Thursday, February 25, 2010

Top 10 Courtroom Movies of All Time

Courtroom movies hold a special ability to provide mystery, suspense, and a good story that almost always reaches a neatly packaged conclusion, making this genre of movies appealing to a wide variety of audiences. Check out these movie recaps (including plot spoilers!) that span the entire 20th century, with black and white dramas, more modern dramas, and even a comedy and a documentary in the list. While it might not substitute for your training to become a court reporter, it certainly can’t hurt to spend some time watching these courtroom movies to understand the history and popular culture surrounding your chosen field of study.

  1. The Paradine Case (1947). Alfred Hitchcock directed this film that stars Gregory Peck as a barrister hired to defend Mrs. Paradine when she is accused of killing her wealthy, older husband. The barrister, happily married, begins to fall for the alluring Mrs. Paradine as he gets deeper into the case. The trial focuses on whether Mrs. Paradine or Mr. Paradine’s valet killed the man. During a particularly rough line of questioning by the barrister, the valet confesses to an affair with Mrs. Paradine. He leaves the courtroom and later kills himself. Upon learning of the death, Mrs. Paradine confesses to killing her husband, her love for the valet, and her hatred for the barrister, who she feels killed her lover. The barrister must then come to terms with how he handled the case and himself.
  2. 12 Angry Men (1957). A teenage boy is put on trial for killing his father. When the twelve men on the jury begin deliberation, what initially seemed an easy guilty verdict suddenly becomes much more complex when one juror (played by Henry Fonda) asks the other jurors to look closely at the facts of the trial. What results is a study in humanity as each of the jurors faces his own prejudices, emotions, and histories in a search for the truth.
  3. Witness for the Prosecution (1958). This stunning movie was adapted from a play written by the master mystery writer, Agatha Christie. Tyrone Power and Marlene Dietrich play Leonard and Christine Vole. Leonard is accused of killing a rich woman who left him a substantial amount of money. Leonard’s trial is full of twists and turns as his attorney fights to clear his name. When it appears that Christine has set Leonard up for murder and Leonard is cleared, the plot twists again.
  4. Judgment at Nuremberg (1961). Based on a real trial that took place in 1947, this powerful movie stars Spencer Tracy as an American judge determined to understand the truth at the heart of the case that has four German judges accused of human atrocities under the Nazi regime. Tracy’s search for the truth reveals heartache and emotional blindness. Eventually the truth is revealed when one of the judges on trial describes the reasons he and so many others followed along with such horrific acts. When this movie was released in 1961, all four judges on whom the movie was based were already released from prison.
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). Based on the novel by Harper Lee, Gregory Peck stars as an attorney in a small southern town who is selected to defend a black man accused of raping a white woman. The story is told through the attorney’s young daughter, Scout. The trial and the events leading up to the trial depict both the rampant racism in the town as well as the beauty of humanity glimpsed between the other. While the trial does not end with justice being served, the movie ends with hope for the future as seen through Scout.
  6. The Verdict (1982). Paul Newman plays a lawyer who has turned to alcohol and shunned his career after his attempt to uphold justice was turned against him and he lost his partnership in a successful firm. A friend throws an easy medical malpractice case to him that is sure to settle out of court. When Newman’s character looks over the case, however, he feels it should go to trial. What follows is a study of the lawyer’s rebuilding his life and career in the face of both obstacles and infidelity as he wins the case for the family of a young mother left in a vegetative state.
  7. A Few Good Men (1992). Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, and Demi Moore star in this movie directed by Rob Reiner. Cruise plays an inexperienced lawyer for the Marines who defends two Marines accused of murdering a fellow Marine. The court case uncovers intense hazing that occurred under orders of the commanding officer and pits the green lawyer against a seasoned Colonel who verbally spar over what it means to have honor and to be a Marine. The lawyer wins the case, but the two he was defending are dishonorably discharged.
  8. My Cousin Vinny (1992). In a genre heavy with drama, this movie stands out as being both an excellent courtroom movie that is also a comedy. When two young men are accused of a murder they did not commit as they were passing through a small southern town, they hire the only lawyer they know and can afford–a cousin from Brooklyn who has only been a lawyer for a few weeks. The neophyte lawyer with his Brooklyn ways learns important lessons in courtroom etiquette as he bumbles his way through in a veteran judge’s well-oiled courtroom, culminating in the acquittal of the two young men.
  9. Philadelphia (1993). Based on a true story of the first AIDS discrimination case taken to court, Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington star in this movie that tells the story of an important lawyer at the largest law firm in Philadelphia who is fired from his position when it is discovered that he has AIDS. When the lawyer can find no one to represent him against the firm, he begins preparation to defend himself. A homophobic lawyer steps up to take the case and the two men take on and win the discrimination suit.
  10. Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (1996). The only documentary in this list, this movie details the trial of three teenage boys in Arkansas who are accused of killing three 8 year-olds. With real courtroom footage and interviews with suspects and others involved in the case, this movie documents a trial that even after its conclusion left many wondering about the effectiveness of the judicial system.
Thanks to Court Reporter Schools

