Avenues of appeal are running out for Steven Mandell, who was convicted in 2014 of a lurid plot to kidnap, torture, extort and kill a Riverside business man.
On Oct. 25, the three-judge panel, which in August affirmed Mandell’s conviction in U.S. District Court, denied a request by Mandell’s attorney for an en banc rehearing of the case by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
An en banc hearing would have meant re-hearing the case before every judge in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Such motions are rarely granted.
According to the order entered into the court record on Oct. 25, no one on the three-judge panel, which included Richard A. Posner, Frank H. Easterbrook and Ann Claire Williams, requested a vote on the suggestion for an en banc rehearing.
Mandell is serving a life sentence in solitary confinement at the Florence, Colorado supermax prison, where some of the nation’s most notorious criminals, including Ted Kaczynski, better known as the Unabomber; Zacarias Moussaoui, convicted of helping carry out the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks; Terry Nichols, convicted for his role in the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City; and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, sentenced to death for his role in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, are being held.
With the appellate court’s recent ruling, Mandell’s only recourse now would be to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case.
Mandell, a former Chicago police officer who previously was known as Steven Manning, had earlier been convicted of a Chicago murder and a Missouri kidnapping but had those convictions overturned on appeal.
Sometime by the fall of 2011, he had identified Riverside resident Steven Campbell as a target for extortion and had gone so far as to leave his business card with a handwritten note on the door of Campbell’s Riverside home that October.
But his plan to kidnap and extort money and property from Campbell got serious in the summer of 2012 after Mandell met George Michael, a real estate broker who also happened to be an FBI informant.
Through Michael, Mandell and Gary Engel – a man who’d also been convicted and then exonerated of a 1990 Missouri kidnapping – set up “Club Med,” a torture chamber set up behind a storefront on Chicago’s Northwest Side, where they planned to take Campbell after kidnapping him.
However, the FBI had Club Med under video and audio surveillance and caught the two discussing their plans. Mandell and Engel were arrested by FBI agents outside Michael’s real estate office, where they had planned to carry out the kidnapping in October 2012.