Family Secrets figure to serve 8 1/2 years

Tribune staff reporter

Saying he was swayed by a family's plea for mercy, a federal judge sentenced a mob figure to 8 1/2 years in prison Tuesday for passing information to his imprisoned half-brother, a reputed Outfit boss.

U.S. District Judge James Zagel said he had planned to impose a stiffer sentence until Michael Marcello's son, Sam, and others spoke of his dedication to his family."He's a decent man, he's remorseful and he's very conscious of his actions," the son said of Marcello, who pleaded guilty in June to racketeering and conspiracy to conduct affairs with organized crime. "He's always insisted I conduct myself with principle. He encouraged me to make more of myself than I ever thought I could."

Zagel said Marcello's loyalty had made him an exceptional family member but may also have led him down "the disastrous path" to his mob activities.

"Maybe one of your principles is one of your problems," the judge said. "Maybe you were too good of a brother."

Zagel said he had intended to sentence Marcello to more than nine years -- the maximum called for under federal sentencing guidelines.

Still, Marcello's attorneys, Arthur Nasser and Catharine O'Daniel, expressed disappointment at the sentence, which was six months short of the maximum under federal guidelines.

As one of the first defendants to plead guilty in the Family Secrets indictment, Marcello admitted he passed information to his incarcerated half-brother, James Marcello, the reputed head of the Chicago Outfit. He also admitted to being a member of the Outfit's Melrose Park Crew.

He acknowledged relaying payments of $4,000 a month to mobster Nicholas Calabrese in a bid to buy his silence. Calabrese later became the star witness for the prosecution during last summer's Family Secrets trial.

During sentencing, prosecutors argued that while Marcello was a beloved family man, he was associated with organized crime for almost a decade and had evaded more than $1 million in taxes.

"He is not the worst of the bunch, but when you're talking about the Chicago Outfit, this is a pretty grim and evil bunch," Assistant U.S. Atty Markus Funk said.

Marcello, 58, expressed remorse for his wrongdoing and said he looked forward to rejoining his family after his release. He said he already has missed many family milestones, including the death of his mother. Marcello said he also regretted he would not see his grandchildren born when his daughter-in-law gives birth to twins.

"I put myself in this situation," he said as a dozen or more emotional supporters watched. "I have no one else to blame but myself."

He called his three years in a federal Loop jail the "wakeup call of a lifetime."

James Marcello and two other mob figures, Joey "the Clown "Lombardo and Frank Calabrese Sr., were convicted last fall in some of the most infamous gangland slayings in Chicago history. The jury ruled James Marcello took part in the 1986 murders of Anthony Spilotro, the mob's Las Vegas chieftain, and his brother Michael.

Michael Marcello was not implicated in any murders.

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