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Joseph "The Shark" Lopez Responds to Media Reports on 15th Ave Adult Books in Melrose Park

Our most recent "Shark Tale" addresses the allegations brought against an adult bookstore in Melrose Park that has been accused of running a sex party room. Their attorney, Joseph "The Shark" Lopez, picks it up from here.

The press never seems to go away for some of my clients. Recently, FOX Chicago claimed to have went undercover in Robert Urbinati's wife's bookstore. Bobby was a codefendant of Tony Centracchio an alleged outfit boss who died before the feds could send him away for a few decades.

Bobby did his time like a man unlike Frank Calabrese Jr."the balless wonder" and his chicken man Uncle, Nick "The Slayer" Calabrese.

The bookstore is located in an industrial area of Melrose Park. There is a party room in the back which hosts can rent out for parties. Like any other party the guests can enjoy themselves and in this case they were swingers and freaks of all types. The Bookstore does not sell liquor, drugs or provide sex partners. These parties are be invitation only and not open the general public. The patrons pay an admission fee and receive a red band to enter. Once inside they do what people have been doing since "Adam and Eve" or "Eve and Eve" or "Adam and Adam". The party room remains under the control of the host and the owner does not provide anything other than the space to play. There is nothing illegal about this type of party.

The media hit on it because its in Melrose Park and there is an Italian name. Otherwise, its not a story if some other guy, like a Sam Tong, a Herb Gold, a Bob Perez, or a Mike Anderson, were the owners. Its news because of a few vowels. The media could not link it to "The Outfit" because there is not a link. This is America and its citizens have a constitutional right to assemble and party. They are exhibitionists who are protected by the constitution.

The feed back on the story has been positive. Its yesterday's news. The media reported a non-story because the bottom line was that nothing was illegal. I hope the free advertising helps the store in this troubled economy.

Thanks to Joseph "The Shark" Lopez

Is The Wife of a Former Police Officer with Mob Ties Running a Sex Club Out of a Bookstore?

From the outside, you'd think it was just another adult bookstore on a dead-end street. But a Melrose Park business is hiding a dirty little secret.

Our undercover camera revealed people showing up here -- for something other than books.

"It's shady,” a neighbor said. “Yeah, totally shady… Outrageous! Disgusting!”

The video, er, what we can show you of it makes it clear this place is operating more like a sex club than a book club. And charging admission.

An employee told our producer that multiple rooms are devoted to group sex acts.

Our producer said he observed one woman with a line of men in front of her.

Outraged neighbors are wondering why the place isn't shut down. "What are they thinking? It should be shut down, it's sick," one neighbor said. “I don't like the idea of having it around."

We wanted to ask Mayor Ronald Sirpico how it's able to stay open and show him our video.

