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

January 2009 Archives

Federal judges determine the sentences for convicted criminals based on a point system.

It's complex, but basically, the points are totaled based on your crimes and your criminal background.

The scale tops out at 43. You get a 43, you get life.

Mob killer Frank Calabrese Sr. got a 54, the highest the judge in the case had ever seen.

Outfit killer Frank Calabrese Sr. has repeatedly threatened to kill one of the federal prosecutors who put him away for life, Markus Funk.

But you wouldn't know it from Calabrese Sr.'s recent sentencing in federal court, where Funk appeared to make it a point that Calabrese Sr.'s threat had zero effect on him.

At times, the two men stood side by side at a lectern in front of the judge, the taller Funk towering over the shorter Calabrese Sr.

Kurt Calabrese had nothing to do with the Family Secrets case.

He didn't testify for the prosecution. He didn't testify for the defense.

But he had one last shot to confront his father, who had beaten him since he was little.

One last shot before mob hitman Frank Calabrese Sr. went away for life, and would be under such a lockdown that Kurt Calabrese would never be able to visit him, not that he would want to.

On Wednesday, Kurt Calabrese took his chance.

He told of the beatings he endured.

How his father threatened to bite the nose off his face, how he threatened to make him disappear.

How Calabrese Sr. would throw things at him, heavy things, like ashtrays, phones, shoes, tools.

And of course, punches.

How his father would get him down on the ground, then keep him down, kicking him.

How his father wouldn't leave him alone, even after the years of abuse, when Kurt Calabrese had nothing to do, wanted nothing to do, with the Family Secrets trial.

How his father had someone put dead rats on his doorstep and a fake bomb on his porch.

Kurt Calabrese stopped the litany of abuse then said something surprising.

"In spite of all this, I forgive you dad," Kurt Calabrese said.

He said he prayed for his father's soul and asked him to apologize.

Frank Calabrese Sr. had only bile for his boy.

"You better apologize for all the lies you told," he said.

He claimed his son stole millions of dollars from him.

"I never took a penny," Kurt Calabrese said.

"To apologzie for something I didn't do would be wrong," Frank Calabrese Sr. said.

"You, Kurt, were treated like a king," he said.

"You never hurt me?" Kurt Calabrese asked his father. "You never beat me? You never threw me down?"

His father denied it all, saying he used a paddle and strap to hit his son on his backside when he was a kid, but that was all.

The prosecution objected to Calabrese Sr. interrupting his son, and the judge brought the last dialogue between the father and son to an end.

Frank Calabrese Sr. spoke for about 40 minutes in front of Judge James Zagel before he was sentenced to life in prison.

Calabrese Sr. often rambled, and he offered little new for anyone familiar with his complaints about the trial, his family and his life.

One thing that is clear is that Calabrese Sr. is not too fond of the highly restrictive lockdown he's on in prison.

It's the kind of lockdown done for the most dangerous terrorists. Calabrese Sr.'s lawyer has compared it to how Hannibal Lecter was treated.

And the feds don't have to tell you why. They just do it to you. (Calabrese Sr. was placed under those conditions because he once again threatened to kill the federal prosecutor in the case, Markus Funk, sources have told the Chicago Sun-Times.)

Calabrese Sr. went through his Greatest Hits of gripes.

In short,

-His brother and two sons are liars.

-His sons want to keep him in prison, so they can keep the money they stole from him. Also stolen from him were some antique cars.

-He didn't kill anybody and feels sorry for the victims' families. May God bless them, he said.

-He was a nobody and never part of the mob.

Quote: "I'm not no big shot. I'm nothing but a human being. You cut my hand, and I bleed like anyone else." (Whether he knows it or not, Calabrese is paraphrasing Shylock from Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice in these last two lines, which is interesting, since Shylock, too, was a violent loanshark who felt betrayed by family.)

-He's sick and has gone from five to six medications a day, to 15.

-He never beat his sons, especially not Kurt. He would never beat anybody, since he himself was a victim of child abuse.

-It's unfortunate somebody left a fake bomb at his son's Kurt's house, right before the trial started, but it wasn't him; he had nothing to gain.

-People should read the Bible, especially the part about sons betraying fathers.

-He never threatened or extorted his friend who owns Connie's Pizza, although he acknowledged the obvious fact the man looked scared to death on the witness stand. Calabrese Sr. suggested his friend was scared of the government.

-All he wants is peace and for all the lies to stop.

