Steven Mandell, the ex-Chicago cop, who has been sitting in a federal supermax prison since 2014 for a bizarre plot — ultimately foiled — to kidnap, torture, extort and kill a Riverside businessman, has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene in his case.
Mandell’s public defender, Francis Lipuma, filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the Clerk of the U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 12. The state’s response to the motion was due Feb. 13, but the state filed a waiver on Jan. 26, indicating it would not be filing a response unless specifically requested to do so, according to court documents.
Supreme Court justices are scheduled to consider whether to accept or reject the case at their conference scheduled for Feb. 17.
This is the last stop for Mandell on his quest to force a rehearing of his case, something the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals denied last August. The appellate court also denied Mandell’s plea for a rehearing of his case by the entire panel of judges in the Seventh Circuit.
Mandell is serving a life sentence without possibility of parole and is being held at the Florence, Colorado, supermax prison, which houses some of the nation’s most notorious criminals.
In February 2014, a U.S. District Court jury found Mandell guilty of plotting to kidnap, torture and murder Steven Campbell. Mandell and an accomplice named Gary Engel planned to force Campbell to turn over his real estate assets and cash before killing him inside a torture chamber constructed inside a nondescript storefront on Chicago’s Northwest Side.
However, the FBI had Mandell under surveillance, using an informant who pretended to be in cahoots with Mandell as he hatched his scheme. At trial, prosecutors played video and audio of Mandell and Engel inside the torture chamber, which they’d dubbed “Club Med,” prior to the planned kidnapping.
Both men were arrested by FBI agents in October 2012 outside the Northwest Side real estate office of the federal informant where the kidnapping was supposed to take place.
Engel took his own life while in jail shortly after his arrest. Mandell has maintained that he never meant to kill Campbell. He has sought a new trial, arguing that damning audio and video surveillance evidence from Club Med should have been suppressed because the FBI filed a false affidavit in seeking permission for it.
The appellate court ruled that the FBI’s wiretap application met federal standards, upholding the U.S. District Court’s ruling and Mandell’s conviction.
Mandell has wriggled out of long prison terms previously. In 1992, he and Engel were convicted of a 1984 kidnapping in Missouri and was sentenced to life in prison. In 1993, while serving that sentence, Mandell was convicted of the 1990 murder of a Chicago business associate and sentenced to death.
Both convictions were overturned on appeal and the cases were never retried. Mandell went so far as to win a $6.5 million judgment against the government, but that judgment was later vacated and he never collected the money.