Thursday, June 21, 2007

Opening statements at 'Secrets' trial

Opening statements were heard today in the case of U.S. vs. Calabrese, et al., better known as the Chicago "Family Secrets" trial.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Scully opened for the prosecution, speaking for just under an hour. He outlined the crimes detailed in the indictment against five alleged racketeers.

An image of each of 18 murder victims was projected onto a screen in front of the jury as Scully described the murders and indicated who among the defendants the government believes is responsible. Thirteen of the murders were attributed to defendant Frank Calabrese Sr. (left).

"This is not 'Sopranos,'" he told the jury. "This is not 'The Godfather.' This case is about real people and real victims." The Chicago crime family known as the Outfit, he said, is "corrupt, it's violent, it's without honor."

Curiously, the prosecutor named John DiFronzo as a conspirator in the 1986 murders of the Spilotro brothers. DiFronzo was not indicted in the case, though he is widely regarded as a leader of the Chicago Outfit. (See televised report by NBC5 in Chicago.)

Calabrese's defense attorney Joseph R. Lopez, apparently using the same statute of limitations defense that was employed successfully in the John A. "Junior" Gotti trial last year, insisted that his client has been out of organized crime since the 1980s.

Lopez attacked two close Calabrese relatives who are to testify for the prosecution. The attorney charged that Calabrese's brother Nicholas, who has confessed to multiple murders and turned informant, was the real mob boss of the family.

"People reported to Nick Calabrese," Lopez said. "When Nick Calabrese was in prison, crew members came to see him."

Lopez stated that his client's son, Frank Jr., was motivated by greed to testify against his father.

Rick Halprin, attorney representing defendant Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, postponed his opening statement until the start of the defense case. That could be some time off. The trial is expected to last through the summer.

Joining Lombardo, 78, and Calabrese, 70, at the defense table are accused racketeers James Marcello, 65; Paul "the Indian" Schiro, 69; and Anthony Doyle, 62. Doyle, a former police officer, has not been charged in any of the murders. All five men insist they are innocent.

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Writer, editor, researcher, web publisher, specializing in organized crime history. (I am available to assist with your historical/genealogical research, as well as your writing and editing chores. Email me at
I am editor/publisher of crime history journal, Informer; publisher of American Mafia history website; moderator of Mafia-related online forums; author of Wrongly Executed?; coauthor of Deep Water: Joseph P. Macheca and the Birth of the American Mafia and DiCarlo: Buffalo's First Family of Crime; contributor of American Mafia history to Australian-published Mafia: The Necessary Reference to Organized Crime; writer/co-writer of crime history articles for Informer, On the Spot Journal, Cigar City Magazine, Tampa Mafia Magazine.