In one new wrinkle, he offered to sit in a room with the jury one-on-one and suggested they would come away with an entirely different impression of him than they did from the trial.

Frank Calabrese Sr. never lacks for positive thinking.

Paul Haggerty's widow

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Frank Calabrese Sr. killed Paul Haggerty in 1976.

Paul's wife, Charlene Moravecek, was 7 1/2 months pregnant at the time, and the stress caused her to deliver the baby early, she believes

Her daughter didn't make it to live a year.

Moravecek blames Calabrese Sr. not only for the death of her husband but also the death of her child.

On Wednesday, she looked him in the eye and called him stupid and told him he would face final judgment before God.

"And that's when I'll get my revenge," Moravecek said.

And while she took comfort in God's justice, she also had questions.

"Where was God 32 years ago when you slit his throat," Moravecek asked.

Moravecek wore the same cross that her husband was wearing when he was murdered.

"You broke my heart," she told Calabrese Sr. But you didn't take my dignity. You'll never take my dignity."

"God bless you," Calabrese Sr. said.

"Don't even try," Moravecek responded.

She felt Calabrese Sr. was mocking her and was having none of it.

Afterward, Moravecek said she wished Calabrese Sr. could have been given the death penalty.

"I do believe in an eye for an eye."

The ceremonial courtroom at the Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago was all but packed.

Frank Calabrese Sr. and his attorney, Joseph "The Shark" Lopez, were at a large table in the center of the room. To their left at another table sat federal prosecutor Markus Funk and FBI Agent Mike Maseth.

The ceremonial courtroom is more than twice the size of regular courtrooms at the federal building and on its walls are black-and-white photographs of all the federal judges in the building. The judges all bore silent witness to the proceedings.

One deputy U.S. marshal sat directly behind Calabrese Sr. Four more were poised directly to Calabrese Sr.'s right. They were ready if Calabrese Sr. decided to make a move.

U.S. District Judge James Zagel sat front and center, speaking in a soft voice, amplified by a microphone.

Tom Bourgeois was one of the key FBI agents involved in the Family Secrets case.

In fact, Bourgeois was the agent that Frank Calabrese Jr. wrote a letter to in 1998, telling him he wanted to cooperate against his father.

Bourgeois attended the sentencing of Calabrese Sr. and had this take on the man.

"This guy's pathetic," Bourgeois said. "Not only is he guilty of horrible crimes. He's guilty of being a horrible parent and a horrible brother."

"It's really a sad story."

Here's what is in the Chicago Sun-Times tomorrow on the Frank Calabrese Sr. sentencing. More to come.

For decades, Frank Calabrese Sr., one of Chicago mob's most prolific hitmen,
worked in the shadows, escaping punishment for the devastation he left on
the streets and in his own home.
On Wednesday, came his reckoning.
Calabrese Sr., 71, was sentenced to life in prison for what a federal judge
called "unspeakable" crimes in one of the most dramatic sentencing hearings
at federal court in Chicago in recent memory as part of the Family Secrets
mob case.
A jury had found Calabrese liable for seven of 13 murders he was accused of
at trial. But U.S. District Judge James Zagel sentenced Calabrese for all 13
slayings after finding prosecutors had proven them by clear and convincing
evidence, which is allowed by federal law.
Calabrese was confronted by testimony from 10 people who described the
wreckage of their lives after Calabrese killed their fathers, their
brothers, their sons, their loved ones.
"You broke my heart," said Charlene Moravecek, whose husband, Paul Haggerty,
Calabrese Sr. murdered in 1976.
"But you didn't take my dignity," Moravecek said, staring daggers at
Calabrese Sr. "You'll never take my dignity."
"God bless you," the mob killer said.
"Don't even try," Moravecek replied.
The judge noted the case against Calabrese Sr. was unique. Not only did his
brother, Nick, testify against him, but so did his son, Frank Jr.
Nick Calabrese was a mob hitman turned government witness who told the jury
about the murders he and his brother committed.
Frank Calabrese Jr. secretly recorded his father while they were in prison
and got him to brag and laugh about mob murders he took part in.
On Wednesday, another son not involved in the Family Secrets case, Kurt
Calabrese, also testified as a victim, saying his father would beat him "at
a moment's notice" since he was a child.
Calabrese Sr. would threaten to bite the nose off his son's face and said he
could make him disappear whenever he wanted, Kurt Calabrese said.
Still, Kurt Calabrese said he forgave his father.
Calabrese Sr. was having none of it.
"You better apologize for the lies you told," Calabrese Sr. snapped back.
"You, Kurt, were treated like a king," Calabrese Sr. later said.
"You never hurt me, you never beat me, you never threw me down," Kurt
Calabrese asked.
"I hit you with a strap and a paddle when you were younger," his father
For his part, Calabrese Sr. gave a 40-minute speech to the judge, in which
he denied killing anyone, expressed sympathy for the victims' families and
attacked his two sons as liars.
"I'm not no big shot," Calabrese Sr. said. "All I can want is peace. I would
love to have my boys back again."

Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo is up for sentencing Monday.

Among the crimes he will be sentenced for is the 1974 murder of Bensenville area businessman Daniel Seifert who was scheduled to testify against Lombardo at a federal trial.

Check out the FBI 302 Report summary of the agents' interview with Seifert's wife, Emma, just after he was slain.

On Monday, mob associate Paul Schiro got sentenced for a murder that a federal jury never found him liable for.

This is bad news for mob killer Frank Calabrese Sr., who is to be sentenced Wednesday in the Family Secrets case.

Here's why:

Schiro gets 20 years

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Paul Schiro

Mob killer Paul Schiro was sentenced today to 20 years in prison as part of the historic Family Secrets case after a federal judge found he had taken part in the 1986 Outfit slaying of Schiro's close friend, Emil Vaci.

A jury had found Schiro guilty of racketeering but couldn't reach a verdict on Vaci's killing.

But U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel found that the prosecution had proven by a preponderance of evidence that Schiro had helped kill Vaci. And the judge took that into account in sentencing Schiro, as the law allows.

Schiro was the first of the Family Secrets defendants who went to trial to be sentenced. Prolific mob killer Frank Calabrese Sr. is to be sentenced Wednesday, while mob bosses James Marcello and Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo are to be sentenced next week.

Zagel said a 20-year sentence would be "lenient" for Schiro except for the fact that Schiro is 71.

Schiro, a career criminal and close friend to infamous Chicago mobster Tony Spilotro, was essentially on call to do the mob's bidding, Zagel noted. When the Outfit asked him to help kill his friend, Zagel noted, there was "no evidence of hesitation."

Vaci was killed in Phoenix outside the restaurant where he worked because the Chicago mob feared he was cooperating with a federal criminal investigation into the disappearance of a man who had helped the Outfit skim millions of dollars but then ripped off the mob.

Schiro did not pull the trigger on his friend but was in a nearby car, acting as a lookout and listening to a police scanner, according to court testimomy.

Mob killer-turned-government witness Nick Calabrese testified at trial that Schiro took part in the planning of Vaci's killing. Calabrese said he and an accomplice pulled Vaci into a van, then Calabrese shot Vaci several times in the head and dumped his body in a canal.

Schiro was defiant in comments today to the judge, saying that prosecutor Markus Funk was misquoting testimony.

"There's no evidence of racketeering I can see at all," Schiro said. "I don't know how the jury found me guilty of racketeering. I went to trial with co-defendants I never met in my whole life."

Quick update.

The sentencing date for former Chicago police officer Anthony "Twan" Doyle has been postponed.

He was scheduled to be sentenced next week, and a new date has not been set.

His attorney, Ralph Meczyk, couldn't attend the hearing because of health problems.

Here a few answers to the many questions I've been getting about the upcoming sentencings in the Family Secrets case.

Victims' families are expected to be able to speak at the sentencings.

The sentencings are expected to be held in the ceremonial courtroom on the 25th floor, where the Family Secrets trial was held.

The sentencings could last a few hours or possibly go into the following day, depending on how many matters are at issue during the sentencing, as well as how long the victims take to speak and how long each defendant takes to address the court.

Mob boss cries foul

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Chicago mob boss James "Little Jimmy" Marcello is complaining through his lawyers about the attempt by federal prosecutors to clear the air over how Marcello's father died.

Prosecutors noted in a court filing that Marcello's dad, Sam, was murdered while trying to collect a juice loan in 1973.

James Marcello has previously told court officers interviewing him about his past that his father died in a car accident or declined to discuss his father's death.

Marcello's attorneys had strong words for prosecutors revisiting the public record.

Judge James Zagel has set new sentencing dates for the Family Secrets case.

They are:

Paul Schiro and Anthony Doyle on Jan. 26
Frank Calabrese Sr. on Jan. 28
Joseph Lombardo on Feb. 2
James Marcello on Feb. 5
Nicholas Calabrese on Feb. 23

All are at 2 p.m. in courtroom 2525 before Zagel.

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