Prosecutors give one-two punch in Ambrose trial

April 20, 2009 4:20:39 PM PDT
The most powerful federal law enforcement officer in Illinois took the witness stand Monday against a deputy U.S. marshal accused of leaking secrets to the mob. U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald testified for the prosecution Monday in the case against John Ambrose, along with FBI boss Robert Grant.

When Ambrose got the call in September 2006 to come to Chicago FBI headquarters, he thought the meeting was about a fugitive terrorist suspect. After all, Ambrose was second in command of the Great Lakes Fugitive Task Force, and he had made quite a splash in recent years tracking down and arresting dangerous criminals on the run.

However, when Ambrose got to the FBI building, there was no fugitive meeting. It was a ruse to get him there for a meeting in which he was being questioned by the top two federal lawmen in northern Illinois: U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and FBI boss Robert Grant. Both men testified methodically Monday about how they determined John Ambrose leaked law enforcement secrets to the Chicago 'Outfit.'

"I don't know what you're talking about," was Ambrose's first reply when Fitzgerald and Grant confronted him with leaking information about a mobster in the witness security program, according to Mr. Fitzgerald's recollection from the witness stand Friday.

Fitzgerald also described how he had outlined the evidence against Ambrose during that 2006 meeting, including the disclosure that Ambrose's fingerprint was found inside the witness's file.

Fitzgerald said that Ambrose's "carotid artery in his neck enlarged, he was shaking his head and was very stressed" when authorities laid out what they had discovered. According to Fitzgerald's, Ambrose told them he had screwed up. "'I shot my mouth off, but it wasn't what you think,'" Fitzgerald testified was Ambrose's confession. "'I'd never sell out my badge; I'd never sell law enforcement for money. I don't know those guys," Fitzgerald testified Ambrose said.

'Those guys' are brothers James and Michael Marcello. Earlier in 2006, the FBI bugged the federal pen in Milan, Michigan where James "Jimmy the man" Marcello was serving time. While visiting, his brother Michael told him that a law enforcement source revealed that mob hit man Nicholas Calabrese was cooperating with the feds, giving information and naming names in 19 mob hits.

Ambrose's job was to guard and protect Calabrese, but on one covert prison recording, Michael described the informant as the son of a police officer who was prosecuted in the infamous Marquette 10 trial, then died while incarcerated. That conversation narrowed down the source for federal investigators.

Ambrose told Fitzgerald he leaked the information to another Marquette 10 officer and family friend named William Guidie. Guide asked him, "If there is anything I need to know?'" Ambrose took that to mean was there information about Guidie's friend John "No Nose" Difronzo. Ambrose told Guidie he didn't know and would try to find out.

"'I broke all the rules, violated all the policies, everything!'" Fitzgerald recounted Ambrose said. "'I had no criminal intent.'" Then Ambrose reportedly asked the reluctantly famous U.S. Attorney if he could help him keep his job.

"I told him it wasn't likely; it would be an uphill battle. I didn't want to give him false hope. I encouraged him to tell the truth," Fitzgerald said he told Ambrose. "'If you end up in front of a sentencing judge, you can say that you told us the truth.'"

During his testimony, Special Agent Grant said Monday that Ambrose had a "pre-existing relationship" with two men connected to organized crime and that when authorities determined Ambrose was responsible for sneaking witness information to mobsters Jimmy and Mickey Marcello, that's when the FBI called in Ambrose for the meeting.

The most memorable quote of Monday's unusual testimony came from Grant, who said that Deputy Marshal Ambrose told him, "I was friends with people I should not have been friends with."

Both Fitzgerald and Ambrose told jurors Monday how potentially deadly such a leak of information could have been.

Deputy Ambrose's lawyer, Frank Lipuma, told jurors that Ambrose was just boasting to a family friend, and not leaking information.

In the end though, witness Nick Calabrese was not harmed and his testimony resulted in a string of convictions and life sentences.

As for Ambrose, prosecutors told Judge John Grady late Monday that the government's case could end Tuesday.


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