Former Chicago policeman Anthony Doyle arrived for court knowing that today's cross-examination by federal prosecutors would be out to make him look like a "chumbalone." That is an Italian slang word for idiot, or dummy, and on the witness stand this afternoon was the word that Doyle himself used to describe his motivation for the tough-guy conversations he was recorded having with Chicago outfit bosses.

The jury has seen and heard the FBI surveillance tapes of Officer Doyle meeting with mob rackets boss Frank Calabrese Senior while Calabrese was serving time for extortion at the federal prison in Milan, Michigan.

Prosecutors say that Officer Doyle provided Calabrese information about police evidence in the 1986 mob hit on John Fecarota, a killing carried out by Calabrese's brother Nick. At the time, Officer Doyle was working in the police evidence section.

Doyle today said his conversations with Calabrese during prison visits were: "mind-boggling gibberish. I don't know what's being talked about."

Then he claimed that he was just giving Calabrese "lip service...I don't want to look like a chumbalone," said Doyle, who is of Italian heritage but changed his last name to the Irish Doyle when he took the police exam.

Doyle tried to explain why he visited a mob boss in prison when police rules prohibit such contacts with felons.

"You knew Frank Calabrese Senior was an outfit boss. Didn't you?" asked prosecutor T. Marcus Funk.

"No sir," replied Doyle. "I knew him as a loan shark and bookmaker for the Chicago outfit."

Then later in the day, Funk asked him: "You knew that Mr. Calabrese was an outfit man when you visited him in prison, didn't you?"

Doyle, backed into a corner, admitted "Yes, sir" he knew the obvious.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

America's Most Wanted on The Chicago Syndicate for 8/25

Paul Eischeid: The ATF and police in Tempe , Ariz. have charged outlaw biker Paul Eischeid with an act of savagery in the desert. They say he killed a woman who visited a Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club in 2003. Now, they need your help to get their hands on him.

East Coast Bandits:
First, it was a bank in Chicopee , Mass. Then, Cranston , R.I. Now, the FBI says the same group of thugs has robbed a bank on New York ’s Long Island . Investigators say these guys are dangerous – and they’re wielding some big weapons. Check out to learn more about where they could be hiding out now. Then, tune in this week to help us bring these bandits down.

Operation Falcon 2007: AMW has teamed up with the U.S. Marshals Service for the third year in a row running a dragnet operation designed to round up as many wanted fugitives as possible. The nationwide sting -- known as Operation Falcon -- has seen great success in years past, and this year cops expect much of the same. Two of the Marshal’s Top 15 are known to have close ties with the biker community, and this Saturday night, AMW correspondent John Turchin will take you to Sturgis , S.D. for one of the biggest biker rallies in the world. Tune in, and help us put away a few bad news bikers.

Michael Alexander: It took two tries to find Michael Alexander but NYPD has finally got him. An AMW tipster first told police that Michael Alexander was hiding out in a Brooklyn apartment. When police went to get him on May 29, 2007, they could smell the marijuana coming from his room, but Alexander had already jumped out the window. It took authorities another day to catch up to him. Alexander put up his hands and told police,"I'm tired of running."

Carl Dinatale: Police say Carl Dinatale isn't the most creative felon in the world, and that he allegedly robbed dozens of jewelry stores all along the East Coast. But thanks to great police work and some help from AMW, the crooked thief is behind bars.

Vincent Ledoux: For ten years, Vincent Ledoux was able to hide out and make a new life for himself. But thanks to an AMW viewer, the accused sexual predator is in custody, and AMW was there for the takedown. Tune in this Saturday night for the full story on our 945th direct-result capture.

Raymond Gates: With the help of an AMW tipster, Raymond Gates is finally in police custody. New Mexico cops collaborated with the U.S. Marshals in Texas to take down the wanted sex offender on June 26, 2007, making him direct capture #950.

Jose Perez: In December 2004, after a night of partying and drinking - a regular occurrence in the Perez household - Ingrid went to her room to go to bed, cops say. But, a few hours later, Ingrid woke up and her father was in her room. Cops say what happened next is one of the most tragic crimes in America .

Jenna Nielsen Killer: The search continues for Jenna Nielsen's killer. When we first aired her story, tips streamed into our hotline. One in particular stood out. Police in Mississippi had arrested a perp known as the "Baby-Face Rapist". His resemblance to the Raleigh composite sketch is uncanny - close enough to warrant a trip to follow this compelling lead. This week, we need your help to get justice for the Nielsen family.

Chi Du: When a jealous ex spotted his former girlfriend with another man, he decided that if he couldn't have her, then no one would. Police say a brutal attack soon followed, and Chi Du left two stunned victims behind.

Stanley Obas: Pennsylvania detectives haven't given up tracking down a man accused of torturing and murdering a 13-year-old girl, then burying her body in a cemetery 11 years ago. This Saturday, we need your help to put him away for good.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Clown goes verbal to deny he’s Keyser Soze

Reputed top mobster Lombardo makes high risk gambit
By Josh Casey

In a move that radically departed from mob courtroom strategies of thirty years or more, Joseph ‘The Clown’ Lombardo, reputed mobster and, moreover, widely alleged to be the hidden boss of the Chicago Outfit, took the stand in his own defense.

