Chicago Sun-Times
Inside the Family Secrets mob trial with Sun-Times reporter Steve Warmbir

August 2007 Archives

Just for the record

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The Last Supper photo

Earlier this week, the attorney for Joseph Lombardo, Rick Halprin, tried to anticipate an argument that he believed the prosecution would make in its rebuttal.

Halprin scoffed at the notion that the famous Last Supper photo of Lombardo, standing, with a group of mobsters sitting around a table, showed Lombardo's 1976 making ceremony.

Prosecution: The murder case against Paul Schiro

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Victim Emil Vaci

Prosecutor Mitch Mars put the pieces together for jurors in the 1986 murder of Emil Vaci in Phoenix.

Now, they'll have to decide if they form a convincing picture.

Vaci, 72, was killed by the Chicago Outfit because he was going to testify before a federal grand jury about a slots cheat, Jay Vandermark, who was overseeing the Outfit skim on slots at a few casinos but ripped off the mob for millions of dollars.

Outfit killer Nick Calabrese, a star witness for the government, said he and another mob hitman, Joseph Hansen, parked a light blue cargo van next to Vaci's car in the parking lot of the restaurant where Vaci worked.

The prosecution's case: Lombardo killed Daniel Seifert

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Daniel Seifert

Federal prosecutor Mitchell Mars, in a searing final argument for the government, laid out the evidence against Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo in the most comprehensive fashion to date concering his alleged role in the 1974 murder of Bensenville businessman Daniel Seifert.

Seifert was shotgunned just yards from his wife and 4-year-old son at his fiberglass factory in Bensenville.

Here's the government's evidence:

Lombardo had the best motive to kill Seifert. Former federal prosecutor Matt Lydon testified at trial that Seifert was the only witness to link Lombardo to a 1974 Teamster pension fund fraud case. When Seifert died, so did the case against Lombardo. Mars argued that if Lombardo had been convicted in the 1974 case, his access to the millions of dollars in Teamster pension fund money would have been gone too.

"He loses his grip on the golden goose," Mars told jurors.

Emma Seifert, Daniel's widow, testified that Lombardo was at Seifert's business the week before Seifert was slain, casing out the place.

Secret court hearing

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There was a secret court hearing in the Family Secrets case that was closed to the public.

The contents are under seal.

But the Chicago Sun-Times has learned it involved a juror in the case.

Another suspect in the Seifert slaying?

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Irwin Weiner

The laywers for Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo have suggested someone else who should be the chief suspect in the 1974 slaying of federal witness Daniel Seifert.

The late bail bondsmen and businessman Irwin Weiner.

Lombardo is accused of killing Seifert because Seifert was scheduled to be a witness against Lombardo in a federal criminal case involving embezzlement of a Teamster pension fund.

But Lombardo wasn't only one charged in the criminal case from the 1970s. So was Weiner.

The Last Supper or the making of Lombardo?

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The Last Supper

In his closing argument, Rick Halprin, the attorney for Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, tried to get in front of a potentially interesting prosecution argument about an infamous photograph.

The photo, from 1976 and seen above, shows Lombardo around a table of mob leaders.

Halprin was concerned the prosecution, in its rebuttal argument, would contend the photo is of the making ceremony of Lombardo into the Outfit.

The missing voice

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Kurt Calabrese

In the Family Secrets trial, we've heard from the patriarch of the family, Frank Calabrese Sr.

Accused of 13 murders, Calabrese Sr. has told jurors from the stand how he's the real victim in the case.

Calabrese Sr. described how his brother, Outfit killer Nicholas Calabrese, stole the affection and loyalty of two of Calabrese Sr.'s sons, Frank Jr. and Kurt.

The betrayals came even after Calabrese Sr. plead guilty in a 1995 loansharking case to get better deals for his two sons, who were also charged, according to Calabrese Sr.'s testimony.

Calabrese and Doyle chat in prison, Part II

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Anthony "Twan" Doyle, Michael Ricci, Frank Calabrese Sr.

Anthony Doyle this week tried to explain away portions of the above conversation he had with Frank Calabrese Sr. when he and a former Chicago homicide detective, Michael Ricci, visited the reputed Outfit killer in prison on Feb. 19, 1999.

