Steve Mandell trial begins; ex-Chicago cop accused in murder plot

February 11, 2014 (CHICAGO)

He allegedly planned to kidnap a suburban businessman, extort his money and property, and then kill him.

Jurors heard several recorded conversations that were allegedly between Steve Mandell and George Michael, a government witness who testified Tuesday. Michael said that these conversations were in code, about the Chicago outfit as well as Mandell's plot to kill two men, essentially motivated by a financial stake in a lucrative gentleman's club.

Opening statements began with a dramatic show. Assistant US attorney Amarjeet Bhachu held up a meat cleaver as he laid out the alleged murder plot by Steven Mandell. Bhachu said the evidence will show Mandell planned a kidnapping and murder using a rented space on Devon.

"Torture was not all they had in mind for that though. In addition to being a torture chamber, it was a death chamber," said Bhachu.

Mandell's attorney Keith Spielfogel said in opening statements his client's only intent was to make money. Regarding the murder plot, Mandell's attorney told jurors it was "absurd."

"He was talking and talking but there was no way on this earth this was going to happen. And it was absurd and ridiculous. It was never going to happen," said Keith Spielfogel, defense attorney.

An FBI agent testified that Mandell was heard on wire taps in a bugged office planning the murder of two men, one at a time. Agent Richard Tipton testified that George Michael was working with the FBI and consented to the recordings.

"They were going to pose as police officers. Torture him, extort him and ultimately kill him," said Agent Tipton.

George Michael testified that he cooperated with federal agents and played along with Mandell's alleged scheme. That included an alibi and strategies to get the would-be victim's to the rented space.

Michael testified that Mandell was tracking two would-be victims and asking about places they would frequent, looking for a way "to lure him out so he could abduct him."

In another case, Mandell was the first former Chicago police officer to be sentenced to death row. He was on death row for 14 years, but that case was ultimately overturned and he was exonerated from his conduct by the FBI.

The trial in this case resumes Wednesday, where more testimony from George Michael is expected.

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