Judge wants alleged mob burglars free on bond

April 22, 2010 4:33:48 AM PDT
They may have pulled off one of the most spectacular stick-ups in all of Chicago mobdom, but that doesn't necessarily mean they will skip out on their current court case, said a federal judge.

On Wednesday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Nan Nolan ruled that Art "The Genius" Rachel and Jerry "Witherhand" Scalise pose no flight risk and are therefore eligible to be released on bond. Rachel, 71 and Scalise, 73 are charged with plotting a bank heist in west suburban LaGrange.

"The only reason that bank was not robbed was because of the FBI," stated assistant U.S. Attorney T. Markus Funk who was arguing the government's case for detention. "We have a bulletproof case against Mr. Scalise," Funk told Judge Nolan at Wednesday's bond hearing. "Mr. Scalise is probably one of the most inappropriate men for bond," said Funk.

Scalise and Rachel were convicted in the 1980 theft of the famous Marlborough diamond from a London, England jewelry store. The men used guns and grenades to swipe the 45 carat diamond, forcing employees and early morning shoppers into submission onto the floor.

The armed robbery went downhill from there, however, when witnesses caught glimpse of a license plate on the thieves' getaway car that had been rented at Heathrow Airport.

By the time Rachel and Scalise high-tailed it back to Chicago, Scotland Yard had notified the FBI and agents were waiting at O'Hare to greet the mobsters' jetliner. They were prosecuted and imprisoned in the UK.

Regardless, defense attorneys for the pair and for an alleged accomplice, Robert "Bobby" Pullia, said that all three were good family men who would not run out on their wives and children just because of their current legal problems.

"He's entitled to bond," said attorney Ed Genson who is representing Scalise, a career thief and Chicago mobster. "He's going to come to court, he always comes to court. He believes in the system. We're going to do the best we can to get him out on bond and try the case. And that's what we always do. I don't think there's an issue that these guys are going to run away. I think the judge can fasten conditions which would allow him to get out on bond and properly prepare his case and when we go to trial we'll see what happens."

Scalise, whose nickname "Witherhand" is in tribute to a few missing fingers, was asked by the judge to come up with more than his $690,000 suburban home to post as bond for his freedom. Lawyer Genson said he had no idea how much additional bond money Scalise could raise. "It depends on how rich the people who I ask to post their property are," said Genson.

Defendant Art Rachel will be allowed home incarceration with an electronic GPS monitor and a $10,000 bond, according to the judge. Rachel's lawyer, Terry Gillespie, called the government's case "pretty weak. I haven't heard anything compelling to link Rachel to the case," he said.

Gillespie also disputed that stated contention that Mr. Rachel has a drinking problem. Even though Rachel takes "four shots of whiskey a day," Gillespie explained to the judge that is "moderate drinking."

Defendant Pullia will also be afforded home incarceration with a GPS monitor and a $200,000 bond. "He has nowhere to go," said Pullia's attorney, Marc Martin. "He's not going to do that to his wife. He's been married for 28 years."

Judge Nolan agreed. "I don't think any of these fellas would walk out on their family," she said.

One piece of evidence against the three hoodlums did bother judge Nolan. She was shown an FBI photo of a van that agents said was to be used as a getaway vehicle after a bank robbery. It had been equipped with peepholes and gun slits, so that the trio could shoot their way past any obstacles, said federal authorities. "This van is disturbing," said Judge Nolan.

Regardless, she agreed that they were entitled to bond, although she said that she would order them held at the MCC while the government appealed her bond ruling. The appeal will be heard by Judge Harry Leinenweber, who has been assigned the actual trial.


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