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Anthony N. Calabrese v. United States of America

September 16, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Amy J. St. Eve, District Court Judge:


Before the Court is pro se Petitioner Anthony Calabrese's motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. For the following reasons, the Court denies Calabrese's Section 2255 motion. Further, the Court declines to certify any issues for appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2).


On September 14, 2006, a grand jury returned a second superseding indictment charging Calabrese with three counts of robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951 and three counts of brandishing a firearm during and in relation to the commission of those robberies in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). Calabrese was charged with participating in the 2001 armed robberies of three retail establishments in the Chicago area: (1) the armed robbery of the Leather Connection leather goods store in Morton Grove, Illinois on April 13, 2001; (2) the armed robbery of the Metamorphous tattoo parlor in Lockport, Illinois on July 24, 2001; and (3) the armed robbery of Morris' Meat Packing, a butcher shop located in Maywood, Illinois on September 17, 2001. Calabrese's jury trial began on February 4, 2008 and concluded on February 8, 2008.

I. Trial Evidence

A. Leather Connection Robbery

At trial, the government presented evidence that Calabrese organized, directed, and participated in the robbery of the Leather Connection. Specifically, Calabrese, Robert Cooper, Sean Smith, Walter Polino, and Marcus Baker gathered at Calabrese's vehicle detailing business, "Tony C's First Impressions Auto Detail" in Alsip, Illinois on the morning of the Leather Connection robbery -- April 13, 2001. (R. 310-314, Trial Tr., at 277, 280, 352, 406, 454.) After a brief meeting, the group drove north to Morton Grove, Illinois in Polino's car and a rented van. (Id. at 352, 362, 407.) Calabrese, Cooper, and Smith traveled in the rented van and Polino and Baker followed in Polino's car. (Id. at 281, 353, 409-10, 457.) While on the way to the leather store, Calabrese outlined the robbery plan by telling Cooper and Smith that they would enter the store first. (Id. at 287, 482.) Calabrese then handed Cooper a gun to use during the robbery. (Id. at 282, 457.)

On their way to the Leather Connection, Calabrese talked to his source on the telephone and garnered information about the store. (Id. at 283, 457.) The individual with whom Calabrese was speaking did not want Calabrese to pursue the robbery at that time. (Id. at 283.) As such, the group drove past the leather store and went to a nearby restaurant for lunch. (Id. at 283, 353, 410, 457.) While at the restaurant, Calabrese spoke with his source on the telephone and the source continued to discourage Calabrese from robbing the leather good store, after which the group discussed whether to proceed with their plans. (Id. at 283-84, 354, 458.) Although Calabrese was hesitant at first, he decided that they would proceed as planned. (Id. at 284, 458.)

As Calabrese had instructed, Cooper and Smith entered the store first. (Id. at 287, 482.) Once inside, Cooper displayed the gun. (Id. at 282, 298, 457.) He then forced the store's owner, Cary Feldman, and his mother, Molly Nudell, to a back storeroom where he ordered them to the floor and bound them with duct tape. (Id. at 239, 245-47, 268-69, 459.) Calabrese entered the store as Cooper was directing Feldman and Nudell to the back storeroom. (Id. at 290, 459-60.) Cooper, Calabrese, and Smith then loaded dozens of leather coats into the rented van that Calabrese had positioned outside of the store's side door. (Id. at 292-93.) Polino and Baker remained outside in Polino's car as look-outs. (Id. at 286.) After loading the stolen leather coats, Calabrese, Cooper, and Smith left the Leather Connection and Polino and Baker followed in Polino's car. (Id. at 414.) Calabrese then told Cooper to take the gun, get out of the van, and ride with Polino. (Id. at 294-95, 357.) Smith, who remained with Calabrese, counted the money that Calabrese took from the store. (Id. at 295.) Calabrese ordered Smith from the van, but before doing so, Calabrese told Smith that he needed some time and that he would contact them. (Id. at 297.) Cooper, Smith, Polino, and Baker then went to a bar to wait. (Id. at 297, 299, 418, 462.) When they returned to Calabrese's business, he paid Smith approximately $800 to $1,000 and gave him some leather coats. (Id. at 313.) He also gave Polino and Baker $100, as well as some leather coats. (Id. at 527-29, 542-45.) Last, Calabrese paid Cooper $1,200 and gave him a leather coat. (Id. at 464.)

