Family Secrets Trial: In all Seriousness

Welcome back to the mini-series about Tom’s experience as a juror on the Family Secrets trial. Congratulations to Brigid who won a copy of Frank Calabrese, Jr.’s new book “Operation Family Secrets.” To catch up on the series, you can visit this page.


Cagnoni Crime Scene


Tom’s turn: While I was completely enthralled in the experience of the trial, and learned so much in a couple of months, it was a taxing time for me. It was hard to listen to the details of the 18 murders and examine the photos from the crime scenes. I’d replay the testimony over and over in my head to try to keep everything straight.

It wasn’t a movie. It was real life. The victims’ families wanted justice.  And the mobsters wanted to be free.

Sleep was difficult, as I would have things running through my mind in the evenings.  It was hard to relax, spend time with my family, balance a job, and get things done around the house.

I learned that Lorazepam (a sleep aid) is damn near as good as Lipitor in the miracle drug department.  Many nights I would come home exhausted, and just want to lay down and stare at a television.

You would look at the defendants, see pictures of them from 20 years ago, and just wonder what went through their minds.

You’d see Frank Calabrese, Jr., talk in detail about having a gun pointed at his head from his father and imagine what you would do in that situation?

Jim Stolfe discussed how gentleman approached him and asked for $300,000 one day as he was just working around his restaurant. What would my reaction be?

One of the hardest things to fathom was when Nick Calabrese testified that Michael Cagnoni’s wife and four-year old child would have been blown up if they decided to take a different turn on Ogden Avenue one summer morning.  Thankfully they didn’t, but the child’s father drove the BMW later that day and met his demise.

Another four-year old boy’s only memory of his father, Joseph Seifert, was the day he was killed in front of him.  Seifert was scheduled to testify against the mob and was murdered at his fiberglass company in Bensenville.

It was very serious stuff that will be imbedded in my mind forever.

A Great Patriot: All of the jurors were impressed by the prosecuting lawyers, and in my mind, Mitchell Mars, Assistant U.S. attorney, was nothing short of a hero. Every day he would be questioning defendants, witnesses, and you could tell the respect he had over the courtroom fell just short of Judge Zagel.  He was passionate, considerate, and whether he knew it or not, related to the jury in a very positive manner.

I was so saddened to hear of his passing just months after the trial.  He coughed throughout the trial, and we thought it was just a cold he had.  Turns out that after the months he spent working on the case, he finally went to the doctor to get checked out.  His body was riddled with cancer and he passed soon after the visit.

I really wanted to attend his services as I really looked up to the guy, even if he was about 5’4”.  He made a lasting impact on the me, and basically took down the Chicago Outfit.

RIP Mitch.

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  1. DW

    I hope we’re not coming near the end of the series! It’s been fascinating to read the “behind the scenes” tales. I can not wait for the movie version, from the jury’s point of view of course. We don’t need another mob drama…but a comedy? That would be fabulous. Although the serious nature of this trial is certainly not lost on me. I can only imagine what you were going through during it. Thanks for sharing with us!

  2. TK


    The pressure we were under pales in comparison to what you went through as President of the PTA. By the way, Field has never been the same….


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