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Published on August 27th, 2013 | by Daniel Perlman

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Feds: Ex-cop tried to arrange murder of key witness

A former death row inmate awaiting trial in a bizarre plot to murder and dismember a businessman tried to solicit the execution of a key witness shortly after he was removed from solitary confinement at a Loop federal jail earlier this summer, prosecutors alleged Thursday in court.

It’s the latest twist in the case of Steven Mandell, a Chicago police officer in the 1970s and early 1980s who is now suspected by authorities in four murder plots over the last year.

The Tribune reported last week that officials had, without explanation, placed Mandell back in the Special Housing Unit at the Metropolitan Correctional Center weeks after a federal judge lifted the restrictive custody. Detainees are held in solitary confinement there for up to 23 hours a day and given limited contact with visitors and other inmates.

On Thursday, federal prosecutors disclosed that the move came after they learned Mandell had allegedly tried to solicit the murder of a witness following his release in late June into the jail’s general population. Mandell was placed back in the special unit after prosecutors informed U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve of the latest allegation on Aug. 9.

No additional charges have been filed against Mandell, and prosecutors provided no details of how he allegedly solicited the murder or the identity of the witness.

Against the advice of his attorney, a clearly fuming Mandell, 62, spoke out Thursday in court, calling the accusations “ridiculous” and accusing prosecutors of “playing a constitutional game of cat and mouse.” He then identified the key informant against him as Chicago real estate agent George Michael, insisting Michael had nothing to fear.

“This man is to be left in peace,” Mandell, dressed in a jail jumpsuit and shackled at the ankles, said of Michael. “I want my trial. I want the government’s witness to be on the stand.”

Mandell indicated that the new accusations involve members of the Latin Kings street gang who are locked up in the same prison with him.

“What I tell other inmates at the MCC is utter nonsense. What I say here is the truth,” he told the judge, his voice rising to a near shout. “The Latin Kings are not fooling anyone.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Amar Bhachu said he offered to give details of the alleged plot to Mandell’s attorneys but wanted the information kept from Mandell out of concern it would provide him a “road map” to circumvent law enforcement.

In October federal agents arrested Mandell and an accomplice as they allegedly prepared to abduct a businessman from a Northwest Side office that the Tribune has previously identified as Michael Realty, a business co-owned by Michael and his brother. Prosecutors alleged that Mandell and Gary Engel planned to take the businessman to a nearby vacant office space they referred to in undercover recordings as Club Med, extort him of his cash, force him to sign over his real estate holdings, then kill and dismember him.

Engel hanged himself in his jail cell in November, authorities said.

In a new indictment filed earlier this year, Mandell was also charged with conspiring to kill an heir of the businessman if the heir made a claim on the businessman’s properties after his slaying. He also plotted the killing of yet another victim in exchange for a cut of the proceeds from a strip club, authorities charged.

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Source: chicagotribune.com “Feds: Ex-cop tried to arrange murder of key witness,” August 27, 2013.

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