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Ex-city cop convicted of murder plot wants revenge on witness

Steve Mandell (left) leaves Dirksen Federal Building 2005 with his attorney JLoevy.  |  Sun-Times file photo

Steve Mandell (left) leaves the Dirksen Federal Building in 2005 with his attorney Jon Loevy. | Sun-Times file photo

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Updated: May 2, 2014 6:15AM

Former Chicago cop Steve Mandell might never again taste freedom after his recent conviction for plotting to torture and kill a kidnap victim in a purpose-built torture chamber.

Now, he wants revenge on the key government witness who helped put him behind bars.

From his cell at the downtown Metropolitan Correctional Center, Mandell, 62, has been writing poison-pen letters to police and prosecutors, urging them to investigate George Michael, the North Shore real estate mogul who wore a wire against him, court papers state.

In four letters — all apparently written and mailed since his February conviction for the grisly murder scheme — Mandell shares his “deeply held conviction that George Michael has been involved in numerous criminal activities that should be the subject of investigations by law enforcement,” Mandell’s lawyers wrote in a court filing.

Mandell, whose wild criminal career began while he was a Chicago cop in the 1970s, was convicted at the end of a sensational two-week trial of plotting to kidnap, torture and extort, then kill wealthy Riverside businessman Steve Campbell.

The case turned on evidence Michael risked his life to help the FBI collect — conversations Michael secretly recorded, and damning video footage from a hidden camera inside the torture chamber Michael helped Mandell select and build.

Testifying during the trial, Mandell didn’t hide his contempt for Michael, admitting he’d called him a “cheese-eating rat.”

Filed late Friday, the new court filing by his attorneys, Keith Spielfogel and Robert Loeb, is an attempt to have Mandell released from solitary confinement.

Mandell, who has bounced in and out of solitary since his October 2012 arrest, was sent back into isolation two weeks ago after prosecutors alleged he violated a court order in one of the four letters he wrote.

His attorneys dispute that, claiming the U.S. Attorney’s office was wrong to have Mandell taken from the jail’s general population rather than rely on the judgement of Bureau of Prison staff “who are with the defendant on a 24-hour-a-day basis, seven days a week, and who best know whether he is a security risk.”

Three of Mandell’s letters were sent to the state’s attorneys in Cook and Lake counties, and to the Skokie Police; the filing does not indicate where the fourth was sent.

None of the law enforcement agencies commented on the letters Monday.

But contacted by email, Michael wrote that he believes the letters accuse him of buying the Ford Crown Victoria used in the plot, and of “initiating” the idea to use GPS trackers on potential kidnap victims’ cars.

“I don’t break laws and commit criminal acts,” Michael wrote.

Mandell’s allegations against Michael during the trial went further than the purchase of a police cruiser and electronics, however.

His attorneys repeatedly focused during the trial on Michael’s colorful background, including how he once disguised his Lake Bluff mansion as a church to avoid taxes and how he was booted out of the banking industry by regulators.

And despite Mandell’s conviction of the plot to torture and kill Campbell, he was cleared of a second plot to kidnap and kill Bridgeview strip-club owner Tony Quaranta, which Spielfogel argued was Michael’s brainchild.

Michael fought a long, unsuccessful legal battle to seize control of Quaranta’s Polekatz strip club, which has alleged mob ties.

According to prosecutors, Mandell’s latest letters aren’t his first alleged attempt to get back at Michael. After being temporarily released from solitary confinement last year, he within days allegedly tried to recruit the Latin Kings street gang to assassinate Michael.

Mandell, who was sent to Death Row for murder in the 1990s, only to be freed on appeal, faces a likely life sentence at a hearing scheduled for June.


Twitter: @kimjnews

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