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Monday, September 03, 2007

Family Secrets Closing Argument: Required Reading on The Chicago Way

As the Family Secrets trial was put into the hands of the jury, City Hall offered up poetic symmetry in choosing a book for all Chicagoans to read as part of its One-Book-One-Chicago program:

"The Crucible" by Arthur Miller, a social commentary about witch hunts and innocent people caught up by the mob.

No, not the mob on trial in Family Secrets, the other mob, the mob as in the commoners, the ignorant, uninformed, superstitious peasants easily manipulated into burning the innocent politicians -- um, ah, I meant those innocent witches -- at the stake.

If city fathers truly want something Chicago should read, how about the transcript of Assistant U.S. Atty. Mitchell Mars' closing argument in the Family Secrets trial on Thursday?

It has been a trial of Outfit history, 18 unsolved murders, fear and betrayal, with hit man Nick Calabrese testifying about the murders he committed with three of the five defendants.

Think of a pitcher tossing a perfect game and you'll see Mars delivering that closing argument, throwing heat, following through with near-perfect mechanics, fitting all the defendants into the conspiracy.

Mars doesn't look like a Major League ballplayer. He's a bit below average in height, a graying guy in a gray suit, like a million other guys you see on the train. He doesn't seek publicity, and doesn't go out of his way to schmooze reporters. But he's clearly big league. And after what he accomplished, if the jury acquits any of the federal primates, we might as well change the name of this city to something more fitting, like Andriachiville or Tootsie-Town.

"Our system works only when those who should be held accountable are held accountable," Mars told the jury.

He named those charged with racketeering and murder conspiracy: Joseph "The Clown" Lombardo, Frank Calabrese Sr., James Marcello and Paul "the Indian" Schiro.

For weeks, Schiro was the scariest man in the courtroom, hardly moving an eyelid, still as a lizard, the iceman. Schiro is serving another federal prison term, having pleaded guilty for being part of the Outfit-sanctioned jewelry heist crew led by former Chicago Police Chief of Detectives William Hanhardt.

Mars had special contempt for the fifth defendant, accused Outfit debt collector and former Chicago Police Officer Anthony "Twan" (Passafiume) Doyle.

Doyle is not accused of murdering gangsters, but of leaking police secrets about key murder evidence to his Chinatown confederate, Frank Calabrese Sr., in taped prison visits in which electric shocks, cattle prods and physical examinations for Calabrese's brother Nick were discussed. That famous tape involved Outfit code, talk of "purses," defined by the feds as evidence, and a "doctor," defined by the feds as reputed Outfit street boss Frank "Toots" Caruso, who is not charged in this case.

"And one corrupt cop who tried to help the organization and be the inside man. He knows exactly what the purse is. He knows exactly who the doctor is. ... Let's give the guy a physical, let's give him a prod," Mars mocked, reminding the jury of what Doyle said on that tape.

The others on trial put on a defense because they had no choice. But Doyle could have taken a plea deal and served five years or so. He didn't take the deal, though I presume his lawyer will still receive a nice fee and Doyle will have time to ponder what it means to be, in his words, a chumbalone.

A few days ago, Marcello's lawyer, Marc Martin, joined the other defense lawyers in ripping into Nicholas Calabrese, calling him a liar and questioning his testimony, particularly about Marcello's involvement in the sensational 1986 murders of Outfit brothers Anthony and Michael Spilotro. Nick testified that the men waiting for the Spilotros in a suburban home wore gloves. Martin argued the Spilotros would have fled after seeing one gloved hand.

"They weren't going to get out of the house no matter what they thought," said Mars, adding that Marcello and his accomplices "could have worn T-shirts that said, 'We're Here To Kill the Spilotros.' It didn't matter. They weren't getting out of there."

Marcello sat without expression, offering his profile to the jury, looking at himself on the courtroom screen. It was an FBI surveillance photo taken at a Venture parking lot, Marcello with Outfit bosses Joe Ferriola, Sam Carlisi and Rocky Infelice next to some shopping carts.

They weren't in a restaurant with checkered tablecloths. And I thought of those who say there is no Chicago Outfit; and of inside men placed in inside spots, in the police evidence storage section or as lords of the detective squads, while honest cops get passed over for promotions, or are squashed like bugs for the slightest infractions.

I'm still waiting for City Hall to choose an appropriate book for official city reading, perhaps "CAPTIVE CITY: Chicago in Chains." by Ovid DeMaris, "The Outfit" by Gus Russo or "Chicago: City on the Make" by Nelson Algren.

Or, better yet, that closing argument by Mitch Mars in a crucible of a case, in which the Chicago Way was boiled down, reduced to its base elements.

Thanks to John Kass

Charles Tyrwhitt

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