We went to the village hall for our interview, and a staff member told us he wouldn't be able to make it. Instead they handed us a one-page statement.

The statement reads, in part, "Our police have followed up on numerous complaints and even used undercover tactics ... In an attempt to close the 15th Avenue bookstore. … Those efforts have proved fruitless thus far."

The mayor did tell FOX Chicago News on the phone that officers have gone in a dozen times to investigate and didn't find anything unusual.

FOX Chicago News went in one time and you can know what we found.

Attorney Joe Lopez represents Jeanette Urbinati, the owner of the bookstore.

“It is legal,” Lopez told FOX Chicago News.

Jeanette Urbinati is the wife of Robert "Bobby" Urbinati, a former Franklin Park police officer who did federal time for the operation of an illegal gambling business tied to the mob.

The feds said he was operating as the “cash man" between mob bosses Anthony Centracchio and James Marcello.

Lopez claimed the bookstore is doing nothing wrong. He also said there are signs posted all over warning customers not to have sex. "I think it's standard for you to remind people of that in adult entertainment places, " he said.

When was the last time you heard of an adult entertainment place with a shower for the customers?

Online chat rooms describe the activity from people who've been there: men looking for women or other men to go to the 15th Avenue bookstore to have sex.

On Craig’s List, you can find personals from people arranging to meet for all kinds of scenarios with random partners at the bookstore.

FOX Chicago News consulted with attorney Steven Greenberg.

"If Melrose Park is not taking any action, they obviously want it there," he said.

Greenberg said he was surprised when FOX revealed to him that inside the bookstore our producer was asked if he wanted to buy any alcohol.

“A business that doesn't have a liquor license shouldn't be serving liquor. That's the easiest way to shut it down,” Greenberg said. “Basically you padlock the door, pending a further hearing."

FOX Chicago News has learned the sheriff's department went inside and handed over possible violations for Melrose Park police to investigate. But the business hasn't been slapped with any violations.

FOX Chicago News called Melrose Park police but they wouldn't return our calls.

Whatever's going on inside, you can see how it looks to families from the outside, across the street from a go-kart center.

“Based on the sheriff’s investigation and your investigation, I think they need to look into it further,” Greenberg said.

He added: “It's been done in New York; they did it in Times Square. Chicago’s done it. Mayor Daley’s been known to fight these businesses. Any mayor can control it. It's like a fiefdom. Mayors are kings of their community; they can do what they want in their community."

Thanks to Anna Davlantes

Former Crooked Cop with Ties to the Mob is Accused of Running a Sex Party Room at an Adult Bookstore

A Melrose Park pornography bookstore -- run with the help of a former crooked cop with ties to the mob -- offers a party room in the back where couples and singles have multiple sex partners as part of organized, late-night sessions.

It costs $30 or more per person to get in to the party room at 15th Avenue Adult Books, run for months out of a nondescript building in an industrial area.

Guests can linger at chairs and tables or get up on a stage and partake in the activities, according to people familiar with the business.

Finger foods, such as chicken wings, are provided. They also offer drinks. And despite months of investigation by local and county officials, there's apparently nothing illegal about it.

One of the people behind the business is Robert Urbinati, a former Franklin Park police officer, who runs the business with his wife. Urbinati was sentenced in 2002 to 33 months in prison for taking $500 in bribes each month from the mob to protect a lucrative video poker gambling operation.

Urbinati, 68, also allegedly was an Outfit message man, reportedly passing communications between two high-ranking mobsters, the late Anthony Centracchio and the onetime head of the Chicago Outfit, James "Little Jimmy" Marcello, now in prison after being convicted of racketeering and other crimes in the historic Family Secrets mob case.

Centracchio made the news in 2001 when it was revealed the geriatric mobster was caught on a secret FBI video recording having sex with a younger employee at the abortion clinic he ran.

