The Chicago Syndicate: Marcello Brother's Videotape Played for Jury

Friday, August 10, 2007

Marcello Brother's Videotape Played for Jury

Friends of ours: James Marcello, Joseph “Joey the Clown” Lombardo, Frank Calabrese, Paul Schiro, Anthony Doyle
Friends of mine: Michael Marcello

A secretly recorded videotape played to jurors at a mob trial Wednesday showed one of the defendants cursing and fidgeting as he spoke to a brother visiting him in prison, apparently fearful authorities might be closing in on him.

The video of a visibly anxious James Marcello, his eyes darting around a visitors’ area during the expletive-laden conversations, was among the last evidence presented by prosecutors before they rest their case against Marcello and four co-defendants.

U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel said at the conclusion of testimony Wednesday that he expected prosecutors to wrap up their case Monday when the trial resumes. The defense could start calling witnesses later the same day, he said.

The video footage shown Wednesday was recorded in 2003 when Michael Marcello visited his brother, James, who was serving a prison sentence on a separate matter at the time. Neither man knew he was being recorded.

On the tape, James Marcello speaks in hushed tones and admonishes his brother to put his hand over his mouth when he talks, apparently out of concern someone could read their lips.

He also tries to convey how grave the situation could be. “You think this is a high school prom or something?” he said in a heavy Chicago accent. But at another point, he uses a curse word to express confidence he’d be able to stay out of legal trouble: “They couldn’t prove a … thing,” he said.

The 65-year-old James Marcello sat at a defense table Wednesday viewing the video recording on a monitor, sometimes watching intently and other times smiling.

The other defendants on trial in Chicago are Joseph “Joey the Clown” Lombardo, 78, Frank Calabrese, 69, Paul Schiro, 70, and Anthony Doyle, 62. The five are accused of mob racketeering conspiracy that allegedly included 18 murders, including of Michael and Tony Spilotro. It was the latter who inspired the Joe Pesci character in the popular 1995 movie “Casino.”

In their recorded conversations, the Marcello brothers employ the colorful language of another era, referring, for instance, to “broads” and “coppers.”

They also rely heavily on code words, hand signals and nicknames, which an FBI agent interpreted for jurors. The mention of a “Hitler” in the recording, the agent said, referred to reputed mobster Frank “The German” Schweihs.

In cross examination, defense lawyers suggested that — since the federal agent wasn’t a native Chicagoan — he might have misinterpreted what the Marcellos really meant when they spoke or used hand gestures. “That’s not unusual for Italians to use their hands when they’re talking, is it?” said Frank Calabrese’s lawyer, Joseph Lopez.

The Marcellos also expressed admiration for Joseph “Joey the Clown” Lombardo, who they refer to in the video as “Pagliacci” — the name of an Italian opera about a clown. “He’s the only one that’s got the brains,” said Michael Marcello.

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