CHICAGO — Reputed mob boss Frank Calabrese Sr., one of five men convicted at Chicago's biggest underworld trial in decades, was sentenced to life in prison by a judge who described the murders he was accused of as "unspeakable."
U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel told Calabrese that his laughter during some of the trial's most grisly testimony "showed a certain callousness _ you were laughing about an impending killing."
"You are in fact guilty of appalling acts, and the fact that there may be people in the world who are worse than you doesn't excuse your actions," said Zagel, who presided over the government's landmark Operation Family Secrets trial.
"I just want to say that your crimes are unspeakable and the sentence I am about to impose on you is just," Zagel said Wednesday.
The hefty 71-year-old Calabrese, clad in an orange prison jumpsuit and wearing leg irons, was held responsible by the jury for seven long unsolved mob murders. And the pre-sentence report prepared for the judge held him responsible for six more.
"The defendant slit people's throats, he shot people, he strangled people," Assistant U.S. Attorney T. Markus Funk told the judge.
Relatives of some of those killed, some of them crying, denounced Calabrese in court for destroying their family lives.
"You ripped my heart out," said Peggy Cagnoni, whose husband was murdered.
Charlene Moravecek turned to Calabrese and described him as an "animal," saying her husband had been "slaughtered" and "dumped like a piece of trash."
Calabrese, given a chance to speak, denied that he murdered any of the victims. He said he felt sorry for the relatives.
"My life is in the hands of God," he said. He said he suffers from an enlarged heart and a host of other ailments while being held in solitary confinement in a tiny cell.
"I've been fighting every day to live and it isn't enjoyable living in that hellhole for no reason," he said.
Calabrese was among five men convicted in September 2007 at the Family Secrets trial, a major multiyear effort by the federal government to strike a powerful blow at the Chicago Outfit as the city's organized crime family calls itself. The investigation was also designed to clear 18 long unsolved mob murders dating back to the early 1970s.