As for Urbinati, "my client has done his time, and now he's moved on to the second phase of his life," said well-known criminal defense attorney Joseph "The Shark" Lopez, who has represented many alleged mobsters.

Urbinati could not be reached for comment.

Lopez stressed that there was no prostitution at the business, and no illegal drugs, just consenting adults doing their own thing. The party room is used for other activities too, Lopez said, like bachelor parties. "No different than the Sybaris, except more people," Lopez argued, referring to the motel chain where couples go for romantic weekends.

Since last year, the Cook County sheriff's police has sent in undercover officers on several occasions and found nothing illegal happening, a spokesman said.

Melrose Park Mayor Ronald M. Serpico said he'd rather not have the business in his town but there's nothing he can do about it. His own police have investigated it and called in the Cook County sheriff for assistance. The Cook County Department of Public Health investigated and found no issues, Serpico said.

"Is it fun for us? Absolutely not," Serpico said. "Do I want to be having this conversation with you?" the mayor asked. "I'd rather be talking about the Super Bowl."

The pornography bookstore meets village zoning requirements for such businesses, which were set up after Melrose Park was sued in federal court over the issue.

Serpico argued that the vast majority of Melrose Park residents don't even know the business is there or what goes on there, given its location.

"It couldn't be further away from civilization," Serpico said. "Not one resident has called to complain."

The mayor said he did not know who was running the bookstore until recently.

When asked if he had qualms about a onetime associate of organized crime helping operate a business in his town, Serpico said no, adding, "I can't control what somebody has done in the past."

The bookstore "is what it is," Serpico said. "I can't regulate morality."

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Monday, February 08, 2010

Is Casey Szaflarski the King of Mob-Controlled Video Poker Throughout Chicagoland?

Casey Szaflarski allegedly runs a multimillion-dollar video poker business for the Chicago mob. But he's the first to tell you he has a fuzzy memory.

When lawyers in a civil case tried to figure out how much he was worth, he forgot to bring any financial documents -- even though he had been ordered to do so.

"An oversight," Szaflarski said.

He also told lawyers he doesn't own the Bridgeport home he lives in -- and isn't sure who does. He transferred his interest in the home to a trust, but wasn't sure how or when. And although federal court records suggest he's the new king of mob-controlled video poker in the Chicago area, he says he doesn't know how much he owns of Amusements Inc., a Berwyn company that distributes video gambling machines.

"Yeah, I have a bad memory," Szaflarski, 52, said at the time.

Szaflarski's bad memory got him sanctioned by the Cook County judge overseeing Szaflarski's civil case a few years ago. But that could just be the start of his problems.

Newly unsealed court documents show Szaflarski is a target of an ongoing federal investigation of mob-controlled video poker machines across the Chicago area. The investigation comes as the state has recently legalized video gaming in an effort to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into its coffers. But bars can't legally have the machines pay out until a state agency sets rules to regulate the machines and distributes licenses. Top mobsters, meanwhile, have been caught on secret FBI recordings welcoming the legalization of video poker machines, a business they have dominated over the years.

Last May, agents from the FBI, IRS and ATF simultaneously hit more than 20 Chicago and suburban bars, in one of the largest raids of its kind. Law-enforcement officials stripped the video gambling machines of their computer circuit boards, collected thousands of dollars in illegal gambling proceeds and took gambling records, according to court documents from the investigation overseen by prosecutors T. Markus Funk and Amarjeet S. Bhachu.

During the raids the afternoon of May 27, Szaflarski was stopped in his black H3 Hummer. He had $6,214 in cash on him. Szaflarski is accused in court documents of driving in his Hummer and making the rounds of bars where his video poker machines were located, then splitting the proceeds 50-50 with the bar owners.

The investigation of Szaflarski is part of a larger probe that has already resulted in charges against the reputed mob boss of Cicero, Michael "Fat Ass" Sarno, and an allegedly high-ranking member of the Outlaws motorcycle gang, Mark Polchan.

