A former Willow Springs, Illinois police officer claimed he was only joking after building a torture chamber and telling a witness he planned to kidnap, torture, and kill a man. Nonetheless, a Chicago jury convicted him for the plot.
The convicted man, Steven Mandell, 63, has had a long, strange trip through the legal system. Nine years ago, he was convicted of murder and placed on death row but was later freed after a judge found that prosecutors mishandled his case. This time, he won’t be so lucky.
Mandell was convicted of plotting to kidnap, torture, and murder a Chicago nightclub owner. Mandell’s nefarious plot was an attempt to seize control of the nightclub owner’s business.
Jurors were treated to a mountain of evidence gathered by the FBI. The most damning was a number of audiotapes of Mandell detailing his plans for businessman Anthony Quaranta and his wife.
The jury heard Mandell on dozens of audiotapes explaining how he intended to “drain” his victim’s blood and dismember him. In rebuttal, the defendant’s lawyers claimed that he was “just talking” and “no way in the world” would he actually carry out the horrible things he talked about doing.
But that wasn’t the only revealing evidence presented to the jury. Mandell also actually built a torture chamber stocked with tools to carry out his plans.
Jurors found out that Mandell called the chamber “Club Med” and learned it was equipped with an industrial sink, a butcher’s table, various power saws, and other equipment needed to dismember a body.
In his closing remarks, Assistant U.S. Attorney Amar Bhachu asked the jury to consider why Mandell would have gone to the expense of building the torture chamber if he was really only trying to pull off a hoax.
It took the jury only 4 1/2 hours to convict Mandell of the horrendous plot. He is expected to be sentenced to life in prison by U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve.
This will be the second time the FBI has put Mandell behind bars. In 1993, when he was known as Steve Manning, Mandell was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of trucking firm owner Jimmy Pellegrino. Mandell was freed on appeal after a judge ruled that prosecutors mishandled his case.
Mandell also convinced a jury and judge in 1984 after he was arrested for kidnapping that he was framed by the FBI and was even awarded a $6.5 million settlement. The settlement was never paid, though, after another judge ruled that “significant” evidence existed that Mandell was actually guilty of the crimes with which he was charged.
After his February 21 conviction, the head of the FBI’s Chicago office said that Mandell’s conviction “made a community safer.”