Mob boss 1982? or Keyser Soze 2006?

What makes Lombardo’s appearance on the stand highly unusual is that for decades, alleged mobsters have relied upon the maxim that silence is golden. In other words, you can’t get caught out if you don’t speak out. That, along with leaving the prosecution to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt without the assistance of self-incrimination has become standard practice for all mobsters, and especially those with most to lose, the bosses. Another factor in that strategy has been that most often the cases were slam-dunks anyway, so little was to be gained but much more could be lost by being tripped-up by cross examination.

What makes a difference in the Family Secrets trial (the name originating from the FBI code name for the investigation) as far as Lombardo is concerned is twofold. First, most of the evidence against him is historical; he had previously been found guilty in two federal trials in the 1980s and duly served his time.

Secondly, much of the accusations against him in the Family Secrets case have been circumstantial and/or based on anecdotal accounts and rumor bordering at times on folklore. Witnesses, mostly criminals or associates, and most with an axe to grind, expressed mostly hearsay reports of his alleged culpability in this or that, or of him being the fiendish mastermind behind the Outfit.

There has barely been any of the ‘hard evidence’ normally required for murder trials, indeed, one of the most emotive accusations - that by the former wife of Daniel Seifert, who was shot to death in 1974 - was starkly undermined by the very star witness widely expected to confirm Lombardo’s guilt: ‘made’ Outfit member, Nicholas Calabrese.

It had long been speculated that Lombardo was one of the masked killers of Daniel Seifert, and the former Mrs. Seifert gave evidence earlier in the trial that she believed the man who delivered the coup de grace was Lombardo, based on her personal familiarity with him as a family friend at the time – citing his height and build, and in particular that he was ‘light on his feet’, remarking that Joseph Lombardo had once been a boxer and was very nimble on his feet also.

Calabrese, however, revealed his knowledge to be that Joseph (Joey) Hansen, a now deceased member of Tony Spilotro’s street crew of that time, fired the fatal shot. Allegedly, Seifert was killed because he was due to give evidence implicating Lombardo and Spilotro (also alleged to have been among the masked killers) in an impending fraud trial; hence a Spilotro henchman being the culprit would have as much logic as any other scenario. The defense also called a former FBI agent who told how Mrs. Seifert offered no such information at any time during the original investigation.

It can only be a matter of speculation whether Rick Halprin, Lombardo’s wily and respected attorney, announced that he was putting his client on the stand as a sign of confidence or of desperation, but it was a considerably risky gambit.

The current trial, it can be argued, has produced little beyond material already used in the 1980s trials, for which Mr. Lombardo has already paid his debt. Since then he has taken the eccentrically bizarre step (he’s not called the clown for nothing) upon his release in 1992 of publicly renouncing any involvement in organized crime via an advertisement in the Chicago Tribune. Since then, he has been accused of no further crimes, regardless of the widespread belief in some quarters that he is the clandestine Eminence Grise of the Outfit.

Suspicion, anecdote and accusation, and especially hearsay, are not usually regarded as evidence, and few of these charges would seem likely to hold water anywhere beyond the U.S. Title 18, chapter 96, so-called RICO statutes where the establishment of a criminal enterprise is the primary requirement. Under this amorphous definition, the alleged collective crimes required to be proven to qualify the enterprise often seem to suffer from a lower, hazier level of scrutiny, a kind of sub-prime justice.

In other words, if you throw enough shocking photographs of disfigured remains, and the tawdry usual suspects point fingers alleging that this man is the Outfit’s Keyser Soze, and that guy cut people’s throats (true though any of it might be), combined with endless tales of beaten up bookies, extortion, killings, bombings and mayhem in general, and all the names can be joined up from time to time, then bundle it all up together, the mud sticks in the minds of juries, without each component being tried to the normally necessary standards of proof as when a single charge.

While the prosecution scored no direct hits on Lombardo (in fact the prosecution have signally failed to live up to the pre-trial ballyhoo and nail anything of substance to its primary target) with its opening evidence, significant circumstantial mud was spattered and Lombardo’s team have decided he is best placed to rid himself of it. A likely tactic always was for him to deny any association with any criminal enterprise since his release in 1992, something the cold record might seem to support, and that to penalize him for past misdeeds would be tantamount to double jeopardy. And any conclusion implied that he is still involved simply because he discussed the Spilotro killings while in the dentist’s chair of their brother, whom he had known for decades, seemed tenuous, to say the least, and even a finger print on a document might not necessarily construe that he pulled a trigger, at least not this time.

The greatest danger for defendants with a long past of criminal association taking the stand is that whatever they say opens the door for the prosecution to dissect all that they utter, and any topic introduced means that topic is then fair game. And if a defendant’s history is long enough, and Lombardo is now 78 years old, that is a lot of topics to avoid and protect from slip-up and errors brought about by the intense probing, and preparation, of the prosecutors. And Lombardo could be certain that those U.S. Attorneys did not get the last couple of weekends off.

