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Former Chicago cop accused of plotting murder of witness from behind bars

Steve Mandell former Chicago cop leaves Dirksen Federal Building 2004.  |  Sun-Times files

Steve Mandell, a former Chicago cop, leaves the Dirksen Federal Building in 2004. | Sun-Times files

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Updated: September 24, 2013 6:21AM

Former Chicago cop Steven Mandell tried to arrange the murder of a federal witness from behind the bars of the downtown Metropolitan Correctional Center, prosecutors alleged Thursday.

The onetime Death Row resident, 61, is awaiting trial for a pair of grisly murder plots, including one in which he allegedly planned to abduct, torture, extort, murder and dismember an unidentified businessman with a butcher’s knife in a custom-built killing chamber.

Held in isolation at the MCC after he allegedly asked his wife to clear up evidence against him following his Oct. 25 arrest, he was recently released back into the jail’s general population on a judge’s orders after he complained his health was suffering.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Amar Bhachu told Judge Amy St. Eve on Thursday that Mandell was returned to the jail’s Segregated Housing Unit after he spent his time in the general population “soliciting the murder of a federal witness.”

A furious Mandell — wearing shackles and an orange jail jump suit — angrily denied the allegation.

He alleged members of the Latin Kings street gang acted as snitches to help the government set him up.

“What I tell inmates at the MCC is utter nonsense — what I say here is the truth,” Mandell said, urging St. Eve to take the allegations with “a pinch of salt.”

“I’m not on oath when talking to the Latin Kings,” he added, insisting he was looking forward to his trial.

Though prosecutors did not identify the informant they say Mandell targeted, Mandell himself named North Shore businessman George Michael as the alleged informant.

Recordings secretly made by the informant are at the heart of the case against Mandell. They capture the former cop revelling in the gory and sadistic details of his kidnap plot, the feds say.

But Mandell’s attorney, Keith Spielfogel, complained Thursday that the government’s refusal to share details of the latest allegations makes it impossible for him to properly defend Mandell.

St. Eve told prosecutors to give Spielfogel a limited account, but said she would revisit the issue.

“There’s been an allegation of a threat to kill a federal witness — that’s a very serious allegation,” she said.

Mandell, of Buffalo Grove, has a long history of battling federal law enforcement.

In addition to the Oct. 25 murder plot, he’s also accused of plotting a second murder on Oct. 5 — in return for income from an “adult entertainment club.”

A Chicago cop for a decade until 1983, he’s a convicted fraudster and jewel thief who has been in and out of court for much of his adult life.

Convicted of a 1984 kidnap plot that bore striking similarities to his most recent arrest, and sentenced to death for a 1990 murder, he was later freed on appeal on both cases and awarded $6.5 million by a civil jury for wrongful conviction, only to see that verdict also overturned.

Unanswered questions remain around the murder of his father, and the disappearances of several of his associates, while his alleged accomplice in the October plots, Gary Engel, committed suicide in prison last year.

Michael declined to comment Thursday on the alleged plot to kill him.


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