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Monday, September 03, 2007

Marcello Pulls Out Shamrock for Good Luck

The last thing you'd expect at the Outfit trial would be a big green shamrock next to Jimmy Marcello's name.

It reminded me of that nightmare suffered by Christopher Moltisanti, the young mobster in "The Sopranos," who wakes up from a coma to tell his crew that he has seen hell for Italian wiseguys: Eternity spent in an Irish bar where every day is St. Patrick's Day. But the jury in the Family Secrets trial of five alleged Outfit members wasn't dreaming Tuesday, and there it was, the green Irish good-luck charm, the clover that decorates the hat of the mayor on St. Patrick's Day, up on the big screen as Marcello's lawyer tried to debunk the prosecution case.

"You've heard he was a made member of the Outfit, and that only those who are 100 percent Italian can be made," said Marc Martin in his closing argument Tuesday. "Well, look at his birth certificate. His mother is Irene Flynn. Her father was James Flynn. Her mother was Katherine Lavin, and we know she's Irish because she's one of 14 children."

Marcello rocked in his chair, bald head gleaming under bright federal fluorescent lights, black eyebrows, scowling, as Irish as a pierogi in a frying pan. He'll need a new nickname soon, so pick one: O'Marcello, or McCello?

The shamrock demonstrates how desperate the Outfit is these days, but it allowed Martin to attack the testimony of key prosecution witness and confessed hit man Nicholas Calabrese, who testified that Marcello was a made man and part of several murders, including the 1986 killings of gangsters Anthony and Michael Spilotro.

"The only thing that was made about Nicholas Calabrese's testimony about Jimmy Marcello is that he made it up," Martin told the jury.

They just stared at him, perhaps because those taped conversations from prison weigh more than a shamrock.

Earlier, Assistant U.S. Atty. Markus Funk elaborated on taped conversations between defendant, Chinatown loan shark Frank Calabrese Sr. and former Chicago Police Officer Anthony Doyle, who in a pre-Marcello moment years ago, changed his name from Passafiume to Doyle when his sponsors put him on the Police Department, where he would work in the sensitive evidence room.

Funk played the tape of Doyle sharing information about a key piece of evidence: the glove lost by Nicholas Calabrese after he murdered his friend, John "Big Stoop" Fecarotta after the botched Spilotro burial.

In that tape, Doyle and Calabrese speak of giving electric shocks to Frank's brother Nick, who they feared was talking to the feds. There was talk of many volts and a cattle prod inserted just so.

Doyle testified last week that he'd read about electroshock therapy in a magazine and meant no harm. Funk argued this was pure nonsense. "Do you honestly believe this man is talking about something he read in a psychiatry magazine? That's Anthony Doyle, the Freud of the Chicago Police Department," Funk said in a quote of the year, as several jurors shifted uncomfortably in their seats. But if Doyle was indeed the Outfit's Sigmund Freud, he could have counseled Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, who has been suffering an extreme case of juryphobia since he testified earlier in the trial, according to Lombardo's own lawyer, Rick Halprin.

"He doesn't trust you," Halprin told the jury. "He's frightened to death of you. He does not believe that any of you will give him a fair shake, and that you'll judge him on his past."

That past includes two federal Outfit convictions, one for bribing a United States senator from Nevada, and the other involving skimming millions of dollars from Las Vegas casinos. And there is still that Lombardo fingerprint on the title application for a car used in the 1974 murder of federal witness Daniel Seifert, who would have testified against Lombardo, Tony Spilotro and others.

Halprin commanded the courtroom, using his voice and posture, an absolutely impressive performance that was worth the wait, a pro's pro. But the problem isn't Halprin's fine work, but the evidence, like that fingerprint.

Another problem is the testimony from dentist Pat Spilotro, who insisted recently that Lombardo was an Outfit boss who told him the murders of his brothers were unavoidable. Halprin accused Pat Spilotro, sitting in the third row on Tuesday, of exaggerating to push his own anti-Lombardo agenda.

"It's all smokescreen, lies and deception," Pat Spilotro told me in the hallway outside the courtroom. "I only tell the truth. My family tells the truth. Lombardo was absolutely part of this."

There were several other tough Irishmen watching in court and they don't need shamrocks. One was Ted McNamara, the FBI agent on the Outfit squad. Another was Assistant U.S. Atty. John Scully, prosecuting his last case in a career of putting wiseguys in prison. And that other guy, a Patrick named after the Irish saint who drove out the snakes out of Ireland eons ago.

His name is U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald. He doesn't need shamrocks. All he needs is time.

Thanks to John Kass

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