In this Intelligence Report: Why the case has sparked a lopsided war of words.
The curious case of Father Eugene Klein and hitman Frank Calabrese is nothing more than a summertime B-movie, a sequel to more substantive Outfit cases, one that the priest's attorney Wednesday called "Mobsterland 2." That description was part of a relentless offensive against prosecutors and the charges against the Roman Catholic priest.
"This is a great day for the Northern District of Illinois. Apparently [U.S. Attorney] Patrick Fitzgerald, having run out of governors to prosecute, has now decided to prosecute the clergy. And apparently he couldn't find any rabbis or nuns, so today we have a priest," said Thomas A. Durkin, Klein's attorney.
Father Klein is a chaplain at the U.S. prison in Springfield, Missouri. Fitzgerald is the U.S. attorney in Chicago who has charged Father Klein with violating federal prison rules by coming to the aid of a mobster. Mobster Frank "The Breeze" Calabrese is now doing a life sentence at the Missouri prison for racketeering and the murders of more than a dozen people.
Durkin, lawyer for the priest, says his client was just doing God's work.
"He provided him communion. They had a relationship regarding spiritual matters," Durkin said.
Prosecutors contend it was an unholy alliance, that in March Calabrese passed handwritten instructions to the 62-year-old Father Klein through the food slot of his prison cell, and that Klein traveled to a Barrington restaurant to meet a Calabrese associate.
The secret plot, according to prosecutors, was to rescue a priceless violin that Calabrese had stashed at his Wisconsin summer home, a violin once owned by the Liberace family.
"I think the priest was just trying to help him, just a good-hearted person," said ex-Calabrese attorney Joe "The Shark" Lopez.
Lopez is at odds with prosecutors who say the mobster was actually trying to keep the instrument from being applied to his massive court fine.
"This is an attempt to continue to go after mobsters," said Durkin. "I am assuming this is an attempt to somehow convince Father Klein that he should cooperate against mobsters. I don't know what they want. But this is a stupid, stupid case."
The priest himself was not permitted by his lawyer to speak to reporters.
A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald declined to respond.
Much of this case is built on the special rules under which the Federal Bureau of Prisons now holds mobster Frank Calabrese, rules intended to control terrorists.