His gambit was highly risky, but time and the jury will tell if it paid off. On the other hand, the U.S. attorney’s case has looked sadly anemic in places, and perhaps Lombardo and Halprin did not think there was too much to worry about, so could afford to try to swing the jury to thinking he is a kindly, humorous retired senior citizen, who has left a regrettable past far behind. He’s not called the clown for nothing. But Lombardo better than most should appreciate what the word gambit really means, as its roots, like his own, are Italian. It derives from Gambetto, and means ‘tripping up’ and that can hobble you for life.

Third Defendant Testifies at Mob Trial

Former Chicago police officer Anthony Doyle took the stand Wednesday to deny he ever helped the mob by passing along sensitive information about a mob murder.

Doyle, who was born Anthony Passafiume, is accused of using his position as an officer in the evidence room of the Chicago Police Department to check on the status of blood-soaked gloves worn by mobster Nick Calabrese in the slaying of John Fecarotta. What he found, prosecutors allege, is that the gloves had been turned over to FBI investigators, sealing Nick Calabrese's fate and forcing him down the road of mob informant. Feds have Doyle on video and audiotape visiting mobster Frank Calabrese Sr., Nick's brother, in prison. On the tapes, he tells the Calabrese one of the dates in the file on the gloves.

Doyle, being led through testimony by his attorney, Ralph Meczyk, began Wednesday to try to explain how that happened.

He is the third defendant in the mob conspiracy case to take the stand in his defense. The other two were Joseph Lombardo of Chicago and Frank Calabrese Sr. of Oak Brook. James Marcello of Lombard and Paul Schiro of Arizona are not expected to testify.

Doyle maintained that he knew Frank Calabrese Sr. since he was a young man and met him growing up. The two began an association based on a mutual love of athletics, Doyle said. Doyle hadn't seen Frank Calabrese Sr. for years when he began visiting a federal penitentiary in Milan, Mich., where another friend of Doyle's was incarcerated.

Doyle, apparently in an attempt to show he wasn't hiding anything in the visits, testified he had to fill out an application with the Bureau of Prisons, listing his employer, in order to visit.

Doyle's incarcerated friend mentioned his visit to Frank Calabrese Sr., who passed along word that he wanted to see his old friend, Doyle testified. "He'd (Calabrese) been my friend since I was a young boy. I thought maybe he was in need of a friend … so I agreed to go up and visit him in Milan," Doyle said.

Calabrese Sr. arranged for him to drive up with Mike Ricci, another former police officer indicted in the case. Ricci died of natural causes before trial.

Once at the prison, Doyle said, Calabrese Sr. and Ricci began speaking in a confusing lingo he didn't understand. "He spoke now more in some sort of a mind-boggling code," Doyle testified. But Meczyk didn't ask why Doyle never asked the two why they were speaking in code or what it meant.

Instead, he steered Doyle toward recalling why he looked up information on the gloves. Ricci, a fellow cop, had called and asked him for the information, Doyle testified. And why, then, did Doyle relay a date from the file to Calabrese, Sr. on a separate visit, Meczyk asked.

Ricci, Doyle claimed, asked Doyle to, saying Ricci had told Calabrese, Sr. once, but Calabrese Sr. believed Ricci was senile.

Meczyk will continue his questioning of Doyle today, and then prosecutors will cross-examine him.

Thanks to Rob Olmstead

Family Secrets Doctor is No McDreamy

"She's gotta get blood work, she's gotta get this before she sees the doctor."

"Oh, all right."

That's not some heated exchange on "House," because the doctor in this show isn't the sarcastic fellow with the cane on TV. And it's not "Grey's Anatomy" either, another doctor show favored by female viewers, where the male lead is nicknamed Dr. McDreamy by the steamy female staff.

No one would say the doctor referenced above is Dr. McDreamy. You wouldn't call him that. The Doctor McDreamy in "Grey's Anatomy" is a pretty boy. He would never sell pork chop sangwiches on 31st Street in the 11th Ward.

"The Doctor" is Outfit code in the historic Family Secrets federal criminal case against the Chicago mob. There've been so many nicknames lately, even I can't keep them straight, and neither can the witnesses.

Unlike other doctors, this one wasn't board certified. Law enforcement officials say he got his trauma license from Joe the Builder and from some guy named Johnny Bananas.

We'll hear more about the doctor in court on Thursday. He'll be identified as a certain Dr. Toots, who practices everywhere he wishes, when the exchange about the doctor and blood work will be played along with other FBI recordings.

The star of Thursday's show will be Anthony "Twan" Doyle, the former Chicago police officer and 11th Ward Democratic precinct captain who worked in the evidence room of the Chicago Police Department. He'll be cross-examined by federal prosecutors.

Doyle is accused of warning the Outfit's Chinatown crew that the FBI was seeking a key piece of evidence in the Outfit killing of mobster John Fecarotta. The tapes incriminate him. The key evidence was a glove that was worn by confessed hit man Nicholas Calabrese, the guy I told you about in this column years ago now, when the Family Secrets case began, as Nick slipped into the witness protection program to become the linchpin in this fantastic trial.

Testifying in his own defense Wednesday, Doyle said that he regularly visited Calabrese's brother and co-defendant, Chinatown no-neck Frank Calabrese Sr., in the federal prison in Milan, Mich. He felt sorry for Frank, who had family problems, and who helped him develop big muscles as a lad.

