Aging mobster’s bid for early release denied

Convicted as part of the Family Secrets mob prosecution, 83-year-old Paul Schiro asked for early release in March under the First Step Act, a law signed by President Donald Trump in 2018.

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Paul Schiro

Paul Schiro

AP Photo/Chicago Crime Commission

A federal judge Monday shot down an aging mobster’s bid for compassionate release from prison, pointing to his purported role in the “cold-blooded murder” of a potential witness and the “infamous racketeering enterprise” to which he belonged.

Convicted as part of the Family Secrets mob prosecution, 83-year-old Paul Schiro asked for early release in March under the First Step Act, a law signed by President Donald Trump in 2018. 

U.S. District Judge James Zagel sentenced Schiro in 2009 to 20 years in prison, commenting that the sentence would be “lenient” except for the fact that Schiro was 71 at the time. But Schiro’s lawyer, Daniel Hesler, wrote earlier this year that “(Schiro) is not a danger to the community or anyone in it.”

Hesler wrote that Schiro has fought lung cancer, had part of a lung removed, uses a walker to travel more than 10 feet, has deteriorating vision and trouble breathing, among other health issues. 

“He is far beyond bearing grudges or resentments to anyone about anything,” Hesler wrote. “He does not do much of anything independently now, so there would be little ability for him to cause any trouble even if he wanted to. And he does not want to. His only hope is to simply spend a little time with his family while he is still here.”

Prison reco

rds show Schiro is being held at a federal medical center in Butner, North Carolina. He is not due to get out of prison until April 2024. U.S. District Judge John Blakey denied his request for early release.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Amarjeet Bhachu urged Blakey to do so last April, writing that Schiro “was a trusted member of the Chicago Outfit, the local branch of La Cosa Nostra, one of the most formidable criminal organizations ever seen in the United States.”

“He participated in the planning and cold-blooded murder of his own friend, who was believed to be cooperating with law enforcement,” Bhachu wrote. “Having committed what Judge Zagel described as the greatest crime of all, this predator is not deserving of a four-year reduction of sentence.”

A jury found Schiro guilty of racketeering but couldn’t decide whether Schiro had participated in the 1986 Outfit slaying of Schiro’s close friend, Emil Vaci. At sentencing, Zagel decided the prosecution had proven Schiro’s role by a preponderance of the evidence and took the murder into account. 

Vaci was killed in Phoenix outside the restaurant where he worked because the Chicago mob feared he was cooperating with a federal criminal investigation into the disappearance of a man who had helped the Outfit skim millions of dollars but then ripped off the mob. 

Schiro did not pull the trigger on his friend but was in a nearby car, acting as a lookout and listening to a police scanner, according to court testimony. 

Nick Calabrese, the mob killer who became a government witness, testified at trial that Schiro took part in the planning of Vaci’s killing. Calabrese said he and an accomplice pulled Vaci into a van, then Calabrese shot Vaci several times in the head and dumped his body in a canal.

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