Sarno is charged with ordering a pipe-bombing in 2003 of a Berwyn video poker business that was competing with Szaflarski's company, court records show. Polchan allegedly organized the bombing and also worked to put Szaflarski's video poker machines in Outlaw clubhouses throughout the Chicago area.

To track the FBI investigation, Polchan allegedly received help from crooked suburban cops, whom he paid off with free sexual favors from prostitutes, court records show.

Szaflarski appears to have taken over the multimillion-dollar video poker distribution business of Chicago mob boss James Marcello and his half-brother Michael, court records show. James Marcello was convicted of racketeering and other crimes in 2007 in the historic Family Secrets mob trial, and his half-brother pleaded guilty to racketeering. Both are in prison.

Szaflarski told a government informant that he learned the video poker business from Michael Marcello, court records show.

Szaflarski has allegedly contributed money from the video poker business to Sarno, who is also known as "Big Mike" and "The Large Guy," according to a federal search warrant affidavit. Sarno recently made headlines when he received permission from a federal magistrate judge to get out of house arrest so he could have Christmas Eve dinner at Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab in downtown Chicago.

More indictments are expected in the Sarno case, but Szaflarski has not been charged with any crime.

Szaflarski could not be reached for comment, but an attorney who has represented many well-known Chicago mobsters, Joe "The Shark" Lopez, said Friday he was stunned by the allegations. "He's a businessman with a good reputation," said Lopez, who said he knows Szaflarski but does not represent him. "He's just a normal, everyday, Joe Citizen. I'm shocked to hear these allegations."

While operating a video gambling distribution business for at least 10 years, Szaflarski has managed to stay under the radar.

His wife, Denise, however, made the news during the city's Hired Truck scandal when the Chicago Sun-Times revealed she was one of the owners of a trucking firm that received more than $400,000 under the program.

Denise Szaflarski is the daughter of the late mobster Joseph "Shorty" LaMantia, who was a well-known Outfit burglar. Her brother, Rocco "Rocky" LaMantia, set up the trucking company, called Dialex Trucking. Rocky LaMantia is now in state prison, serving a six-year sentence for robbing a pawn shop.

Casey Szaflarski appears to have been making a profitable living from his business. From 2003 to 2005, he made an average of $142,000 in salary and other compensation from Amusements Inc., according to his tax records cited in a judicial order.

Szaflarski has a long history of legal battles. He was behind an unsuccessful lawsuit to throw out an Elmwood Park ban on video poker machines in town. And he's been involved in a series of lawsuits over legal bills stemming from that original case and a related one.

One of the attorneys who represented Szaflarski in the legal bill cases was Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica.

Peraica, who is also a private attorney, said Friday he represented Szaflarski because he knew him from living in Bridgeport and from attending the same church, St. Jerome.

Peraica said he had "no idea" Szaflarski had possible connections to organized crime and has not represented him in any criminal cases.

While his client has made a good living off video poker, Peraica himself has been one of the most vocal opponents of allowing video gambling into unincorporated Cook County.

Last year, the County Board voted to ban such devices after state lawmakers decided to legalize them to fill Illinois' depleted coffers.

Szaflarski's business donated $500 in 2008 and another $500 in 2009 to Peraica's political campaign fund. Peraica said he saw no conflict in accepting the contributions. Szaflarski never mentioned the video poker ban to him, and Peraica, in fact, voted for the ban, he noted.

"This is all rather remarkable," Peraica said, pledging to return the contributions if Szaflarski is indicted.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Crime and Corruption in Present day Las Vegas: An Interview with Steve Miller

John L. Smith, a columnist at the Las Vegas Review Journal, once described Rick Rizzolo, the former owner of Las Vegas strip club the Crazy Horse Too, as an “affable wiseguy, high-rolling gambler, and former soft touch for politicians.” The one-time strip club owner has been described as a friend of Las Vegas’ current mayor, Oscar Goodman, as well as other authorities in Sin City. Steve Miller, a prolific journalist and well known figure in Las Vegas began investigating Rizzolo in 1999, when the strip club owner managed to obtain approval for the expansion for his business, even when he’d already implemented the changes and opened to the public. Casino Online spoke to the journalist about crime, corruption and celebrity status in Sin City.

