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People v. Bravos

SEPTEMBER 9, 1969.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

GEORGE BRAVOS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. WILLIAM SYLVESTER WHITE, Judge, presiding. Affirmed.

MR. JUSTICE MCCORMICK DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT.

Rehearing denied October 7, 1969.

The defendants, George Bravos, Joseph Lombardi, Sam Mercurio and William Messino, were tried jointly before a jury. A five-count indictment had been returned, Count I of which charged that the four co-defendants (and two others subsequently acquitted) conspired in agreeing to intimidate Jack, George and Albert Chiagouris by threatening to inflict unlawful physical harm with the intent to cause them to pay money to George Bravos, Joseph Lombardi, William Messino and Sander Caravello.

Count II charged that the defendants and one Alice Erwin (subsequently acquitted) committed the offense of aggravated kidnapping on May 7, 1965, by confining Jack Chiagouris against his will for the purpose of obtaining a thing of value.

Count III charged the same five defendants (again Alice Erwin was acquitted) with the same offense as alleged in Count II, except for the charge that George Chiagouris was the person kidnapped.

Counts IV and V charged that Bravos, Lombardi and Messino committed the offense of aggravated battery on George Chiagouris (Count IV) and on Jack Chiagouris (Count V).

Judgments of acquittal were ordered as to defendants Erwin and Caravello, but guilty verdicts were returned as to the other four, finding Bravos, Lombardi and Messino guilty on all counts, and Mercurio guilty only on Count I (conspiracy). The court imposed the following sentences: Bravos, 5 to 20 years in the Illinois State Penitentiary on each of the kidnapping counts, 1 to 10 years on each of the battery counts, 6 months in the County Jail on the conspiracy count; Lombardi, 7 to 20 years on each of the kidnapping counts, 1 to 10 years for the battery on George Chiagouris and 5 to 10 years for the battery on Jack Chiagouris, 6 months in the County Jail for conspiracy; Messino, 10 to 30 years on each of the kidnapping counts, 1 to 10 years for the battery on George and 5 to 10 years for the battery on Jack Chiagouris, 6 months in the County Jail for conspiracy; Mercurio, 5 years probation, conditioned upon incarceration for 30 days in the County Jail for conspiracy.

On appeal the defendants raise the following points:

1) The defendants were denied a fair trial by the jury because the jury's verdict was coerced.

2) The defendants were denied a fair trial and were denied their rights of confrontation and cross-examination because the trial court refused to grant their motions for severances. These motions include all defendants except Lombardi.

3) The trial court permitted self-serving exhibits to be introduced into evidence, which constituted error.

4) The trial court admitted into evidence material regarding transactions between the brothers and Caravello which was not relevant to the issues at trial.

5) The trial court admitted into evidence material of an independent and irrelevant surveillance of defendants.

6) The court allowed the prosecutor to disclose to the jury in his opening statement that Messino had attempted to evade apprehension by police officers and that such contention could not be proved.

7) Certain remarks made by the prosecutor prejudiced defendants and deprived them of a fair trial.

On June 23, 1964, Albert, Jack and George Chiagouris, brothers and co-partners in a construction firm, negotiated a loan for $50,000 from defendant Messino. Arrangements for the loan were completed in the office of Sander Caravello, at which time there were present Caravello, Messino, Bravos, and the Chiagouris brothers. Messino set the interest rate at 40 per cent and made a requirement that the $70,000 was to be repaid in 47 weekly installments of $1,500 each for 46 weeks, and $1,000 the last week. When Albert Chiagouris asked what kind of collateral would be required, Bravos said, "The only security we want is your eyeballs."

Two days later the brothers returned to Caravello's office to receive the $50,000 and to execute judgment notes for the installment notes. Lombardi was present and the brothers were informed that he would receive the weekly payments in case Messino was not available when they were made.

Caravello had vouched for the brothers and he received a week's loan of $15,000 of the $50,000 from the Chiagourises, which arrangement was unknown to Messino. On July 28, 1964, the three brothers again met with Messino, Bravos and Caravello to borrow an additional $100,000, with the agreement that the amount, plus $30,000 interest was to be repaid within 105 days. After this transaction was completed on July 31, Messino left, and Caravello was given $25,000 of the proceeds as another loan. He signed a note for that amount and agreed to pay it back to the Chiagouris brothers plus a pro rata share of the interest the brothers would have to pay on their loan.

Defendants' counsel point out that the brothers' partnership statement dated November 1964, purporting to enumerate their assets and liabilities of that date, showed figures which did not reflect the alleged loans. They had missed making the $1,500 payment due on October 9, 1964, and on October 10, Jack and George Chiagouris met Messino in the Bee Gee Builders parking lot. Both brothers testified that Messino jumped from his car screaming obscenities at them and struck Jack in the face. George explained that they had the $1,500 and Messino told them it would cost them an additional $1,000 for each day payments were late.

In November 1964, the brothers met with defendant Sam Mercurio and explained that they were finding repayments difficult because of the $40,000 they had loaned Caravello. Mercurio promised to try to help them obtain refinancing. The brothers' attorney testified to this meeting, although neither Jack nor Albert could recall whether he was present at the time.

On November 13, 1964, the expiration date of the 105 days in which the loan of $100,000 with interest was to be paid, the three brothers met Messino in a cocktail lounge. Lombardi and Bravos were also present, and when Albert informed them that they did not have the required payment, Messino told Bravos that the brothers had given Caravello $40,000 of the $150,000 loan. He then asked Bravos' permission "to take these fellows out and put a bullet in their head." After it was announced that a further penalty would be exacted for failure to meet payment deadlines, Caravello was brought to the table. He admitted receiving the $40,000, at which point Messino hit him in the face, kneed him, knocked off his glasses and scratched his forehead. Messino then said, "We're going to have something to eat and after we eat we're going to go for a ride, and the treatment you just got now you're going to get every five minutes along the way."

The brothers later learned that Caravello had been given a "pass." They continued to make their payments through January of 1965, but on February 20, they met Lombardi at the Oriental Gardens Restaurant and told him they did not have the money for the installment due; that a loan had been arranged with a bank. Lombardi called Messino in Florida and when Messino spoke ...


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