The Chicago Syndicate: Federal Judge Not Interested in Being Pen Pals with Steven Mandell
The Mission Impossible Backpack

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Federal Judge Not Interested in Being Pen Pals with Steven Mandell

Former death row inmate Steven Mandell may have been convicted of plotting to torture, murder and dismember a suburban businessman, but he wants the federal judge who oversaw his sensational trial to know he wouldn’t hurt a fly.

In an April 4 letter written from his jail cell and made public this week, Mandell claimed the only time he’d ever been remotely violent in his life was in an altercation with his girlfriend on Christmas Day in 1983 and that the domestic abuse charges were later dropped.

Mandell said in the three-page letter to U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve that prosecutors have conjured up a false picture of him as a dangerous threat to keep him in solitary confinement at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, the federal Loop jail.

“I have never ever bothered anyone in my entire life. No one! Not a soul!” Mandell, a Chicago police officer decades ago, wrote in neat cursive. “There is NO danger. There NEVER was a danger.”

In a court hearing last week, St. Eve called the letter inappropriate and revealed that since his conviction in February Mandell had sent several other letters, including one to the Highland Park police. While details of that letter weren’t discussed, Highland Park was the site of a spectacular 2012 fire that killed restaurateur Giacomo Ruggirello. The blaze was labeled a possible arson, and last year Mandell’s lawyers mysteriously subpoenaed records about the investigation.

Mandell also sent a letter to U.S. District Judge Milton Shadur, who is presiding over a pending lawsuit alleging the FBI framed Mandell’s alleged partner, Gary Engel, in a 1984 kidnapping in Missouri.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Amarjeet Bhachu has told St. Eve that some of the materials sent by Mandell in the letters violated her protective order sealing certain information in the case. Bhachu said that if Mandell continued to send such materials he could face charges.

Last month, Mandell’s attorneys alleged in a court filing that he was simply expressing his “deeply held conviction” that the key informant in his case, Northwest Side real estate mogul George Michael, was involved in criminal activities that should be investigated.

Mandell claimed in the filing that prosecutors used his letters to justify returning him to the jail’s Special Housing Unit, where he is on 24-hour lockdown and has restricted access to email and other communications.

He was first placed in solitary confinement last fall after prosecutors alleged he tried to arrange Michael’s murder while in the jail’s general population. But prosecutors have denied any involvement in Mandell’s current placement in the jail.

Mandell, 63, was convicted Feb 21 on charges he plotted to kidnap, torture, kill and dismember Riverside landlord Steven Campbell. The jury acquitted him of a separate plot to kill an associate of a reputedly mob-connected strip club. Mandell faces up to life in prison.

Michael secretly wore a wire for the feds and pretended to go along with the plan to outfit a Devon Avenue storefront with an industrial sink, butcher table and other equipment needed to drain Campbell’s body of blood and chop it to pieces.

Years ago Mandell – who then went by the name Steven Manning -- had been sent to death row for the drug-related 1990 slaying of a trucking firm owner. After his murder conviction was overturned on appeal, he won a landmark $6.5 million verdict in his suit against the FBI. A judge, however, later threw out the verdict, and Mandell never collected a penny.

Thanks to Jason Meisner.

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