Doyle testified he'd drive up to prison with another of Chicago law enforcement's finest -- the late Michael Ricci -- a homicide detective who changed jobs to run the sensitive Cook County sheriff's home-monitoring program.

Who was it that said good government is good politics? It was probably some 11th Warder who knew how to find Chinatown.

On Wednesday, Doyle testified he suffered through these prison visits with Frank Calabrese, fetching sangwiches, listening to nonsensical coded talk he said he couldn't understand, for hour after hour, nodding dumbly but politely during the yapping about doctors and sisters and missing purses and "Scarpe Grande" finding those purses.

Scarpe Grande means "Big Shoes," Chinatown code for the FBI, and, you may have noticed, it's not Chinese. And "purses" probably means evidence.

Ralph Meczyk, Doyle's attorney, asked Doyle if he felt relieved once these prison visits were done. "I felt like I was paroled," Doyle told the jury. "Sitting in that chair, listening to gibberish I couldn't understand."

He sighed, seeking sympathy, a large man with muscles at 62, with a face like a stone and his voice a heavy door with old hinges. Doyle is not the Officer Friendly you would ask for directions for a pork chop sangwich. But he denied ever collecting juice loans for the Outfit, and insisted he never tipped off the mob about Scarpe Grande seeking the Nick Calabrese bloody glove from the police evidence room in January 1999.

Yet he proudly talked of working for the 11th Ward Democratic Organization, and hopping on the City Hall patronage payroll wagon, first at Streets and San, later running the parking lot at police headquarters and becoming a patrolman.

On Thursday, prosecutors will focus on the Chinatown code to explain their theory that Frank Calabrese was afraid someone close to him might be talking to the feds.

"What they should do is maybe bring her to see a psychiatrist," Calabrese says on tape, speaking of a sick sister, if a sick sister had hairy arms and killed people for money.

"Shock treatment," Doyle says, understanding the prescribed Outfit method to cure Feditis, a malady of the chattering mouth. "Probably needs a good prod."

I don't know how Doyle will deny all this -- and what he says about lead federal prosecutor Mitchell Mars, blaming him for their upset stomachs.

"I said I'll bet you it's that [four letter word]ing Mitch Mars, that's what I think," Doyle tells Calabrese.

"The doctor," says Calabrese.

"The doctor," says Doyle.

I know the doctor from Chinatown isn't McDreamy. But he's got to be mcsteamy right about now.

Thanks to John Kass

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Mob Plea Deal by Dad to Help Sons?

Frank Calabrese Sr. was never a part of the Chicago Outfit, he told a prosecutor Tuesday, and he only pleaded guilty to mob-related loan-sharking in the 1990s to get two of his sons better deals in the same case.

Anyone who didn't believe him should ask one of the sons, who was sitting in court, Calabrese testified, suddenly pointing over the shoulder of Assistant U.S. Atty. John Scully at his son Kurt, who was sitting in the third row of the gallery at the Family Secrets trial.

"There's my son," Calabrese said loudly, rising out of his chair slightly. "Ask him, he'd be glad to tell you."

With that remark, Kurt Calabrese stood up and left the courtroom, waving his hand over his head back toward his father as he went through the doors.

With lawyers in the case preparing to make closing arguments as soon as next week, the landmark trial has increasingly become a showcase for how the Calabrese family splintered and what those divisions allegedly meant for Chicago organized crime. Frank Calabrese Sr. has seen his brother, Nicholas Calabrese, a made member of the mob, testify against him, and another of his sons, Frank Calabrese Jr., has done the same.

On Tuesday, Scully cross-examined Frank Calabrese Sr. using tapes Frank Calabrese Jr. secretly made of their conversations when the two were imprisoned together beginning in 1999.

For hours, Scully and the elder Calabrese argued and talked past each other, with Scully asserting that Calabrese was talking with his son about specific murders that are part of the case, and Calabrese insisting either that he was not, or that he was just trying to impress his son.

Prosecutors contend Calabrese mentions three of his four co-defendants in the case, including James Marcello, Joey "the Clown" Lombardo and former Chicago Police Officer Anthony Doyle. They, along with Paul "the Indian" Schiro, are alleged to have been a part of the broad conspiracy to further Outfit interests.

An intense Calabrese seemed to be trying his best to explain what he contends he was talking about Tuesday, answering questions in an earnest tone as if begging those in the courtroom to believe him. He leaned on the witness stand, shifted in his seat and at times sneered at Scully.

He wore a gray jacket and a dark shirt buttoned all the way up to his neck, looking like he might pop one of those buttons as he grew animated on the stand. Calabrese his said brother lied "like a pig" when he accused him of taking part in 13 murders for the mob.

"I never killed anybody," Calabrese said. He added that if he had killed someone, he would have killed the man who he believes shot his former partner, Larry Stubich. If he were a made member, "How come I don't get paid?" Calabrese said, arguing that no one has helped him financially since he has been incarcerated. "How come I don't get things like that? You know that."

Calabrese said he was jealous that his brother had better relationships with his sons than he did, so he tried to impress Frank Calabrese Jr. by talking about murders and a mob making ceremony with candles and burning of religious cards. But he said he got his knowledge from books, magazines and movies.

