Monday, September 10, 2007


It's understandable that in the midst of the Petraeus hearings, news from the "Family Secrets" trial in Chicago would get overshadowed. But for mob buffs, today's verdicts are key: A federal jury has found all five defendants guilty on racketeering and conspiracy charges. These members of "The Outfit" include capo James "Little Jimmy" Marcello and hitman Frank Calabrese.

It was testimony by Calabrese's own brother that proved vital to the prosecution. And as a result, we now know the true story behind the deaths of Anthony and Michael Spilotro (the former made famous by Joe Pesci in Casino): It turns out the brothers were not killed in the Indiana cornfield back in 1986. They were instead lured into the basement of an associate's home in Bensenville, Illinois, after being told Anthony was getting promoted to captain while his brother would be "made."

Last July, Nicholas Calabrese took the stand and explained how the Spilotro brothers entered the basement. The last thing Calabrese remembers hearing out of Anthony was, "Can I say a prayer?" Then the two brothers were beaten and strangled to death by a gang of men. (I guess the answer was no.) According to forensic pathologist Dr. John Pless, the Spilotros died of blunt trauma, more likely from fists than bats. They were later buried in the Indiana cornfield.

We also learn the Spilotros had another brother (a civilian) who happened to be a dentist. Patrick Spilotro actually asked one of his brothers' killers why they had to go. As Joe "Joey the Clown" Lombardo explained: "Doc, you get an order, you follow the order. If you don't follow the order, you go too." (Dr. Spilotro also testified in the recent trial.)

Casino (both book and movie) was correct, however, when it came to motive. The Outfit had had enough of Anthony Spilotro's shenanigans, including unauthorized hits, attempting to blow up Frank Rosenthal (DeNiro's Ace Rothstein) and having an affair with his wife. (The Chicago Sun-Times has excellent coverage of the months-long trial.)

In any event, the movie had the right spirit of Anthony "The Ant" Spilotro, particularly when Pesci's character reveals to a banker the true nature of his job:

I think in all fairness, I should explain to you exactly what it is that I do. For instance, tomorrow morning, I'll get up nice and early, take a walk down over to the bank and ... if you don't have my money for me, I'll crack your fuckin' head wide open in front of everybody in the bank. And just about the time that I'm comin' out of jail, hopefully, you'll be coming out of your coma. And guess what? I'll split your fuckin' head open again. 'Cause I'm fuckin' stupid. I don't give a fuck about jail. That's my business. That's what I do.

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