CHICAGO (CN) – Former Deputy U.S. Marshal John Ambrose cannot overturn a conviction that he passed information to the mafia about people under witness protection, the 7th Circuit ruled.
The 48-page opinion opened with a history of the U.S. Marshals Service and description of its duties.
“One of the most sensitive functions of the Marshals Service is the Witness Security Protection Program,” Judge Ilana Rovner wrote for a three-judge panel. “Since the program’s inception in 1971, the U.S. marshals have relocated and protected more than 8,300 witnesses and 9,800 of their family members. It is a testament to the dedication and professionalism of its members that in that time, no WITSEC participant who followed security guidelines was harmed while under the active protection of the U.S. marshals.”
“Our system of justice depends at its core on the integrity of its law enforcement officers and the ability to protect witnesses who testify against wrongdoers,” Rovner continued. “John T. Ambrose, a deputy U.S. marshal, was convicted in District Court on charges that go to the heart of those core principles.”
The case involved protection of former mobster Nicholas Calabrese, who agreed to cooperate with police in 2002. “By all accounts, he was the most important organized crime witness who had ever testified in this district, and would become a key witness in what was known as the ‘Family Secrets’ case which brought RICO charges against the outfit,” Rovner explained.
Calabrese traveled to Chicago on two occasions in 2002 and 2003 to testify, staying at a “safe house” guarded by Ambrose and other deputy U.S. marshals.
The government, through a series of recorded conversations, soon discovered that mob members had learned of the cooperation from one of Calabrese’s guards. In 2006, more sophisticated recording equipment allowed the government to uncover references to the “Marquette Ten,” a federal racketeering case involving a number of Chicago police officers, including Thomas Ambrose, the deputy marshal’s father. The conversations indicated that John Ambrose was leaking the information, and further investigation indicated that Ambrose had accessed private parts of Calabrese’s file located at the safe house.
In an effort to convince Ambrose to cooperate with the government and use his alleged influence with the mob to the government’s advantage, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald of the Northern District of Illinois and FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert Grant decided to conduct the initial interview. The pair isolated Ambrose, removing his weapons, before presenting him with their evidence of corruption.
Ambrose agreed to cooperate and was later charged with two counts of stealing government property and disclosing without authorization information regarding Calabrese. He also faced two counts of making false statements to law enforcement agents regarding his conduct.
An Illinois jury found Ambrose guilty of disclosing information regarding Calabrese, but acquitted him of the false-statements charges. Ambrose received a four-year prison sentence, followed by three years of supervised release.
On appeal, Ambrose said his statements should not have been used at trial because of inadequate Miranda warning. The 7th Circuit rejected this claim last week.
The panel did decry the decision to incarcerate Ambrose so far away from his family – in Seagoville, Texas, rather than Oxford, Wis. “The distant location would be puzzling in any case, but is outright disturbing because that is the institution to which his father was assigned and it was on the track at that facility where his father died,” Rovner wrote. “The Bureau of Prisons has the discretion to place inmates as is necessary for its security needs, but we would certainly expect that such placement is not used to inflict punishment that was not ordered by the district court. We encourage the Bureau to reexamine the placement decision.”
Despite the intervening sympathetic paragraph, Rovner concluded with a still rebuke of Ambrose’s conduct.
“The men and women who serve our citizenry in the U.S. Marshals Service are deeply dedicated, intelligent and extraordinarily courageous public servants,” the 48-page decision states. “It is no exaggeration to say that they are a bulwark of our democracy. It is an honor and a privilege to serve as a U.S. marshal. Thus, the actions of John T. Ambrose are beyond comprehension. His conviction and sentence are affirmed.”