Chicago Mob Far From Dead But Badly Hurt

Friday, September 28th 2007, 7:34 am
By: News On 6

CHICAGO (AP) _ Three members of the Chicago mob's top echelon face life behind bars after being blamed by a jury for a 16-year wave of murder aimed at silencing witnesses and settling old scores.

But the federal government's victory Thursday at one of the biggest mob trials in Chicago history isn't expected to put organized crime out of business. Prosecutors say their war with the Chicago Outfit will continue.

``The Outfit isn't going away, but we aren't going away,'' prosecutor Mitchell A. Mars said after the jury found three men he called ``old-time ranking bosses of the Outfit'' responsible for 10 mob murders.

Robert D. Grant, special agent in charge of the FBI's Chicago office, said the city is still plagued by 28 ``made guys'' and more than 100 associates who do the dirty work but are in the mob's inner circle.

But he said the jury's decision was something to celebrate.

``These people were charged and convicted in this trial for being the murderous thugs that they really are,'' Grant told reporters.

The jury had already convicted the three men and two others on Sept. 10 of taking part in a long-running racketeering conspiracy that included extortion, gambling, loan sharking and 18 long unsolved mob murders.

Jurors deliberated for eight days to determine which defendants were individually responsible for specific murders _ the prerequisite for imposing a maximum sentence of life in prison. That verdict came Thursday.

James Marcello, 65, was held responsible for two murders, including that of Tony ``The Ant'' Spilotro, the Chicago mob's man in Las Vegas and the inspiration for the Joe Pesci character in the movie ``Casino.''

Frank Calabrese Sr., 70, a portly loan shark who allegedly doubled as a hit man, was blamed for seven. His own brother testified he strangled victims with a rope and cut their throats to make sure they were dead.

Joseph ``Joey the Clown'' Lombardo, 78, was blamed for the September 1974 murder of businessman Daniel Seifert, a federal witness who was hunted down and shot by masked men with his wife and child nearby.

The jury said it was hopelessly deadlocked on the responsibility for eight other murders _ including one prosecutors blame on a fourth defendant, Paul Schiro, 70, a convicted member of a jewel theft ring.

The fifth man convicted of racketeering conspiracy, retired Chicago policeman Anthony Doyle, was not accused of involvement in the murders.

Calabrese attorney Joseph Lopez left court grumbling that Hollywood mob movies have made such cases harder to win. But he noted that the 10-week trial was extraordinary.

``Let's face it, you'll never see a case like this again probably in the history of Chicago,'' Lopez said. He called the aging defendants ``the last of the Mohicans _ Instead of going to Shady Acres retirement home, they're going to federal prison.''

Lombardo attorney Rick Halprin said his client would most likely have gone away for life even if he hadn't been tied to a murder. Racketeering conspiracy alone carries a maximum of 20 years and Lombardo was convicted in a previous labor racketeering case.

``This isn't as significant as it would have been if he were 40 years old,'' Halprin said.

On hand were a number of the victims' relatives. Ellen Ortiz, whose husband Richard was gunned down in July 1983, said she had been ``hoping and praying'' for the day Calabrese would be held responsible.

``Now he can rest in peace after 24 years,'' she said of her husband.

Joe Seifert, whose father was killed while planning to testify against Lombardo in a labor racketeering case, said the results of the trial were good but not completely satisfying.

``He's had a lot of time free,'' Seifert said.

A sixth defendant, Frank Schweihs, was due to stand trial in the case but was excused to be taken to a New York hospital for cancer treatments.

Much of the trial has been shrouded in secrecy. The jurors were anonymous, their names protected to guard against possible pressure or reprisals.

The government's star witness was Nicholas Calabrese, brother of the defendant. Nicholas admitted that he was a hit man for the mob and only began to cooperate with the FBI after a bloody glove left at the scene of a murder was found to contain his DNA.

He was promised that prosecutors would not seek the death penalty in exchange for his testimony.

Still to come is the case of a federal deputy marshal, John Ambrose, who is charged with leaking information to the mob concerning Nicholas Calabrese's trips to Chicago to testify before a federal grand jury. Ambrose has pleaded not guilty to the charge.