In the tape-recorded conversations, heavy with code, Calabrese allegedly can be heard talking about some of the high-profile murders in the case. Scully asked about the killings of Anthony and Michael Spilotro, William and Charlotte Dauber, William "Butch" Petrocelli, Hinsdale businessman Michael Cagnoni, Richard Ortiz and Arthur Morawski.

In a recording made in February 1999, Calabrese can be heard telling his son that the Spilotros were killed because Joseph "Doves" Aiuppa, the reputed head of the mob at the time, was angered that Anthony Spilotro was growing boastful. "It was on the street," Calabrese said Tuesday. "Everybody knew about that."

Calabrese denied helping to plan the bombing of Cagnoni, whose Mercedes was blown up on a ramp to the Tri-State Tollway. He said he was moved when Cagnoni's widow testified earlier in the trial.

In a March 1999 recording, Calabrese could be heard telling his son about placing a person under a spot near Comiskey Park that is now a parking lot, which prosecutors contend was the murder of Michael "Hambone" Albergo.

Calabrese first told Scully he was actually talking about burning a garage, but then said he was just impressing his son with a story when confronted with the portion of the transcript where he said he threw lime on the person's body. "Did you find a person there?" Calabrese asked Scully. A search of the spot in 2002 did not turn up human remains.

Calabrese also said he was not being truthful when he bragged in a recording to his son that Ortiz and Morawski had been torn up by "double-ought buckshot."

"I wanted to win my son over," he said.

Calabrese's other son, Kurt, is not expected to be called as a witness in the case, even after Calabrese's outburst. But the government may call Calabrese's former attorney, Jeffrey Steinback, after Calabrese testified earlier Tuesday that his 1997 guilty plea in the loan-sharking case was not fully explained to him. Calabrese said he didn't read the document and understand that he was pleading guilty to leading an Outfit crew that collected on juice loans by making threats.

Scully asked if he had admitted to making "multiple extortionate extensions of credit."

Calabrese said he didn't understand and had never looked at the allegation word for word. "I probably would've looked cross-eyed at myself," he said.

Thanks to Jeff Coen

Calabrese Mob Brothers Exchange the Judas Kiss for Christmas

It was Christmas Eve 1996, and reputed Outfit hit man Frank Calabrese Sr. was seeing his brother Nicholas out the door after breaking out the Napoleon brandy, when his brother made an unusual request.

"He walks to the door and says, 'Can I kiss you on the lips?' " Calabrese Sr. recounted to jurors in the Family Secrets trial Monday. "He kissed me on the lips," Calabrese Sr. said. Only later, Calabrese Sr. testified, would he realize "the kiss he gave for Christmas was a Judas kiss."

That night would be the last one when Calabrese Sr. would hear his brother talk at length -- until Nicholas Calabrese, now a confessed Outfit killer, took the stand in the Family Secrets trial to bury his brother and tell jurors how they murdered people together for the mob.

Calabrese Sr., on trial for allegedly killing 13 people for the Chicago mob, struck back against his family on Monday after first hearing his brother, Nicholas, and then his son, Frank Jr., testify against him.

Frank Calabrese Jr. told jurors how he secretly recorded his father while they were both in prison. Then jurors heard those recordings of Frank Calabrese Sr. apparently describing in detail various mob murders.

On Monday, in his first full day of testimony, Frank Calabrese Sr. tried to counter his family's testimony and explain his own recorded words.

Calabrese Sr., accused of being a mob crew leader, said his brother Nicholas was really in charge and compared him to the weak brother, Fredo, in the 1972 mob movie "The Godfather."

Except Calabrese Sr., in one example of many verbal slips throughout the trial, used the name "Alfredo."

"My brother was like Alfredo in 'The Godfather,' " Calabrese Sr. testified. "If he wasn't running things and screwing things up, he wasn't happy."

Weak though Nicholas Calabrese may be, he still turned Calabrese Sr.'s two eldest sons, Frank Jr. and Kurt, against him, Calabrese Sr. testified.

Calabrese Sr. accused his oldest son, Frank Jr., of repeatedly leading him into conversations while they were both in prison to make him sound like a murderous gangster. "He can make Jesus look like the devil on the cross," Calabrese Sr. said.

On one secret recording, Calabrese Sr. describes how top mobsters inducted him into the Chicago Outfit as a full member, how his finger was cut, how a holy card was burned in his hand.

On the stand, Calabrese Sr. scoffed at the notion that he was a made member.

So how did he know the ritual? "The Valachi Papers," Calabrese said, referring to the 1968 memoir by gangster Joseph Valachi. "I seen that in the book."

In another recording, Calabrese Sr. tells his son that he stripped the clothes off a man he had just killed. "I told him that to humor him," Calabrese Sr. explained.

Other times, Calabrese Sr. said, he just lied to scare his son out of mob life.

Calabrese Sr. blames his family for conspiring to keep him in prison, so they could steal his money. "Joe, I love my kids and my brother . . . it's just that they gotta grow up," Calabrese Sr. told his lawyer, Joseph R. Lopez.

Calabrese Sr. has strived to appear even-tempered, but his anger flared earlier in the day when the judge refused to let him detail how his family stole from him.