Doyle, Calabrese Sr. and Ricci are talking in a visiting room about Calabrese Sr.'s current obsession:

The cop and the reputed killer

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From left to right, Calabrese Sr., Ricci and Doyle

Former Chicago police officer Anthony "Twan" Doyle has a lot to answer for during his cross-examination this morning in the Family Secrets trial.

For instance, there's this secretly recorded video clip from his time in the Milan, Mich., prison visiting room with Frank Calabrese Sr. The conversation happened in April 2000.

The letter that started it all

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The letter

In July 1998, Frank Calabrese Jr. started the Family Secrets case when he sent a letter to an FBI agent.

Calabrese Jr. said he wanted to cooperate.

Calabrese Sr.'s former attorney may testify

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Usually, an attorney can't be called to testify about what he's advised a client.

But reputed Outfit killer Frank Calabrese Sr. may have talked himself into an exception.

It all revolves around the plea agreement that Calabrese Sr. signed in 1997.

Calabrese Sr. can't read well and claims his attorney never properly briefed him on its contents.

Frank Calabrese Sr. showed a chivalrous side Tuesday.

When asked about one mobster by prosecutor John Scully, Calabrese Sr. said: "When I found out he a bit a woman's breast off and went to jail for it, I lost complete respect for him."

And then there's the matter of mysterious Martha.

Analysis: Calabrese Sr.'s testimony, Part II

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Frank Calabrese Sr. has developed an interesting strategy as he testifies as to the true meaning of what he told his son during recorded conversations the two had in prison in 1999.

The conversations pose a particular challenge to Calabrese Sr. because they are his own words apparently describing in great detail mob murders he allegedly committed.

Calabrese Sr.'s attorney, Joseph R. Lopez, goes through each conversation and asks him about particular passages.

Calabrese Sr. pauses then give his interpretation of it.

The conversations date to 1999, and Calabrese, at 70, does have to think back on them.

Calabrese Sr., though, has had months to prepare for trial and consider what he said back then.

His strategy gives his testimony a making-it-up-as-he-goes-along feel.

Analysis: Frank Calabrese Sr.'s testimony so far

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Reputed Outfit killer and crew boss Frank Calabrese Sr. was always talented at mob sitdowns.

Or as his attorney, Joseph R. Lopez, prefers to call them: alternative dispute resolutions.

In a sitdown, when two crews butted heads and couldn't agree on something, they would both have their say and abide by the decision of a mob boss.

Calabrese Sr., at first, treated his testimony a bit like a sitdown, hoping to tell his story the way he wants.

He didn't take into account U.S. District Judge James Zagel.

Cutting Frank Calabrese off at the pass

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A young Frank Calabrese Sr.
Federal prosecutors want to stop Frank Calabrese Sr. from testifying on two key points for his defense.

In a court motion filed Sunday, the Family Secrets prosecutors are asking U.S. District Judge James Zagel to prevent Calabrese Sr. from testifying that his sons stole his classic cars or valuables from his vacation home in Williams Bay, Wisc.

You can't tell the players without a scorecard

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The Last Supper photo

Who are these guys?

You've asked for it. You've got it.

Here they are:

There are godfathers, then there are godfathers

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Ralph DiCapua, a retired city of Chicago worker, testified this week that his friend, Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo, worked a regular job during the 1970s.

But the most interesting part of his testimony came later.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Markus Funk noted that DiCapua had testified at another court hearing for Lombardo, saying Lombardo was "the godfather of the community."

The print

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Joseph Lombardo's print

Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo got a chance Wednesday to try to explain why his left middle fingerprint is on the title application for a car used in the 1974 murder of Daniel Seifert.

The explanation centers on his late friend, businessman Irwin Weiner.


Alibi questions

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Daniel Seifert, gunned down in 1974

Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo on Wednesday presented his alibi for the murder of federal witness Daniel Seifert on Sept. 27, 1974.

He was busy filling out a police report for his stolen wallet, Lombardo told jurors.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Mitch Mars raised an interesting question.


Say cheese

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Chicago mobsters feast

Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo offered an explanation for why he's in the midst of a group of mob leaders in an Elmwood Park restaurant in a 1976 photo.

He just happened to be having lunch there and was called into the group when someone took a picture.

The photo, called The Last Supper picture, shows a host of Outfit bosses.

So it doesn't bode well for Lombardo at the Family Secrets trial.

He contends he was never an Outfit captain.

