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Mixed verdict reached in US Marshal trial

April 28, 2009 4:54:39 PM PDT
Deputy US Marshal John Ambrose has been found guilty of leaking secrets in a federal investigation into organized crime.Ambrose was found guilty of two of the four charges against him. He was found guilty of leaking information about a federal witness to members of the Chicago mob. He was acquitted on the two charges of lying to federal agents.

A bleak distinction for John Ambrose: he becomes the first deputy in the history of the United States Marshal service to be convicted of leaking information that ended up with the crime syndicate.

Considering that the first deputy U.S. Marshals were sworn in by George Washington, it is a record that no one hoped would ever be broken.

"Deputy US Marshal Ambrose has had a distinguished career and then he threw it away by breaching the holy of holies: the confidentiality of the witness protection program," said Gary Shapiro, first assistant. U.S. attorney.

For prosecutors and federal law enforcement, the holy grail of witness security is trust. And on Tuesday, John Ambrose was convicted of breaking it.

As a deputy who made his name breaking down doors and capturing dangerous, most-wanted fugitives, Ambrose went from poster-boy for the Marshal service to an example of what not to do.

After three days deliberating, a federal jury found him guilty of stealing top secret information about a mob witness and guilty of sneaking it to a mob-connected family friend.

The information concerned the whereabouts and the cooperation of mobster-turned-informant Nick Calabrese.

Ambrose had been assigned to protect Calabrese as he prepared to testify in the Family Secrets mob murder trial.

After the verdict, Ambrose and his wife embraced, the street-hardened deputy unable to fight back tears.

Even though he was acquitted of lying to federal agents - a direct shot at U.S. attorney Pat Fitzgerald and FBI boss Rob Grant who unusual, personal testimony was to back up those two charges - the damage was done.

"As they say, no trial is perfect nor is anyone expected to get a perfect trial. We do believe some errors were made along the way. We believe they were substantial errors," said Frank Lipuma, Ambrose attorney.

Ambrose' law enforcement career is over.

Notably absent from Tuesday's post verdict new conference was the U.S. Marshal service that is responsibly for protecting thousands of government witnesses.

"We trust the agents we work with and the agents trust us not to talk about that information because people can get killed over it, people have been killed over it," said Gary Shapiro.

In this case there was no known attempt to kill witness Nick Calabrese. But as word of the breach got out, some witnesses in the protection program refused to come to Chicago if they were to be guarded by the marshal service. So integrity may have been damaged.

Ambrose will appeal, largely on the basis of an FBI undercover tape that was shown to the jury twice and then withdrawn as evidence.


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