Calabrese Sr. snapped after the judge upheld another prosecution objection to his testimony.

The judge declined to let Calabrese Sr. testify about matters he couldn't prove and threatened him with contempt. "Your honor, how am I supposed to defend myself?" Calabrese Sr. said, his jaw clenched, his lower lip quivering with rage, the face of the kindly grandfather long gone.

"My brother was like Alfredo in 'The Godfather.' If he wasn't running things and screwing things up, he wasn't happy."

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Announcement on Mafia 2 Made

2K Games, a publishing label of Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. (NASDAQ: TTWO), today announced that it will publish MAFIA II, a sequel to the original Mafia title that sold more than two million copies worldwide and helped popularize the gangster genre. Featuring a deep mobster-driven narrative packed with both behind-the-wheel and on-foot action, Mafia 2 is the sequel fans have been clamoring for. The game is being developed by Illusion Softworks, developers of the original Mafia title, for next generation consoles and Games for Windows.

Like the original Mafia title, MAFIA II immerses players in the mob underworld of a fictitious late 1940's-early 1950's scenario. Players will easily become engaged in the game's cinematic Hollywood movie experience with strong, believable characters in a living, breathing city. By fusing high octane gunplay with white knuckle driving and an engaging narrative, Mafia 2 looks to be the industry's most compelling Mafia title to date.

"As the original Mafia was a big success, we are excited to leverage the power of next generation console technology to create an all-new experience, while embracing the elements that resonated with the previous game's fans," said Christoph Hartmann, President of 2K. "The 'wow' factor of MAFIA II is definitely the benchmark-setting visual quality and action that you expect to see only in Hollywood movies."

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

No Goodfellas in this Sordid Crew

Chicago mob trial exposes zero honour among thieves
By Josh Casey
Outfit enforcer 'Butch' Petrocelli before and after his alleged murder by the Calabrese brothers.

Forget about the clichés and the movies, the wiseguys and their broads, the snappy suits and sharp one-liners. Most of all forget about the men of honour concept laid bare for the risible oxymoron it always was in what has been billed as the biggest mob murder trial in U.S. history.

Instead, what has been playing out in the 25th Floor courtroom in front of Judge James B Zagel is a story of men barely above the morality of hyenas, who kill each other by the most barbaric methods for the flimsiest and most debased of motives.

And even those motives, such as they are, rarely seem to be more than the crude suppositions of simple minds reacting to rumour and guesswork no more profound than fishwives gossiping on a street corner. The difference is that gossips might sometimes smear a reputation a little, but with the characters exposed in the ‘Family Secrets’ trial, it can result in medieval murder, nearly always over money, or the notion that the victim might have betrayed them or might do so sometime in the future. And if they got it wrong - so what? The guy shouldn’t have been in the wrong place at the wrong time…

And that is what separates them from civilised citizens. It was once written by a political philosopher that the rule of law succeeded not generally because of a citizen’s fear of the consequences of not abiding by it, but because the majority of citizens recognised and accepted the necessity of restraints required for civil co-existence.

That essentially is the measure of decent people as opposed to those who reject restraints and disregard the rules others accept and comply with, however resentfully from time to time. We would all rather drive at whatever speed we felt like now and then, not wear crash helmets or seat belts, even party naked in the park from time to time, and might feel like wringing the neck of that noisy neighbour on the odd occasion. But that is a figure of speech; we don’t actually plan to force men to the ground and strangle and cut their throats open for any reasons, let alone unsubstantiated reasons all rooted in greed.

The difference with the people depicted in this trial is that they just will do that and so much worse, and without regard for either the rules of society, humanity, or for life itself.

In the movies, bad guys don’t get killed, they get ‘whacked’. It is usually depicted as exciting, even sexy: the set-up, the tension, the shooting, over and done, he had it coming anyway…ratatatat! A body in the street…the screeching of tyres…Warren Beatty, Harvey Keitel, Lee Marvin, Pesci, and DiNiro have kept us appallingly entertained with their apparently cinema verite depictions of gangsters who terrify and excite in the same measure, along with other actors and film makers who have used their skills to insinuate the image of these semi-romantic outlaw figures in our minds.

The reality of the Family Secrets crew is of two men wrenching on either end of a rope looped around a man’s neck, each with a foot braced against the victim’s skull, throttling him to death and then slicing his throat open for good measure. Butch Petrocelli, himself an Outfit enforcer, forced to the ground, strangled, his throat slashed, then doused in lighter fuel and burned. Or the Spilotro brothers, again held down and strangled and beaten with fists, boots and knees, or the unspeakable murder long ago of a man hung from a meat hook pierced through his rectum, then tortured to death over three days.

This is not the territory of the Godfather or The Soprano’s, the former risibly portrayed hoodlums as noble peasants elevating themselves by the only means available through some imagined re-creation of an alternative Roman Empire (a notion re-attributed to defendant, Frank Calabrese, in the testimony of his son recently), and the latter escaping all true evaluation by rarely departing from a slick caricature in black comedy.

