Judge to Mandell lawyer: Take it and like it

Just 12 days after pleading with a federal judge to force officers at the federal lockup in Chicago to provide more reasonable accommodations for client meetings between him and his client, Steven Mandell, attorney Francis C. Lipuma will have to continue to meet with his infamous client in a cramped cell next to the solitary confinement unit — the hole, as it’s known at the Metropolitan Correctional Center — for now.

Judge Amy J. St. Eve denied Lipuma’s motion for the MCC to provide reasonable accommodations on July 29. No court documents are yet available to explain St. Eve’s denial.

On July 17, Lipuma filed a motion claiming that MCC officers engaged in verbal abuse, harassment and intimidation of both him and Mandell, forcing them to meet in a “cramped area adjacent to the hole” that was under constant video surveillance.

Lipuma claimed that one MCC officer in particular heaped verbal abuse on him during an attorney-client meeting on June 26 and refused to allow him to go to the bathroom, leaving him and Mandell locked in their meeting room without any explanation for an hour.

When he complained, claimed Lipuma, things got worse. He claimed that the area set aside for his meetings with Mandell is unsafe and that no one would respond if he pressed the emergency button, banged on windows or yelled for assistance. Only covering the surveillance camera lens would bring a response, Lipuma stated.

“What has occurred here, however, on repeated occasions is deliberate harassment and intimidation,” Lipuma stated in his July 17 motion. “Counsel is even reluctant to bring this motion for fear of retaliation to his client.”

Mandell, who was convicted in February of plotting to kidnap, torture, extort and kill Riverside businessman Steven Campbell, has been confined to the MCC’s Special Housing Unit since March 17 and had been in and out of the unit since his arrest in October 2012.

Prosecutors have complained consistently that Mandell can’t be trusted outside of solitary confinement. For example, while in the general prison population, prosecutors say Mandell tried to arrange for the murder of the government’s star witness against him. 

In response to Mandell’s continued pleas to be let out of solitary confinement, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder imposed “special administrative measures” against him, forcing Mandell to remain in solitary confinement until he exhausts all administrative remedies available to him.

Lipuma was assigned as Mandell’s attorney in May, after Mandell complained that his previous lawyers were ineffective. The switch in attorneys resulted in Mandell’s sentencing date being delayed. Originally set for June 20, sentencing is now scheduled for Oct. 28. He faces up to life in prison.

A former Chicago police officer, the 63-year-old Mandell was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 1993 while serving a life sentence for kidnapping in Missouri. However, Mandell was able to get both convictions overturned and successfully sued the FBI, winning a multi-million dollar settlement from the court. 

The settlement itself was later overturned and Mandell never collected, but he was never retried in the murder and kidnapping cases. 

Mandell continues to claim that the FBI has a vendetta against him and that he never intended to carry out the plot to kidnap and kill Campbell.