I-Team Report: The SAM Club

June 21, 2011 10:00:00 PM PDT
In federal prison, SAM stands for "special administrative measures," strict rules used to control primarily terrorists. But the designation is also being used on a top Chicago mobster and now his priest.

The SAM club has the most exclusive membership in the Bureau of Prisons.

Of the 216,000 inmates currently in federal prison, fewer than 50 men are currently being held on special administrative measures, an elite club that includes Chicago Outfit boss Frank Calabrese. And now, say the feds, his prison chaplain has criminally broken the special rules.

Even though Frank "The Breeze" Calabrese Sr. used to bolt from news cameras, it isn't the threat of escape that has him held under the most restrictive rules of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

Calabrese, 74, has been kept at the feds' Springfield, Missouri medical center in solitary confinement for more than two and a half years. He is locked down 23 hours a day and has no physical contact with other inmates or visitors and only brief communication with immediate family. He is shackled during his daily hour out of the cell and escorted by a minimum of three guards.

The restrictions followed a courtroom death threat that Calabrese whispered at Chicago organized crime prosecutor T. MarKus Funk. The rules are usually invoked for terrorists who are national security threats.

"He might be a mobster but he certainly isn't a terrorist. He is just an American citizen," said Joe "the Shark" Lopez, ex-Calabrese attorney.

Nearly all of the federal prisoners currently held under special administrative measures are terrorists, including the blind Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman. In 1995, he was the first prisoner housed under solitary rules requested by then New York prosecutor Pat Fitzgerald, now Chicago's U.S. Attorney.

The only other mobster is a New York mafia boss known as "Vinnie Gorgeous" after the feds found his hit list of federal judges and witnesses.

Now, Calabrese's prison chaplain, Father Eugene Klein, is charged with knowingly breaking the rules under which the mob boss is being held.

Father Klein was arraigned in Chicago Wednesday on federal charges that he helped Calabrese communicate with associates on the outside for the purpose of retrieving a priceless violin that once belonged to the Liberace family.

"These are administrative measures imposed on the inmate, not the world at large. Father Klein is not a signatory to them," said Thomas A. Durkin, accused priest's attorney.

There was a somewhat similar case to Father Klein's in New York a few years ago. Attorney Lynne Stewart represented Sheikh Rahman, the blind terrorist, and she was convicted of illegally delivering messages from him in prison to his followers in Egypt in violation of Rahman's special administrative measures.

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