The reputed mob hit man sat at a courtroom table Monday in Chicago looking more corporate than killer, in glasses and a blue suit wrapped around his beefy frame, as federal prosecutors presented their case against him that could put him in prison for the rest of his life.
Anthony Calabrese, 47, is a suspect but not charged in the last known mob hit in the Chicago area in 2001 and the attempted murder of a Naperville woman in 1997. But on Monday, he faced charges that he orchestrated three brutal armed robberies of businesses in the suburbs. If convicted, he faces more than 50 years in prison, and authorities hope to use that leverage to persuade Calabrese to confess to who hired him for the murder and attempted murder.
His attorney Steven Hunter said Calabrese was the victim of drug-using criminals making up stories about him to save their hides.
"My client rubbed elbows with some pretty tough customers, and he's a pretty tough customer himself, but that doesn't mean he's guilty of these crimes," Hunter told jurors.
The first witness in the case, a 78-year-old woman, described how she was led at gunpoint with her son to the back of his Morton Grove leather goods store in 2001.
The mother, Molly Nudell, and her son were bound with duct tape and told to lay face down on the cement floor. They feared they would be killed.
"We were saying goodbye to each other," Nudell said.
The men didn't wear masks, but Nudell couldn't identify Calabrese as one of the intruders. But one man who pleaded guilty to the robbery said Calabrese called the shots.
Sean Smith said he had qualms about the robbery, even vomiting beforehand, and asked to beg off.
"You're going to go in or you're getting f----- up," Smith recalled Calabrese telling him.
Calabrese's attorney, Hunter, noted Smith attributed the threat to another crew member in his grand jury testimony.
Thanks to Steve Warmbir
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
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