Two trials for the price of one hotel room

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It’s puzzling that during these do-nothing days while the Conrad Black jury is out more of the visiting Canadian and British press corps isn’t ducking into the “Family Secrets” trial. I mean, you're in Chicago already, seize the day! “Family Secrets” involves the Chicago mob, spiritually descended from Capone, in all its rancid glory, and how can any reporter who wallows in cultural cliche resist? You foreigners dissecting the ineffable lower-middle-class charms of Black's jury--don’t pretend you don't.

But though my Google search doesn’t turn up much in the way of international reporting on Calabrese, Lombardo et al, there are exceptions.  For instance, Nils Blythe of the BBC squeezed both trials into one story--not without strain. “So there is a curious connection between the two big trials in Chicago,” Blythe concluded. “Alleged murderers and mobsters are on trial on the 25th floor. A former media mogul is on trial on the 12th floor, under a law [the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organization Act, or RICO] designed to prosecute the mob. Lord Black is 62--and if found guilty of racketeering and other offences, he could spend the rest of his life behind bars. It is the same fate as that which awaits the alleged murderers in the court upstairs.”

And Rosie Dimanno of the Toronto Star began her piece: “Conspiracy, racketeering, usurious payment fees and a confederacy of sordid business wiseguys. No, we are not talking here about Conrad Black and his merry gang of alleged corporate hoodlums, although some similarities are tantalizing. Black et al haven’t been charged with whacking associates, rivals and plea-copping rats. There are boardroom hit men and there are gangland hit men, although both wear bespoke Italian suits.”

Dimanno smartly alerted her readers that among the crimes figuring into the Family Secrets trial was the murder back in 1986 of Anthony and Michael Spilotro, "themselves Mafia assassins. Martin Scorsese told their story in the movie Casino, one of them played by Joe Pesci. The film got some details wrong--the brothers were beaten to death a week before their bodies were found in an Indiana cornfield.” Thus she one-upped Leonard Doyle, a Washington correspondent for Britain’s Independent who’d written about “Family Secrets” a few days earlier and made his own allusions to Casino, the Spilotros, Pesci, and that Indiana cornfield but had failed to point out where Scorsese went astray.

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