September 4, 2007, - 9:06 am
By Debbie Schlussel
For the last several weeks, I was and continue to be fascinated with the big, ongoing Chicago Mob trial. It reminds me of the old days when the FBI and Justice Department did a semi-decent job of chasing organized crime, rather than the completely crummy job they do today of only focusing on terrorism (and reaching out to terrorists for falafel dinners together). “The Outfit” prosecution is one of the last remnants of the great FBI J. Edgar Hoover molded, which has now sunk to the heights of mediocrity in its limp “war” on terrorism (at the cost of all other crime investigations).
Prosecutors in the trial of “The Outfit”–a Chicago-based Mafia operation–say this isn’t “The Godfather” or “The Sopranos,” but it sure sounds like it. Ditto for the names and nicknames of the Defendants, which include Joseph “Joey the Clown” Lombardo and Paul “the Indian” Schiro (as well as James Marcello, and Frank Calabrese Sr.). The mob boss was named Angelo “the Hook” LaPietra. One of the men they were alleged to have murdered was named Anthony “The Ant” Spilotro.
And, as in the movies, the Judge felt the jurors’ lives were in danger. He ordered that their names be sealed and that they be referred to only by numbers. This is not only just like TV and the movies, it is straight from them.
Accused Mafioso (Mafiosi?) Defendants’ lawyers say the trial is evidence that FBI stands for “Forever Bothering Italians.” Maybe it once did, but today, it stands for “Forever Butt-kissing Islamists.” (Thanks, reader Nodog.)
Today, most Mafia operations are on their last legs. Organized crime isn’t what it once was. But it’s not been put completely out of its misery, and Cosa Nostra (“Our Thing”–those in the know don’t use “La” at the beginning of the phrase) is festering again.
Now the fate of the elders of “The Outfit” are in the hands of the Jury. More of the details of “The Outfit” trial:
For 10 weeks, the Family Secrets trial has mesmerized this city and opened a window into the workings of Chicago’s organized crime operation known as the Outfit. . . .
Testimony about grisly killings, family betrayals and secret ceremonies sometimes seemed borrowed from those fictional dramas. . . .
The five defendants, all in their 60s or 70s and facing sentences that could put them in prison for the rest of their lives if convicted, include reputed members of the Outfit and a former policeman. They are Joseph “Joey the Clown” Lombardo, Paul “the Indian” Schiro, James Marcello and Frank Calabrese Sr.
The 43-page indictment charged them with 18 murders, racketeering, extortion, loan-sharking and illegal gambling. Retired policeman Anthony Doyle is not charged in the murders.
Prosecution witnesses described the rituals and violence of Mob life:
* Nicholas Calabrese testified that he held a man’s arms decades ago while his brother, Frank Calabrese Sr., strangled the man with a rope, then slit his throat. “I wet my pants, I was so scared,” he said. Nicholas Calabrese pleaded guilty in the case and admitted taking part in 14 murders.
* Just before reputed mobster Anthony “the Ant” Spilotro was beaten to death for attracting too much attention to the Outfit’s Las Vegas operations, Nicholas Calabrese testified, the man realized he had walked into a trap.
Spilotro asked, “Can I say a prayer?”
* Frank Calabrese Jr. taped conversations with his father while both were in a Michigan prison for loan sharking. The senior Calabrese said that new Mob members are “made” at ceremonies where their fingers are cut and religious cards are burned in their palms while bosses watch to see if recruits flinch in pain.
Nicholas Calabrese testified that at his ceremony, he had to say as the card burned, “If I give up my brothers, may I burn in hell like this holy picture.”
* Cash collections were split with boss Angelo “the Hook” LaPietra, Nicholas Calabrese testified. He sometimes stuffed money into an oven mitt hanging from a nail in LaPietra’s garage, he said, flipping the mitt over to indicate the cash was inside. LaPietra died in 1999.
* Michael Talarico [DS: Hmmm . . . Aerosmith's Steven Tyler's real surname is Talarico], an admitted bookie who ran surveillance for the Outfit, testified that he once left a dead rat with a rope around its neck at the office of someone who had irritated LaPietra, his uncle. Nicholas Calabrese once cut the head off a puppy and left it on someone’s car, Talarico said.
Defense lawyers called Nicholas Calabrese and Frank Calabrese Jr. liars. Attorney Joseph Lopez, who represents Frank Calabrese Sr., said Nicholas “would shoot you in the head over a cold ravioli.” . . .
Frank Calabrese Sr. and Lombardo each testified and denied that they are members of the Outfit. The elder Calabrese said his brother was the real power in the Mob. All the defendants pleaded not guilty.
Rick Halprin, Lombardo’s lawyer, said his client did “run the oldest and most reliable floating crap game on Grand Avenue.” The remark echoed the musical Guys and Dolls, in which Nathan Detroit runs “the oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York.”
John Binder, author of the 2003 book The Chicago Outfit, says the Outfit has shrunk since its heyday, but it’s still involved in narcotics, illegal gambling and lending. The men who are on trial have been replaced, he says.
“Maybe the Outfit will break up one day, but I don’t think this is going to be it,” Binder says. “It’s been declared dead before and people were wrong every time.”
Robert Fuesel, a retired IRS special agent who pursued the Outfit from 1958 until 1986, agrees.
“They’re not as flamboyant as they were in the days of Al Capone, but there’s a whole new fresh breed out there,” he says. “Organized crime survives anyplace where there’s money to be had.”
And it flourishes, today, because it’s neglected almost completely by an FBI and Justice Department, who focus instead on mostly bungling terrorism cases (and pursuing Americans in trumped-up “hate crimes” against extremist Muslims).
For the record, I know that terrorists–or, let’s get real, Islam–is a much bigger threat to America than the dying Mob. But you never saw the FBI conduct raids of Mobsters, then apologize to the Gambino and Genovese families for having done so (that’s what the FBI did after raiding Muslim charities funding Hezbollah in the Detroit area). And they never sponsored Gotti Family reunions or sat down for cannoli with John, Jr. in the name of “outreach.” The FBI and Justice Department are doing the equivalent of all of these with open Islamic terrorist supporters and their organizations. (Oh, and one other thing: Plenty of Italian FBI agents went after mobsters. You can’t say the same for Muslim FBI agents, many of whom have refused to investigate Muslims and have tipped them off, a la Gamal Abdel-Hafiz, who refused to surveil Sami Al-Arian and tipped off HAMAS financiers that they were targets).
Clearly, the FBI isn’t serious about stopping Islamic “organized crime,” so we’d be best off if another agency was and the bloated FBI bureaucracy stuck to what it was good at, regular, non-terrorism-related crime investigations.
Tags: Al Capone, America, Anthony Doyle, attorney, author, Chicago, Debbie Schlussel, Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Frank Calabrese Jr., Frank Calabrese Sr., Gamal-Abdel Hafiz, Grand Avenue, Hamas, Hizballah, Internal Revenue Service, J. Edgar Hoover, James Marcello, John, John Binder, Joseph Lopez, Jr., LaPietra, Las Vegas, lawyer, Michael Talarico, Michigan, Michigan prison, Mob, Nathan Detroit, New York, Nicholas Calabrese, Outfit, pain, policeman, Rick Halprin, Robert Fuesel, Sami Al-Arian, Special Agent, Steven Tyler, The Sopranos