Assistant U.S. Atty. John Scully walked over to the defense tables and pointed out the men on trial one by one as he addressed jurors in a low, tense voice. Frank Calabrese Sr., a reputed Outfit hit man charged in 13 slayings, sometimes used a length of rope to strangle his victims, Scully said on the first day of the landmark Family Secrets mob trial.
Reputed Outfit boss James Marcello, he said, lured Anthony Spilotro, the mob overseer in Las Vegas, and his brother, Michael, to their violent deaths.
Joey "the Clown" Lombardo, a reputed mobster for 40 years, was behind the slaying of a businessman who was shot in front of his wife and young child before he was to testify in court against Lombardo, the prosecutor said.
Paul "the Indian" Schiro, an associate of the Spilotros, assisted in the murder of a longtime friend, he said.
Scully asked jurors to dismiss the glamorized mob of the entertainment world as he laid out the government's gritty evidence in the most significant prosecution against the Chicago Outfit in years.
"This is not 'The Sopranos.' This is not 'The Godfather.' This case is about real people and real victims," Scully said Thursday. The mob, he said, is "corrupt, it's violent, it's without honor."
In his opening statement, Frank Calabrese Sr.'s colorful lawyer, Joseph Lopez, countered with humor and an appeal to fundamental legal principles.
Lopez, wearing his trademark dark suit, pointy Italian shoes and pink shirt and socks, said jurors would hear about what amounts to a family feud. Frank Calabrese Sr.'s brother, Nicholas, is expected to be the government's star witness, and his son, Frank Jr., secretly tape-recorded his father and agreed to testify against him.
Lopez contended that Nicholas Calabrese was the real Outfit boss, and that Frank Calabrese Sr. had stepped back from heavy mob involvement since the 1980s, when his health worsened. Frank Calabrese Sr. and his namesake son simply didn't get along, Lopez said.
Both Lopez and Marcello's lawyer, Marc Martin, stressed that authorities have no physical evidence linking their clients to the murders.
Lawyers for Schiro and Anthony Doyle, a former Chicago police officer who also is on trial, are scheduled to deliver their opening statements on Monday. Doyle is not charged in connection with any slaying. Lombardo's lawyer has chosen to give his opening statement after the government rests its case weeks from now.
Testimony is likely to begin Monday in a trial expected to last at least three months. The jury has nine men and 10 women, including seven alternates.
A large crowd watched as the opening statements played out Thursday in the biggest courtroom in the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse.
The prosecution used a large screen to display mug shots of the 18 murder victims as Scully sketched out the killings and other crimes. Among the most notorious slayings are those of the Spilotros, who were beaten to death and buried in an Indiana cornfield; William and Charlotte Dauber, a hit man and his wife who were shot in their car in Will County; and Daniel Seifert, a Lombardo friend who was to testify against him.
Scully said that Lombardo's fingerprint was found on a title certificate of one of the getaway cars used in the Seifert killing.
Much of the rest of the prosecution case will rely on secretly made tape recordings and the testimony of witnesses Nicholas Calabrese and Frank Calabrese Jr. The brother will testify about his involvement in 14 mob murders and knowledge of many more, while the son recorded his father talking about the Outfit.
Scully, a longtime federal prosecutor who has specialized in organized crime, was controlled and focused as he gave jurors an overview of the complicated case. The contrast with Lopez's remarks was stark. He mixed imagery of American freedoms with descriptions of which mobster attended which Calabrese wedding -- and what jurors should make of it all.
Jurors should settle in this summer and get to know the players in a trial that the whole city is watching, he said.
"You'll be able to take note of my wardrobe," Lopez joked. "You might think I'm getting out of line with somebody [during questioning], but I'm just doing my job."
When Frank Calabrese Sr. backed away from the mob because of bad health beginning in the 1980s, brother Nick took control, Lopez said. Frank wasn't a killer, but his brother was, he said. Lopez described Frank as a peacemaker. "He prays, he has medical issues," he said.
Lopez blamed a family feud for his client's legal troubles. Frank Calabrese Sr.'s son will try to portray his father as the evil one, Lopez said, but it was his son who used to throw his weight around on Rush Street and boast of his connections. "It was good for him then, and now he's saying his father was rotten," Lopez said.
Some jurors took notes while others just watched as Lopez brought several marriages into the fray.
Frank Calabrese Sr. and his son don't get along because the son's wife drove a wedge between them, Lopez said. And Nicholas Calabrese says his brother ruined his first marriage, Lopez said, but that wife was "a little kooky" anyway.
"She sewed his zipper shut because she didn't trust him," he said.
But Lopez urged jurors to look at photos of Nicholas Calabrese's second wedding. He said they'll see plenty of Outfit notables, including John "Johnny Apes" Monteleone and others.
"They went to Nick's wedding because Nick was the boss," he said.
Among the murders detailed by the prosecution was that of Michael Albergo, believed by the mob to be a government witness. Scully said Frank Calabrese Sr. strangled him with a rope and that he and brother Nick dumped the body into a hole at a construction site near old Comiskey Park.
In 2003 the FBI tore up the site, now a parking lot, on Nicholas Calabrese's word. Lopez pointed out that dozens of bone samples turned up no links to Albergo.
In fact, no physical evidence links his client to any murder, Lopez said. Yet DNA evidence links Nick Calabrese to the bloody shooting of hit man John Fecarotta, he noted.
He told jurors that they are "mini judges" and the key to the justice system.
"That's why that flag is there," he said, motioning toward the corner of the courtroom. "That's why they kicked all that tea into Boston Harbor."
The charts used by prosecutors were filled with names of those accused of involvement in the 18 killings, including some not charged in the case. Among them was reputed ranking mobster John "No Nose" DiFronzo, who was linked to the Spilotros' murders. DiFronzo is not charged in the slayings.
Marc Martin, Marcello's lawyer, dismissed the charges against his client by saying he had been dragged into the "crosshairs of that dysfunctional family," a reference to the Calabreses.
Calabrese is trying to save his own life by blaming numerous others for his own crimes, Martin said.
"The government has made a deal with the devil," he said.