Miller first began investigating Rizzolo when the strip club owner opened a new, extended bar “without a building permit; additional parking spaces; traffic plan; or certificate of occupancy from the fire department”. To still be legally allowed to open any sort of public entertainment venue without any of these requirements would usually be impossible and Miller became interested about just how Rizzolo had obtained the permission of officials such as former Las Vegas Councilman Michael McDonald. For the past eleven years, Miller has documented the exploits of Rizzolo and his council cohorts (McDonald wasn’t re-elected in 2003 and it has since been discovered he was receiving kickbacks of $5,000 a month from Rizzolo) and has collected his findings on In 2000, Rizzolo attempted to sue Miller for libel, but undaunted, Miller knew that the truth would prevail. However, as he told us, Rizzolo hasn’t left him alone: Over the past few years, the journalist has “received several written death threats and shared them with the police and FBI”.

Miller soon found that Rizzolo’s influence and danger to Las Vegas citizens extended far beyond his ability to wine and dine councilmen though. In October 2001, Kirk Henry had his neck broken by a bouncer at Rizzolo’s strip club, over an $80 bar tab. Henry, who has been paralysed since the attack, sued Rizzolo for attempted murder. Rizzolo denied that Henry had suffered a beating from one of his employees, suggesting in a letter to the Las Vegas Tribune that Henry merely “tripped”. Five years later, the Las Vegas Attorney’s Office revoked Rizzolo’s liquor license and, as part of a plea deal, Rizzolo and his employees “admitted to tax fraud, conspiracy to participate in racketeering and seeking to extort payment from club patrons”. The Las Vegas City Council also issued Rizzolo with a $2.192 million fine and, as part of his plea agreement, Rizzolo vowed to pay the Henry's $10 million in compensation. In 2007, Rizzolo was sentenced to a year and a day in prison, but since being released, the Henry’s have received just $1 million from Rizzolo's insurance company (not from Rizzolo personally) and are still waiting on the remaining millions owed to them. When asked why Rizzolo has managed to avoid paying the couple what he owes them (some would argue he owes them a lot, lot more) Miller suggested that he has “long believed Rizzolo has bought protection over the years and that Mr. Henry's case is being stalled by those subservient to Rizzolo until Henry either dies or settles for pennies on the dollar”.

Critics have suggested that Rizzolo’s connections have meant that the former club owner has managed to steer clear of major punishment. When you consider that Mayor Oscar Goodman used to be employed as his legal representative, it could be suggested that Rizzolo’s influence is far-reaching. Miller alleges that Goodman still has links to Rizzolo, suggesting that “Goodman, through his son's and business partner's law firms, is still representing mob figures including Rizzolo.” It may seem odd that voters would elect a man who’s been heavily involved with mob figures such as Tony “The Ant” Spilotro and Frank Cullotta, as well as Rick Rizzolo, but Miller believes Las Vegas residents just aren’t taking their politics seriously. Miller proposes that Vegas citizens “often vote for those with the highest name recognition like Goodman”. Miller, clearly jaded by the dirty politics of his city, suggests he has witnessed “time and again the stupidity of the average Las Vegas voter with who they continue to elect to public office, then treat the politician like a rock star afterwards, no matter how crooked the elected official may become.” It should be made clear that while Miller has his doubts about Goodman, the mayor has been credited with regenerating the city and has been described by Ed Koch, a journalist at The Las Vegas Sun, as a “stickler for parliamentary procedure”.