Update from the Family Secrets trial

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Joseph Lombardo this morning offered his alibi for the 1974 murder of Daniel Seifert.

As expected, Lombardo testified in the Family Secrets trial he was busy reporting his stolen wallet to police that morning.

Lombardo said he began the day going to a store to get a garage door opener, but the place wasn't open.

Looking to kill some time, he got some breakfast at a pancake house.

When he finished eating, he returned to his car.

Nicholas Seifert speaks out

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Nicholas Seifert, a son of slain federal witness Daniel Seifert, has been checking out the Outfit on Trial blog, and some of the posts concern him, Seifert said in an interview Monday.

Several posters have questioned why federal prosecutors are going after Joseph Lombardo, who is now 78, for the Seifert murder in 1974 and other alleged misdeeds that are decades old.

"Lombardo may have supposedly changed his ways and everything else, it doesn't change any crimes he did in the past," Seifert said.

Frank Calabrese Sr.'s defense

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Frank Calabrese Sr., in happier times

In this trial, Frank Calabrese Sr. is in a jam.

He's had his hitman younger brother, Nick, testify about the murders they went out on together.

And he's had his eldest son, Frank Jr., secretly tape record him talking, in great detail, about some of those very same murders.

So what's his defense?

C-O-N-S-P-I-R-A-C-Y.

Brothers talking

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James and Michael Marcello
April 24, 2003
Milan, Mich. prison visiting room

Jimmy and Mickey Marcello had a lot to talk about when Mickey visited his half-brother at the federal prison in Milan, Mich., according to federal prosecutors.

They were worried about Outfit killer Nick Calabrese. They had been hearing he had done the unthinkable: gone over to the FBI and turned informant.

And their concern was getting ratcheted up day by day.

In the following conversation, they discuss an article that had just been published by journalist Carol Marin about the Family Secrets investigation. It was an early look at some of the Outfit hits the feds were looking into, and it caught the attention of the Marcello brothers.

Take a peek into their world through the two video excerpts on this page and the next.

Check out continuing page for the transcript to follow along with the two excerpts, as well as translation of the code, from the federal government's perspective.

The sound quality isn't great, so crank up the volume.

The Clown will take the stand

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Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo

You heard it here first at the Outfit on Trial blog.

Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo is going to testify in his own defense in the Family Secrets trial.

Lombardo's attorney, Rick Halprin, made it official late Wednesday afternoon.

Is it a bold gamble or a foolhardy ploy?

The Clown is likely to take the stand

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Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo

Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo is likely to testify in his own defense in the Family Secrets trial, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

Lombardo may announce in court his intention to testify as early as Tuesday, if the prosecution wraps its case up as expected.

Lombardo's attorney, Rick Halprin, had no comment Tuesday, but Lombardo's unusual defense and Halprin's cross-examination during the case are clearly pointing toward Lombardo taking the stand.

Not the kind of attention you want

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In the last two days in the Family Secrets trial the Banks family of Chicago, politically powerful, clout heavy, have been mentioned not once but twice.

First came James Banks, a zoning attorney and nephew of Ald. William Banks.

Ann Spilotro, the widow of slain gangster Michael Spilotro, testified that when she sold her business in the late 1980s after her husband's death, she felt she got ripped off by the buyers - James Banks and state lawmaker James DeLeo.

Why is the prosecution resting so soon?

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The prosecution could rest as early as Tuesday — much earlier than originally expected.

So what does this mean for their case and the defendants?

The aftermath

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Hinsdale, I-290 on-ramp, June 24, 1981

Trucking executive Michael Cagnoni ran afoul of top Chicago mobsters.

You can see the results above.


Would you double-cross this man?

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James "Little Jimmy" Marcello

When Connie Marcello was done testifying before a federal grand jury, she drove as fast as she could to meet with the main man in her life.

Reputed crime boss James "Little Jimmy" Marcello.

He was quite interested in what the grand jury wanted to know from his mistress

And what she had to tell them.

If you see this man, call 911

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Frank Schweihs

Michael Spilotro gave his teenage daughter, Michelle, in the 1980s some serious, adamant advice after he began getting nervous about people bumping him off.

If his daughter saw reputed hitman Frank Schweihs anywhere near their Oak Park home, call the cops.

Michael Spilotro had good reason to be worried.

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