Better cinematic representation can be found in The Funeral, a largely overlooked almost Shakespearean tale directed by Abel Ferrara, featuring the extraordinary talents of Christopher Walken and the late Christopher Penn in whose character is distilled the despair and depravity of the gangster’s life and fate. The two actors portray siblings in a criminal family of the 1930s, but the awful moment of truth of this film is stolen in just a few seconds of masterful portrayal by Annabella Sciorra. Playing Walken’s screen wife at a time of violent crisis, she talks to a younger woman while tearfully despairing of and rejecting the inevitability and brutality of their occupations, speaking words to the effect of: “…all because they have failed to rise above their illiterate and savage origins…”

That was the message underpinning the entire film - and it serves the so-called ‘Family Secrets’ trial in Chicago also - both portray gangsters as they should be seen, as squalid, uncivilised savages, not as handsome, slick suited outlaws. Such men (whether those in the courtroom or not, the jury have yet to decide) are just sadistic thugs who commit murder not for noble cause but for squalid greed and that should never be forgotten.

It's Still the Chicago Way, New Books Prove Nothing Changes

“Here is the difference between Dante, Milton, and me. They wrote about Hell and never saw the place. I wrote about Chicago after looking the town over for years and years.”

Those were the profound words of Carl Sandburg, published in his book of “Chicago Poems: Unabridged (Dover Thrift Editions)” in 1916.

Ninety-one years later, Chicago’s landscape may have changed, but the sordid souls, who poisoned Sandburg’s time, live here in infamy.

That much is evident after sitting through last week’s Operation Family Secrets trial in federal court in Chicago. Five elderly men connected to the Chicago Outfit are charged with running mob rackets and torturing and killing 18 people the past four decades by strangulation, beating and shooting, with ropes, ball bats, blowtorches, shotguns, fists and feet. But the five hoodlums with witty nicknames such as the Clown, the Breeze, Little Jimmy and Twan, didn’t operate without help from outside their secret organization.

Just as in Sandburg’s day, when the hell-bent were called Big Jim and the Fox, the mobsters of our era admit they bribed police and public officials to protect their illegal businesses.

Two new books prove that nothing has changed. Despite the modernization of Michigan Avenue, lakefront beautification and regular police department announcements that crime is declining, the dirty business of public corruption at the behest of the Outfit thrives.

InSin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul her book “Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul.” author Karen Abbott writes about the open sex trade in Chicago’s Levee District on the near South Side in the early 1900s. It focuses on the turn-of-the-previous-century whorehouse, the Everleigh Club. The story amounts to a blueprint for the modern rackets that the Calabrese/Lombardo Outfit is now on trial for allegedly running.

In 1900, dance hall operator Ike Bloom was in charge of making sure the police allowed bordello operators, call girls and pimps to freely conduct their business. "So integral was Bloom to the web of Levee graft that his portrait, handsomely framed, hung in a prominent place of honor in the squad room of the 22nd Street police station,” writes Abbott.

Below Bloom’s picture was a price list of the appropriate bribes to be paid to police: “Massage parlors: $25 weekly; Larger houses of ill fame, $50-$100 weekly, with $25 additional each week if drinks are sold; Saloons allowed to stay open after hours, $50 per month; Sale of liquor in apartment houses without license …”

The architects were First Ward Alderman “Bathhouse” John Coughlin and Democratic Party boss Michael “Hinky Dink” Kenna.

In a second new book, “The Tangled Web: The Life and Death of Richard Cain - Chicago Cop and Mafia Hitman,” author Michael J. Cain reports on the devilish work of his brother Dick. In the late 1950s and ’60s, Dick Cain was a Chicago police vice detective and then chief investigator for the Cook County Sheriff’s Department.

Author Cain says his brother was also “a made Mafia soldier and a protégé and informer for legendary mob boss Sam Giancana.”

Dick Cain was a Chicago mobster, groomed by the mob to be a Chicago cop. “Dick was one of a very small number that reported directly to Sam ‘Momo’ Giancana,” writes Michael Cain.

Dick Cain distributed weekly mob bribes to other cops, according to his brother, and tipped Outfit bosses to gambling and prostitution raids. When independent, non-mob rackets were raided, Cain would be seen in the next morning’s newspapers posed with a Tommy gun, a la Eliot Ness.

Cain’s mob work stretched to Mexico and Cuba and probably included murders, admits his brother. Dick Cain was killed in 1973, five days before Christmas. Two gunman ambushed him in a West Side sandwich shop.

Richard Cain and Sam Giancana’s corrupt DNA was the same that Ike Bloom and his ilk had in 1900. And now a century later, the bad genes are on display in Operation Family Secrets.

Testimony revealed that modern-day Chicago cops were on the Outfit payroll. Mob informants testified they were tipped off by dirty cops about upcoming raids.

An alleged Chicago mob boss testified about his cozy relationship with politically connected labor union bosses and with the late First Ward Alderman Fred Roti, who was convicted of corruption.

Another accused mob boss, who once bribed a U.S. senator, last week implicated all 50 Chicago aldermen in a payoff scheme to allow illegal gambling in their wards.

An admitted Outfit hit man pinned a suburban firebombing on one of Mayor Daley’s close friends.

So nothing changes. We just keep writing about Chicago, after looking the town over for years and years.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

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.