When asked about Mayor Oscar Goodman’s plans to open the “Mob Museum”, a forthcoming attraction in Las Vegas which will document “organized crime and law enforcement as each confronted the other”, it’s obvious that Miller sees the exhibition as merely a vanity project for the mayor. The journalist proposes that he’s ashamed “of having to live in a town (Miller makes it clear that Las Vegas hasn’t matured enough to be called a city) that would take public funds to glamorize the former (and current) clients of a mob lawyer-turned-mayor. The Mob Museum will do nothing to attract new, clean, high tech industry to Las Vegas, and will serve to further embarrass local residents who have long tried to show a better face for our town.”

While those of us outside of Las Vegas may see the mob as part of the city’s dark past, for Miller and others campaigning to clean up corruption, it’s still a daily part of their lives. Perhaps what’s most disturbing is Miller’s admission that casinos in Las Vegas now “mainly serve as drug money laundries for the mob” and “condone the use of massage parlors and escort services because such enterprises discourage gamblers from leaving the tables for more than an hour or so.” While the term, “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” may seem to most of us a reference to losses in a casino and perhaps over-indulgence when it comes to alcoholic refreshments, for Miller, the phrase holds much darker connotations.

Courtesy of

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Plans to Dig Up the Old Giants Stadium to Search for Jimmy Hoffa's Body?

What do the New York Giants and Jets have in common with Jimmy Hoffa? Not much, unless you buy into the long-festering urban legend that they all shared the same residence in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

But now, the two football teams are headed to a new $1.6 billion facility nearby dubbed the New Meadowlands. And their departure may be the best opportunity to finally put to rest the endless stories that Hoffa is not "swimming with the fishes" in the swamps of New Jersey. Or is it?

The old stadium, which opened in 1976 and is often referred to as Giants Stadium, is being razed, with demolition beginning Thursday.

Urban lore has it that Hoffa, Plans to Dig Up the Old Giants Stadium to Search for Jimmy Hoffa's Body?the long-missing Teamsters leader, was killed by members of organized crime and buried in the end zone, or thereabouts, in Giants Stadium.

Representatives for the New Meadowlands stadium said that the field won't be dug up, but that the stadium will be torn down in large pieces and the land eventually will be a parking lot.

Is it possible that football and soccer players -- not to mention the hundreds of thousands of fans who have visited the stadium for concerts over the years -- have trod near the former union leader?

Few urban legends continue to capture the imagination like the disappearance of a union boss with a murky past. The story is now a traditional butt of comedians' jokes, and one shouldn't be surprised that in 2004, the show "Mythbusters" devoted a segment searching for Hoffa. Several areas of the field were tested, but nothing was found. Conclusive? Perhaps not. If you listen closely, you can hear Geraldo Rivera kicking himself for not doing an hourlong special.

A Google search of "Jimmy Hoffa" reveals many theories and opinions on the whereabouts of the controversial union leader, who was reportedly last seen in a suburban Detroit restaurant.

Hoffa skipped off to Brazil with a "go-go dancer" one union official swore. The Weekly World News claims NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has revealed Hoffa's body in a large hidden compartment with a special concrete block. "Crushed in automobile compactor" and "Ground up at a meat processing plant and dumped in Florida" are some of the other theories. Director Quentin Tarantino must be excited about the possibilities.

So just how did Hoffa supposedly end up in the end zone of a football stadium in New Jersey? According to one account, his body was mixed into concrete that was later used to construct the stadium. But why does this story seem to resonate and remain one of the top theories?

Jeff Hansen, an author and former Detroit police officer, says the rumors probably linger because the stadium is a well-known landmark. "It's the NFL," he said. "It's construction, organized crime and cement. Everyone wants to play on that."

Hansen did his own research, and in his recently released book "Digging for the Truth: The Final Resting Place of Jimmy Hoffa," he says the union leader was probably killed closer to home in Michigan and disposed of in a crematorium.

John Samerjan is vice president of public affairs at the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which oversees the Meadowlands Sports Complex. He says he's heard it all before, and he dismisses the story by saying, "It's a complete urban myth."