At Calabrese's criminal trial, the government presented the testimony of Molly Nudell, who described the robbery, namely, how the assailants entered the Leather Connection, displayed a firearm, and directed her and her son to the back of the store where they were bound, threatened, and robbed. (Id. at 235-60.) The government also called Cooper, Smith, Polino, and Baker as trial witnesses, who confirmed the details of the Leather Connection robbery, including the fact that Calabrese personally directed and planned the robbery. (Id. at 270-301, 338-359, 400-21, 446-72.) The government presented other witnesses who testified about Calabrese's efforts to store and dispose of the leather coats, including Calabrese's former employees. (Id. at 527-29, 542-45.) Finally, the government introduced rental car documents through an Enterprise Rent-A-Car custodian that established that Calabrese had rented a white cargo van at the time of the robbery. (Id. at 505-51.)

B. The Metamorphous Tattoo Parlor Robbery

The government also presented evidence at trial that Calabrese ordered and directed the armed robbery of the Metamorphous Tattoo parlor in Lockport, Illinois on July 24, 2001. In particular, in July 2001, Calabrese asked Edmund Frank to find "some guys" to shut down the new tattoo parlor. (Id. at 618-19.) Frank contacted Martin Flores and asked him if he had any interest in the job, to which Flores said yes. (Id. at 619-20.) Flores met with Frank and Calabrese at Calabrese's auto detailing store in Alsip a few days before the armed robbery. (Id. at 621, 783-84.) Flores asked Calabrese what he wanted done and Calabrese responded that he wanted the tattoo shop shut down. (Id. at 621, 699.) Calabrese also wanted the hands of the tattoo parlor's owner broken, the shop's tattoo machines stolen, and the identification cards taken of all the individuals present at the tattoo parlor during the robbery. (Id. at 621, 882-83, 897.) Flores recruited Juan Mirelez and Efrain Fornes to help him with the robbery. (Id. at 750, 780.)

Calabrese, Frank, and Flores met again on the day of the robbery, namely, July 24, 2001. At the meeting, they discussed the need to restrain individuals in the store during the robbery. (Id. at 622, 886-87.) Calabrese did not have any restraints for Flores to use, so he contacted his nephew, Daniel Calabrese, who was an Ameritech employee with access to plastic cable zip ties. (Id. at 622, 887.) At Calabrese's direction, Flores, together with Mirelez and Fornes, met Calabrese's nephew in a parking lot at the Chicago Ridge Mall and picked up the zip ties. (Id. at 624, 755, 757, 787, 792, 888-89.)

Later that day, Flores decided they needed a gun for the robbery. (Id. at 882.) As such, Flores contacted Frank and asked for a weapon. (Id. at 624-25, 793, 893.) Frank then called Calabrese and picked up a gun from Calabrese. (Id. at 625-26.) Calabrese instructed Frank to tell Flores that he wanted the gun back. (Id. at 626-27.) Frank arranged to meet Flores to give him the gun and convey Calabrese's instructions. (Id. at 626-27, 700, 758-59, 893.)

