Ex-cop Mandell guilty in murder plot, cleared in other case - Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

Ex-cop Mandell guilty in murder plot, cleared in other case

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Steve Mandell Steve Mandell
Attorney press conference (Photo via FOX 32 News photographer Eddie Bartlett) Attorney press conference (Photo via FOX 32 News photographer Eddie Bartlett)
CHICAGO (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

Former Chicago cop Steve Mandell was convicted Friday evening of six felony counts connected to one of his gruesome torture and murder plots, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

Mandell was cleared on charges tied to another plot.

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A federal jury deliberated for 4 1/2 hours before finding Mandell, a 63-year-old former Death Row resident, of Buffalo Grove, guilty in six of eight counts.

Mandell showed no reaction as the verdicts were read.

There was some confusion when the jurors were polled individually and a woman indicated she did not agree with her peers in clearing Mandell in the second plot.

But the woman, who appeared to be an immigrant of South Asian descent, later said she had a language issue and didn't understand the question. She said she stood by the verdicts on all counts.

Mandell will be sentenced on June 19. He faces life in prison.

Damning video footage shot by a hidden FBI camera installed in the wall of a torture chamber Mandell built on the Northwest side — played for jurors during Mandell's two-week trial — showed him and his accomplice laughing as they discussed how they'd use a razor to turn a victim's genitals into a "banana split."

Mandell, who was posing as a cop when he was arrested on Oct. 25, 2012, wanted to kidnap Riverside wealthy businessman Steve Campbell, take him to the torture chamber on the 5300 block of West Devon, torture him into signing over 25 buildings, then kill him and chop him up with a meat cleaver and an electric buzzsaw.

He also wanted to break into the home of Polekatz strip club owner Anthony Quaranta, and kill Quaranta and his wife while their kids were at school, prosecutors said. Once they were dead, he planned to seize control of the lucrative Bridgeview club, which has alleged Outfit ties, prosecutors said.

Mandell was cleared in the Polekatz plot.

Friday's verdicts appeared to be the final chapter in Mandell's colorful life story. A convicted burglar, he is suspected of at least half a dozen unsolved killings and was sent to Death Row for a 1990 murder, only to be freed on appeal.

He sued the FBI for framing him, and was awarded $6.5 million by a civil jury, but never saw a penny of it after a judge overturned that verdict, too.

More than 20 FBI agents testified over the last two weeks in a bid to ensure Mandell is never again freed.

But the case hinged on the cooperation of star witness George Michael, a Lake Bluff real estate mogul with a shady past of his own.

Michael, who once disguised his lakefront mansion as a church and claimed to be a priest so that he could dodge his property taxes, secretly taped Mandell for months as he plotted to kill Campbell and the Quarantas in late 2012.

The pair were introduced by reputed mobsters in the summer of 2012, and quickly began plotting the deaths and building their torture chamber, as the FBI listened in.

During closing arguments earlier Friday, Mandell's attorney Keith Spielfogel tried to pin the blame for the plots on Michael, who had long been trying to seize control of Polekatz through the courts.

He ridiculed the idea that Mandell could have met "some guy and within a week or two he's telling him he's going to kill his nemesis."

Mandell himself took the stand on Thursday, claiming that he was simply trying to "hoax" Michael into paying him by going along with the plots in the secretly recorded conversations.

Mandell and his accomplice, Gary Engel — who hanged himself in jail soon after they were both arrested, moments before they planned to kidnap Campbell — believed Michael was watching them via a security camera, so set up an elaborate torture chamber complete with a meat cleaver, knives and a reinforced chopping counter, Mandell claimed.

He even tried to blame a gun seized in the torture chamber on Michael, saying he was so upset Michael had put it there he was about to tell Michael the plot was "over" when he was arrested.

Prosecutor Amar Bhachu called that "Stupid, stupid, stupid," during his closing argument Friday.

Mandell watched on camera as Engel loaded the gun, the prosecutor noted, adding that it was clear Mandell had tried to get his 83-year-old wife to destroy evidence after his arrest.

"Killing is that man's specialty," he said, jabbing a thumb towards Mandell.

Turning towards jurors, he added, "You're allowed to use your common sense.

Bhachu's fellow prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Diane McArthur called the videotaped evidence of Mandell "so chilling, so grim, so progressively sad," that it was hard to believe.

"Life is a gift to be valued," McArthur told jurors. "For Steve Mandell in 2012, it was something to be squeezed and drained.

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