"There was this mob lore that the mob dumped bodies in the weeds before the stadium was built. The meadowlands region was 'the weeds.' No one has taken this seriously," he said. "It would often come up because every so often, a mobster would write a book or a magazine article. I was here eight years ago when the calls came flooding in."

The rumor mill was so out of control then that a former publicity official recalled recently that the stadium posted a "He's not here" message on its electronic billboard outside the stadium.

The FBI office in Detroit says the investigation of Hoffa's disappearance is ongoing. "We follow up on leads," Detroit FBI spokeswoman Sandra Berchtold said.

The FBI office in Newark, New Jersey, doesn't plan to send anyone to the stadium when it's torn down. "Nope" was the response from Newark FBI spokesman Brian Travers, who says he's fielded several recent calls from the media about the matter.

"My question to you," Travers replied about the seemingly lunacy of the question, "is why would anyone think we would wait this long. We would have dug up the 50 yard line during the Super Bowl a long time ago if there was any credence to the rumor."

The issue of digging is very sensitive for New York sports fans. During the construction of the new Yankee Stadium, a construction worker, and Red Sox fan, buried a Red Sox jersey in wet concrete, hoping to hex the Yankees. The Yankees spent thousands of dollars to dig up the jersey and, in doing so, perhaps averted a future curse and urban legend.

Superstitious? The Yankees won the 2009 World Series.

Thanks to Chris Kokenes

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Mafia II to set New Benchmark for Sandbox Gaming

2K Games has revealed its open world setting for Mafia II will set a new benchmark for sandbox gaming.

Mafia II to set New Benchmark for Sandbox Gaming

In an interview with IncGamers, the game’s senior producer Denby Grace emphasised that as well as having a strong narrative, on a technical level, Mafia II will stand out from the competition.

“As well as the story, the level of detail and realization of the world really is an amazing technical achievement for the team here at 2K Czech,” said Grace.

“No other open world city comes close with the texture quality, attention to detail and destructibility of our environments.”

Thanks to Andy Alderson

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Russian Mafia Involved with Saab Sale?

The U.S. Government participated in stopping General Motors from selling Saab to a Dutch automaker in December due to possible involvement in the deal by the Russian Mafia, a Swedish media outlet is reporting.

According to the Dagens Industri newspaper, the Swedish government asked its security force, the Sapo, to investigate the financial affairs of the Convers Group, a Russian investment group owned by the family of billionaire Alexander Antonov that was one of the major shareholders of Spyker when the Dutch automaker made the offer to buy Saab in December. That investigation reportedly turned up a "strong suspicion" of ties between the Antonovs and organized crime, information that was passed on to the FBI. The report goes on to say the the board of General Motors was then contacted by the U.S. Government and told to stop the sale.

Since then, Spyker founder Victor Muller has assumed ownership of the 4.6 million shares in Spyker that were controlled by the Convers Group, through a recently created holding group called Tenaci, which is run by Muller. This move apparently opened the door to another offer to purchase Saab, which was accepted by GM last week.

A spokesman for Spyker tells that Victor Muller says the report is "nonsense and speculation."

In the weeks leading up to the sale several media outlets reported that GM was wary of the Antonovs' involvement over concerns that intellectual property rights could be transferred to competing automakers. When asked during a conference call following the agreement if GM was satisfied with the exclusion of the Antonov family from the deal, GM Vice President for Corporate Planning and Alliances John Smith responded, "as part of finding a sustainable solution for Saab, we are happy with the structures of the company that Victor Muller has put in place for Saab Spyker and I'll just leave it at that."

When contacted by about the Dagens Industri story, General Motors issued the following statment:

"We are declining to comment in any way on the specifics of any negotiations, as they were covered by confidentiality agreements. Our interest was in finding a buyer that could create a viable future for Saab, and we believe we did."

Thanks to FoxNews

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