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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Mob Witness Officer Divulged Secrets

Mob leak trial: Witness protection officer divulged secret in Family Secrets investigation, but motive is debated
The Chicago Tribune by Robert Mitchum - April 14, 2009

Deputy U.S. Marshal John Ambrose told a family friend with mob ties that he was guarding informant hit man Nicholas Calabrese who turned on the mob

It was the secret at the heart of the Family Secrets investigation: mob hit man Nicholas Calabrese was cooperating with authorities probing dozens of gangland murders from decades earlier. By leaking that secret to a close family friend with mob connections, Deputy U.S. Marshal John Ambrose committed a "supreme betrayal of trust," a prosecutor charged as Ambrose's trial opened Monday in federal court in Chicago.  But Ambrose's attorney countered that his client never intended for the information to reach members of the Chicago Outfit and was merely boasting about protecting Calabrese to a longtime friend he viewed as a father figure. Both sides in the case agree that Ambrose discussed Calabrese's participation in the witness protection program with William Guide, a former Chicago police officer who had been convicted with Ambrose's father in the Marquette 10 police corruption trial in the 1980s. But this trial could turn on Ambrose's motivations for confiding in Guide about Calabrese in 2002 and 2003.

"What makes [Ambrose's leak] even worse is that he disclosed information to an individual he knew was a felon with organized-crime ties, and he knew that some of that information would go back to organized-crime members," Assistant U.S. Atty. Markus Funk told jurors. But Ambrose's lawyer, Francis Lipuma, denied that Ambrose intended for the information to go beyond Guide. Ambrose merely shared stories with Guide at a wrestling meet that he was in the security detail when Calabrese twice visited Chicago to assist federal authorities, Lipuma said. "He was boasting about what he had done and what he was doing," Lipuma said. "Nothing he said was sensitive or put anyone in danger." Authorities first suspected a leak about Calabrese's cooperation when covert recordings of conversations between brothers and Outfit members James and Michael Marcello found them talking about confidential information obtained from Calabrese's "baby-sitter," Funk said. Despite ironclad security around the imprisoned Calabrese, the Marcellos were recorded discussing key aspects of his cooperation within weeks of Calabrese's secret visits to Chicago, Funk said. Authorities have described Calabrese as the first made member of the Chicago mob to cooperate against Outfit cohorts, and his testimony at the 2007 trial led to life sentences for several top mob bosses.

At one point, prosecutors said, Michael Marcello made reference to the source of the information being the son of a man convicted in the Marquette 10 trial who later died in prison. Ambrose's father, Thomas, a former Chicago police officer, died in a federal prison in Texas four years after being convicted on federal bribery charges. When he was confronted with the allegations in 2006 by U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald and Robert Grant, in charge of the FBI office in Chicago, Ambrose admitted he looked at a witness security file that contained detailed information about Calabrese's cooperation and later told Guide about several details. Lipuma did not deny Ambrose's admission but said his client told Fitzgerald and Grant, "I messed up, I screwed up ... but it's not what you think." "John did make a mistake, a big mistake," Lipuma said. "But he did not act with any criminal intent to commit any of the charged crimes." The undercover recordings indicate that the Marcello brothers did not know the exact source of their information and could have gotten it from multiple places, including media reports speculating about Calabrese's cooperation with authorities, Lipuma said. Prosecutors plan to call Fitzgerald and Michael Marcello, who pleaded guilty in the Family Secrets prosecution. Testimony also is expected by officials from the witness protection program who will testify from behind a screen to protect their identities from the courtroom gallery.

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