Federal judge grants compassionate release to Outfit enforcer labeled an ‘urban terrorist’

Attorneys for Mario Rainone say he has several health problems and poses no danger to the community.

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Mario Rainone in a 2009 file photo

Sun-Times

Federal judges have described onetime Chicago Outfit enforcer Mario Rainone as an “urban terrorist” and “a vicious person having little or no regard for human life.” 

But Monday, more than eight years before he was due out of prison, U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber granted compassionate release to the now 65-year-old Rainone amid the coronavirus pandemic, finding it “unlikely that Rainone will pose a danger to his community.”

In an eight-page order, Leinenweber reduced Rainone’s 15-year prison sentence to time served and ordered his immediate release. Prison records show Rainone has most recently been held at a medical center in Minnesota, and he was not due to go free until 2028.

“The court is optimistic that Rainone understands that given his long criminal history and his advancing age, he is likely to spend the rest of his natural life imprisoned if he breaks the law again,” Leinenweber wrote. 

Federal prosecutors objected to Rainone’s release, calling him “street muscle” for the Outfit whose specialty lay in “extorting and terrorizing innocent members of the public.” Once, when trying to shake down an elderly restaurant owner for $200,000, they said he threatened to cut off the heads of the restaurant owner and his children and put them on a pole.

Rainone’s attorneys, Joseph and Lisa Lopez, wrote last month that, “Mr. Rainone poses no danger to any person or to his community. Between his cataracts, use of an inhaler, kidney disease, prostate and skin cancers, he is no longer the Mario Rainone of the past. Instead, he is an ailing senior citizen with a myriad of medical issues.”

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Lisa and Joseph Lopez, attorneys for Mario Rainone

Sun-Times Media

Reached after Leinenweber handed down his ruling Monday, Joseph Lopez said prosecutors “came at (Rainone) with every weapon that they had to demonize him, to blacken his eyes and to scare the judge, and it didn’t work. The judge followed the law and did the right thing.”

U.S. District Judge James Alesia gave Rainone more than 17 years in prison back in 1992, labeling him an “urban terrorist” while sending him away for racketeering and extortion. But prosecutors say Rainone left prison in 2006 and was not allowed to have a firearm. Then, in 2009, authorities found a stolen Smith & Wesson revolver during a search of his home. 

Leinenweber gave Rainone a mandatory minimum 15-year sentence for illegal possession of a firearm, records show. 

In seeking his release last month, Joseph and Lisa Lopez told the judge that Rainone “suffers from a multitude of health problems which include skin cancer, cataracts, liver disease, prostate cancer, heart and breathing problems.” They said COVID-19 posed a deadly risk. 

However, Assistant U.S. Attorney Amarjeet Bhachu said Rainone’s prostate cancer had been successfully treated seven years earlier, and he accused Rainone of misleading the judge.

Leinenweber wrote Monday that Rainone’s “ailments will get worse as time goes on, and if he is infected with COVID-19, his advanced age makes it more likely that he will experience major complications.”

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