Jurors see video of former Chicago cop planning to mutilate man’s genitals
BY KIM JANSSEN Federal Courts Reporter February 14, 2014 2:08PM
Updated: March 17, 2014 11:30AM
“I’m the last person in the world that you want to lie to right now,” former Willow Springs cop Gary Engel said.
“Your life is in my hands.”
Engel, 61, was allegedly rehearsing. His accomplice, Steven Mandell, was sitting in the wheelchair that they both hoped a torture victim would be strapped into within the hour, the feds say.
“I know you are going to play with his f------ d---, right?” a smiling Mandell said, motioning to his genitals. “You going to put a little blade there?”
“You know what a banana split looks like?” Engel replied.
The shocking scene — recorded by a hidden FBI camera in a Northwest Side torture chamber former Chicago cop Mandell had built — was filmed on Oct. 25, 2012.
But it got its first public airing in federal court Friday, when prosecutors played it for ashen-faced jurors on the fourth day of Mandell’s macabre double-murder plot trial.
The half-hour-long video shows Mandell gleefully discussing the finer points of how he and Engel allegedly planned to pose as cops to abduct Riverside businessman Steven Campbell, then bring him to their torture chamber and extort him into signing over 25 pieces of property he owned, before finally killing and dismembering him.
It visibly left several jurors appalled, and is the strongest evidence so far against Mandell’s claim that the torture and murder plots were “BS” that he wouldn’t have followed through on.
“Two incisions, right?” Mandell asked Engel at one point, referring to their alleged plan to chop up Campbell on a reinforced counter.
“You can get him in the femoral artery and so, and let his ass sag in the center, and just let it drain,” Engel replies.
Mandell had installed a man-sized sink for that exact purpose at the torture chamber in the 5300 block of West Devon, the feds say. The room, which Mandell called “Club Med,” was also equipped with a meat cleaver, a switchblade, and a chess set for Mandell and Engel to play with if they got bored during the torture session, according to the feds.
Mandell and Engel were both keen to do a professional job, though, according to the video, which showed Mandell saying he didn’t want to wake the neighbors by “sawing at 4 in the morning with this guy.”
Engel even told Mandell to cover the walls in plastic sheeting and to get some wraparound shades to protect his eyes from blood splatter.
“Is that stuff gonna be flinging all over the place?” Mandell asked him. But Engel reassured him it would be OK because they’d take out the “big bones” first.
At several points in the video Mandell seemed almost dizzy with excitement about the alleged plot. He scooted around the torture chamber in the wheelchair, mocking the cries of pain he predicted Campbell would emit.
He also seemed to present himself as an experienced killer. “I always prepare, over-prepare,” he boasted in one clip.
And as he left the torture chamber with Engel to head to the site of the planned abduction, where they were arrested by the FBI just a few minutes later, he chuckled to himself.
“Oh brother, is this guy in for a f------ evening,” he said.
The video left Mandell with a lot of explaining to do if he takes the stand in his own defense, as his lawyer has previously vowed he will.
The 62-year-old Buffalo Grove man already has his hands full defending himself against a second set of charges that he plotted to murder Polekatz strip club owner Anthony Quaranta and his wife in bid to seize control of the Bridgeview club, which has alleged Outfit ties.
Mandell admits he discussed both murder plots in detail, but says he was simply trying to con the government’s star witness, North Shore real estate mogul George Michael, out of cash by going along with the plans.
Michael secretly taped Mandell discussing the alleged plots and readying the torture chamber on dozens of occasions,
But Michael didn’t make the video shown Friday, and he isn’t in it.
If Mandell does testify, it promises to be a theatrical final chapter to Mandell’s wild life story, which includes a spell on Death Row for a 1990 murder.
Mandell, who was freed on appeal after that conviction was tossed out, was awarded a $6.5 million payout for wrongful prosecution by a civil jury in 2005, but never got his hands on the cash, after that verdict also was overturned.
Engel, his longtime associate, killed himself in jail soon after their arrest in 2012.
Shortly before they were nabbed, the video played in court Friday showed Mandell joking with him about what they’d allegedly do to Campbell.
“It’s either his last supper, or it’s our last supper,” he said.
The trial is due to continue on Tuesday.