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Friday, 14 March 2008

Guilty verdict came crashing down Monday on the Chicago Outfit

Guilty verdict came crashing down Monday on the Chicago Outfit, the five defendants in the Family Secrets conspiracy trial sat still, their faces fixed in emotionless stares.James Marcello, the reputed boss of the mob, didn't appear to blink. Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, a reputed legendary gangland figure, and Anthony "Twan" Doyle, a former Chicago police officer, sat frozen. Paul "the Indian" Schiro's jaw moved, but he was chewing gum.Frank Calabrese Sr., a reputed mob hit man, didn't appear to flinch either as his lawyer held up a folder to hide his client's face from rows of reporters in the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse.The guilty verdicts represent a body-blow to the mob's aging leadership, a determination by the jury that what prosecutors described as a broad conspiracy started by Al Capone had indeed carried through the modern era.But the jury isn't done yet. On Tuesday, jurors are scheduled to begin deliberations anew on the 18 mob slayings at the heart of the case after first hearing argument from prosecutors and defense lawyers. If found responsible for the murders, the four reputed Outfit figures face possible life sentences.
In the end, these reputed mobsters proved not to be untouchable. The jury convicted all five defendants of racketeering conspiracy, finding them guilty of extorting "street taxes," collecting high-interest "juice" loans, running illegal gambling operations and using violence and murder to protect the mob's interests.
The jury also convicted Marcello of bribing Calabrese's brother to try to discourage him from cooperating, Calabrese for extorting "street taxes" from the Connie's Pizza restaurant chain, and Lombardo for obstructing justice by fleeing from authorities after his indictment.
Doyle, the former Chicago cop, was accused of leaking sensitive information about the federal probe to a mobster friend but wasn't implicated in any of the slayings. The lone defendant free on bail, Doyle was taken into custody after the verdict pending a bond hearing Wednesday.
The jurors, their names kept secret even from lawyers in the case, deliberated three days last week and another hour Monday before reaching their verdict.

The verdict appeared to vindicate the testimony of Calabrese's brother, Nicholas, one of the highest-ranking mob turncoats in Chicago history, who linked his brother to many of the 18 killings. Calabrese's son, Frank Jr., also secretly tape-recorded conversations with his imprisoned father. The unprecedented cooperation by a mob target's relatives prompted federal authorities to code-name the probe Operation Family Secrets.

Another Calabrese son, Kurt, who arrived at the courtroom too late to hear the verdict, said he had mixed emotions about his father's conviction. "I feel bad for all of the victims who are here," said Kurt Calabrese, who was convicted with his father and brother in the 1990s in a loan-sharking scheme. "I hope they're able to move forward, as torn up as they've been, and I hope my family can go on, as torn up as they've been.
"I don't hate him," he said of his father, who was accused during the trial of being abusive toward his family. "I'm not a hateful person."
The judge delayed announcing the verdict more than three hours, allowing some 20 relatives of slaying victims to get to the courtroom.
Ron Seifert, whose brother, Daniel, was gunned down shortly before he was to testify against Lombardo in 1974, said the family's long wait for justice has been difficult.
"I didn't know if this day would ever come," he said. "It's a good, good feeling."
Prosecutors and defense lawyers had no comment on the verdict because of a gag order imposed by U.S. District Judge James Zagel.
In the next round of deliberations, the seven-woman, five-man jury must decide if prosecutors have proven Frank Calabrese Sr. guilty in 13 of the gangland slayings. Marcello has been accused in three killings, including the case's most notorious: the 1986 deaths of Las Vegas mob chieftain Anthony Spilotro and his brother, Michael, whose bodies were found buried in an Indiana cornfield. Lombardo and Schiro, the reputed Outfit representative from Phoenix, are alleged to have taken part in one killing each.
The judge limited the arguments by prosecutors and lawyers in the case to about a combined 2 1/2 hours.


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