Family Secrets: Inside the Trial

Special thanks to Chicago Sun-Times reporter Steve Warmbir for mentioning our mini-series on his addictive mob blog: The Outfit on Trial. During the trial, I followed his in-depth, daily coverage to wrap my head around what Tom was experiencing. We are beyond flattered!

A Family Secrets juror’s fascinating, funny perspective

“It’s a fascinating and surprisingly funny series of anecdotes about what it’s like to go through such an intense experience of sitting on a jury in judgment of some of the worst mob killers in Chicago history, under intense media scrutiny.”

First day of the trial: So we enter the courtroom.  I am the last one to leave the jury room, lock the door, give a thumbs up to the bailiff, and we stand in line to enter.  I feel a bit like coming out of the locker room before a big game.

Who’s gonna be in the stands?   I walk in and sit in the comfy swivel chairs in the front row right next to the witness stand, and in front of my guy, Judge Zagel.

I look around, and low and behold, I start recognizing all of Chicago’s news reporters: Carol Marin, Chuck Goudie (NBC/he’s orange in person too), Zane Placko (FOX), Steve Warmbir (Sun Times), Jeff Coen (Tribune), and John Kass (Tribune). There are FBI agents, U.S. Marshalls, IRS guys, and probably a couple hundred spectators.

Things get started quickly, and it is at this time I realize that this is going to be an interesting experience that I will never forget.  Please know that I am not trying to make light of the magnitude of the trial. Eighteen people were dead and five men’s lives were in our hands. My way of coping and getting through each day was through humor and the bonds I made with my fellow jurors.

I am not going to bore you, nor do I have the patience to write all of the details of two months, but figured I can give you a snippet of highlights from my experience.


The first full week of the trial, James Stolfe, owner and founder of Connie’s Pizza took the stand.   Ironically, I underwrote a business loan with Mr. Stolfe when I worked in the banking industry 15 years prior. I felt obligated to tell the judge that I had prior dealings with him, so I could cover my ass.  I had the bailiff slip him a note stating that I had business dealings with him.

After a break, I am pulled into a side room with just me, the judge, and what seemed like 75 lawyers. I have a guy in a dress, seriously a dozen suits, and me in a golf shirt and quite possibly piss dribble on my pants wondering what is going on. Judge Zagel asked if any one had any issues with my legitimate banking history with Mr. Stolfe.  Fortunately the lawyers gave me a pass, and my first side bar was over with.


Frank Calabrese Sr.’s attorney was Joe “The Shark” Lopez — he is important, just ask him. He used to say “inanyevent” almost every other sentence.  Early in the trial, the jurors made up a game for a day: any time he said that phrase, we’d take a sip of water.  Needless to say, I had to give the judge a high sign for a break because my eyes were floating.


I made it known in the jury room how great Carol Marin looked throughout the trial. (I obviously have a thing for red-heads.)   One day, I held the elevator for her and we rode it together.  I sat in silence, but raced to the room to explain to the jurors that Carol and I had a moment.  While they were happy for me, one juror asked, “Did you see her panty lines today?”

“Get out of here!” was my immediate reaction.  He’s like, yep, check it out.

When Ms. Marin left the room, there were more rubbernecks following her out of the room than a rear end fender bender on the Ike.


Finally, John Kass, the boisterous Tribune writer I’m sure Richie Daley will miss, once introduced himself to me on the elevator, acting like he didn’t know who I am.  The guy was looking at me for two months, but wanted to know if I was working or watching?   Huh?   Well, being the attention hog that I am, I immediately told Judge Zagel.

I heard that Johnny got yelled at (sorry about that), but if he had Carol’s panty lines, I wouldn’t have narced on him.

There are about five more posts left in this series. Please leave comments and questions! We are working on a couple of surprises — stay tuned.
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  1. Dooner

    Isn’t your wife a burnette?

  2. M. Wiener

    hahahahahahahaha. Love the story! Hey, next time you run into John Kass, just punch him in the nose. He spews more venom than a snake in fight. I get that he sort of personifies Chicagoans, but maybe we need to brighten up our image a bit…

  3. Patty

    I know I’m a wimp, but I get nervous every time I read it that some mobster is going to come after you, and now maybe reporters! But I can’t stop reading!!!!!

  4. Karen

    Wife, what wife? I might not have the red hair, but I do have perpetual panty lines!

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