I-Team Preview: Last Great Mafia Trial in Chicago - 8 News NOW

The Mob In Las Vegas

I-Team: Last Great Mafia Trial in Chicago

Posted: Updated:

Jury selection began Monday in what might qualify as the last great Mafia trial in America. The last remnants of "The Outfit," the crime family created by Al Capone, are charged with numerous murders and other felonies. It's a trial with many Las Vegas connections.

Read the names and grand jury charges.

For the next few months at least, Chicago's Everett Dirksen Federal Courthouse with be the center of the universe for "mobologists" everywhere. The last vestiges of the most powerful Mafia family in America will be on trial for 18 unsolved gangland slayings dating back more than 30 years. Among the unsolved murders are those of tough "Tony the Ant" Spilotro and his brother Michael, slayings characterized in the movie "Casino."

Spilotro was the reputed rackets boss of Las Vegas who may have thought he was in line for a promotion in the Chicago Outfit. Prosecutors believe the movie version is wrong, that the brothers were slain, instead, in a basement in the suburb of Bensenville, their bodies then thrown into shallow graves in a cornfield.

Among the defendants on trial is Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, long thought to be one of the leaders of the Chicago mob. Lombardo served prison stretches for helping to skim millions from Las Vegas casinos and for plotting to bribe a Nevada senator. His attorney, Tick Halprin says Lombardo formally withdrew from The Outfit years ago and had nothing to do with the Spilotro murders.

Halprin said, "We have to let the jury decide whether a) Lombardo was involved in a conspiracy at all, which we say he wasn't. And b), if he was, did he withdraw from the conspiracy?"

One potential witness in the case is hitman turned government informant Frank Cullotta, a boyhood friend of Spilotro's who later ran a Las Vegas burglary ring. He told the I-Team Lombardo would have known about the Spilotro hit, even though Joey The Clown was in prison when it happened.

Frank Cullotta: "He was Tony's boss and he was my boss."

George Knapp: "You reported directly to him?"

Frank Cullotta: "Tony did. I reported to Tony, so Joe relayed messages to Tony. Do I think Joe Lombardo was involved in it? I think they would have to go for him for an okay."

The investigation into The Outfit, dubbed Operation Family Secrets, is considered the most ambitious assault on the traditional Mafia in decades. The prosecution will depend considerably on the testimony of another mobster turned informant named Nick Calabrese, who will be testifying against his blood relatives for their participation in murders, extortion, and a lot more. Even the defense acknowledges this will be the best show in town.

Attorney Rick Halprin continued, "It's very, very big because you're talking Chicago. You're talking about an indictment that goes back years..."

Of the fourteen Windy City Mafia figures named in the original federal indictment, six have pleaded guilty to lesser charges and one won't be prosecuted because he is dying of cancer.

Attorneys expect the trial to last as long as four months.

Email your comments to Chief Investigative Reporter George Knapp.

Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and KLAS. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.