Mafia T-Shirts Cures Unemployment for One Man

AMafia T-shirts formerly unemployed man in Sicily is making a living hawking T-shirts sporting Mafia-inspired designs outside the theater seen in "The Godfather: Part III."

Salvatore Trippodo of Palermo says tourists -- perhaps influenced by the popularity of HBO's "The Sopranos" -- are loading up on the items, Italy's ANSA news service reported Friday.

One design features Marlon Brando as Don Corleone in "The Godfather." Others bear the omerta code of the Mafia -- often summed up as "don't see; don't hear; don't speak."

"The idea came to me when I was really depressed about my chances of ever finding a job," Trippodo told ANSA. "It's really hard to find work in Sicily and it's so easy to slip into doing something wrong; but with a bit of imagination, you can create your own job."

Saturday, August 18, 2007

From Eating Oatmeal as a Boy to Earning for the Mob

Chicago Outfit loan shark and accused hit-man Frank Calabrese Sr. didn't have the gall to wear his First Communion suit on the witness stand. It wouldn't have fit, anyway.

Instead he wore a pale sports coat just on the edge of ivory, like an older bride with plenty of miles, still yearning for the white on her big day.

Calabrese testified in his own defense in the "Family Secrets" trial on Thursday, explaining that as a boy, his family was so poor they ate oatmeal most every night, that he had to leave school in the 4th grade to help deliver coal. And, how he grew up with an intense desire to protect the weak against the strong, even when the weak owed him money from his juice loans and couldn't pay him on time.

"I hated bullies and I still hate them today," said the knightly Calabrese, led through his story by crafty defense lawyer Joseph Lopez.

Yet when court resumes Monday, Calabrese will face cross-examination by federal prosecutors, so the jury won't see Sir Frank of Chinatown, but a different Frank, the Frank on federal tape giggling about murders.

The jury will hear about his many alleged victims, dumped into holes like so many goo-goo dolls, those yellow rubber toys of years ago. Put your thumbs on their throats, squeeze hard, and their eyes bug out, the tongues protrude, they make a strange noise, which is the way his brother, Nicholas Calabrese, described the effects of Frank's heavy work in earlier trial testimony.

"Murder? No way. No way," Frank kept telling Lopez, also resplendent in a pink shirt and electric yellow tie, as Lopez directed him through more than two hours of testimony designed to give context to Calabrese's life and have his client repeatedly deny he killed anyone.

Lopez's theory is that Frank's son and his brother Nick conspired to rip off Frank's money and keep him in prison. It's an interesting theory. But on Monday, as those tapes are played, the tapes his son Frank Jr. recorded in prison conversations with his father for the FBI, the theory will have a side effect.

Calabrese's co-defendants -- Joseph Lombardo, Paul Schiro, Anthony Doyle and James Marcello -- will look up and feel the fork in them and know they're done.

Some of my colleagues have been tempted to say that the Chicago Outfit is done, too, but it is not. Today's web was woven long ago, when Paul "The Waiter" Ricca moved here from New York and quietly allowed Al Capone to play the loud baboon in the shiny suit.

Calabrese is an example of this influence, a portly squire from the Chinatown crew, which still reaches into the 11th Ward, home of mayors. His brother-in-law was the late Ed Hanley, president of the powerful international hotel workers union, who dabbled in wiseguys and politics from Chicago to Las Vegas.

Hanley got him a city job, and later Frank got Nick a city job running McCormick Place, and depending on what testimony you believe, they either killed a lot of people together or they didn't, but they made a lot of money.

Calabrese explained on Thursday that the Outfit is dedicated to money, composed of two kinds of men, those who earn, and those who do the heavy work.

"And what is the heavy work?" Lopez asked.

"Killing people," Calabrese said, "but I didn't kill people, I was an earner ... I earned millions ... I didn't have time to do that other stuff."

He did this, he said, by loaning money at high rates to gambling addicts who couldn't go into a bank and apply for loans.

Listening to him, I wondered how lousy he must feel, in prison now, with so much opportunity outside, as City Hall pushes quietly for a giant city-run gambling casino, one that would have its own "independent" gaming commission controlled by the mayor, so it won't be subject to bothersome state regulations.

Loan sharking is part of gambling, in casinos or on Rush Street, though scary collectors aren't featured in the commercials. Calabrese testified that in his loan-sharking business, he never threatened or hurt anyone, but they paid anyway, but not from fear.

Yet it was instructive, with Calabrese explaining the meaning of "the sit down," a meeting designed to settle disputes, like the time Butch Petrocelli (one of the alleged victims) "kept sticking his nose in there" to try and take away Calabrese's card games, Calabrese said.

"It was all done diplomatically," Calabrese said. "The head of this group sits there, the head of that group sits there. And someone very important, like [late Outfit boss] Joey Aiuppa sits there."

Lopez asked: "Was there any swearing or cursing?"

"Swearing or cursing? Oh, no. It was diplomatic," Calabrese said. The way he said "oh, no" was quite odd. It was something a PTA mom would say, not some Chinatown bone-crusher who sat meekly before the boss.

The jury stopped taking notes, and stared, transfixed, as if a penguin from the zoo were sitting in front of them reading "The Divine Comedy." And Calabrese faced them, in his almost white ivory jacket, blinking.

Thanks to John Kass

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