There were four people in the tattoo parlor when Flores, Fornes, and Mirelez arrived -- the owners, Mike Farrell and Dennis Doornbos, Gabriel Perez, a customer, and Perez's girlfriend. (Id. at 567, 717, 761, 859, 908.) Flores entered the tattoo parlor first, brandished the gun, and ordered everyone to the floor. (Id. at 568-69, 571, 759-60, 795, 860-61.) Fornes and Mirelez restrained the tattoo shop victims with the zip ties provided by Calabrese's nephew, Daniel Calabrese. (Id. at 721, 760, 796, 861-62, 895.) After restraining the victims, Fornes and Mirelez took Farrell to the back of the shop and beat him up. (Id. at 721-23, 761, 863, 896.) Fornes used a hammer that he had brought with him to hit Farrell's hands. (Id. at 573-74, 576, 723, 761, 798.) Thereafter, the men gathered the shop's tattoo machines and their victims' identification cards per Calabrese's instructions. (Id. at 580, 726, 762, 796-97, 864, 897.) Before leaving, Flores conveyed Calabrese's message -- he told Farrell to "get out of Lockport." (Id. at 577, 726.)

After leaving the tattoo shop, Flores, Fornes, and Mirelez returned to Calabrese's auto detailing business in Alsip. (Id. at 701, 763, 800, 899.) There, Flores gave Calabrese both the stolen tattoo machines and the victim identification cards, and returned Calabrese's gun. (Id. at 706, 763-64, 900, 923.) Calabrese told Frank, who had arrived shortly thereafter, to pay Flores for his work after which Frank paid Flores $1,500. (Id. at 630, 700, 702, 901-02, 923.) Later that evening, Frank paid Flores another $1,000. (Id. at 630, 700.) Calabrese reimbursed Frank for a portion of these payments. (Id. at 630, 700, 713.)

At trial, the government called Frank, Fornes, Mirelez, and Flores as witnesses. Frank testified that he arranged and carried out the tattoo parlor robbery at Calabrese's explicit direction. (Id. at 617-19.) Further, Frank testified hat he contacted Flores for Calabrese and that he arranged for Calabrese to meet with Flores before the robbery. (Id. at 619, 621.) Also, Frank admitted that he provided Flores with Calabrese's gun and paid Flores at Calabrese's direction. (Id. at 626-27, 630.) Flores confirmed Frank's testimony stating that he met with Calabrese and Frank in advance of the robbery and that Calabrese gave the instructions for the tattoo parlor robbery. (Id. at 882-83, 897.) Furthermore, Flores testified that after the robbery, he delivered the stolen tattoo machines and the firearm to Calabrese. (Id. at 900.)

Mirelez and Fornes also corroborated this trial testimony. In particular, they testified that the group went to Calabrese's business both before and after the robbery. (Id. at 753-54, 783-84, 803.) Mirelez testified that he was present when Calabrese spoke to Flores after the robbery.

(Id. at 801-02.) Finally, Flores, Mirelez, and Fornes testified that prior to the robbery, the men went to the Chicago Ridge Mall to obtain zip ties from Calabrese's nephew. (Id. at 755, 757, 787, 792, 888-89.) The government also called the tattoo parlor robbery victims as witnesses and they corroborated the testimony of Calabrese's co-defendants regarding details of the robbery, including the assault of Mike Farrell. (Id. at 564-82, 715-27, 857-65.)

C. Morris' Meat Packing Robbery

Trial testimony reveals that Calabrese first learned of Morris' Meat Packing from Richard Dawson. (Id. at 1023.) Dawson's friend informed him of the business' operations and told Dawson that the store often had large amounts of cash on the premises -- anywhere up to $200,000. (Id. at 1022.) Dawson told Calabrese about Morris' Meat Packing and Calabrese expressed an interest in robbing the business. (Id. at 1023.) Calabrese told Dawson to get as much information as he could about the meat packing store and to arrange a meeting between himself and Dawson's source. (Id. at 1023-24.) After this meeting, Calabrese began making plans to rob the store. (Id. at 1024.)

Calabrese recruited Frank and Dawson recruited Dave Sims to commit the robbery. (Id. at 631-32, 940, 1025.) Calabrese, Dawson, Frank, and Sims met at Sims' house on the morning of the robbery. (Id. at 633, 941, 1024.) While Dawson contacted his source to get last minute information about the business, Calabrese sat at Sims' kitchen table, loaded his gun, and discussed the robbery with Sims. (Id. at 634, 941, 974, 1026-27.) ...

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