Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Crime boss' son John J. Balistrieri may get law license back

Frank P. Balistrieri (center) walks with his sons, John (left) 
and Joseph, in the Milwaukee County Courthouse in 1975.
Article thanks to Cary Spivak of the Miwaukee Journal Sentinel. Links provided below:

Decades after attempted extortion, he has backing of many lawyers

Jan. 8, 2014 John J. Balistrieri, a felon and the son of Milwaukee's onetime organized crime boss, is in the final stages of a bid to win back his law license — an effort that is moving along slowly, but far more smoothly than his previous attempt.
The application won a strong favorable recommendation from Richard Ninneman, the attorney appointed by the state Supreme Court to review the case. Balistrieri also has the backing of 14 lawyers who either wrote letters or testified at his 2012 reinstatement hearing. However, the Office of Lawyer Regulation — the successor to the professional responsibility board — opposes his reinstatement.
Balistrieri, 65, his older brother Joseph and their father, Frank, were convicted of attempted extortion in 1984 after an FBI sting and federal trial that focused on the role of organized crime in the Milwaukee vending machine business. Frank Balistrieri died in 1993 and Joseph died in 2010.
The Balistrieri brothers were sentenced to eight years in prison, but the term was cut to five after they blamed their father for their troubles and claimed to cut ties to him. Each brother's law license was suspended in 1984 and each was later disbarred.
John Balistrieri's current bid to get his law license back stands in contrast with his last application, which failed in the late 1990s. At the time, he charged that state legal industry regulators had a "hostile bias" against him and other Italian-Americans. Balistrieri's charges came after the Board of Attorneys Professional Responsibility recommended against giving Balistrieri his law license back.
"He really got a raw, unfair deal," said William Cannon, a high-profile personal injury lawyer who attended Marquette University High School with Balistrieri.
"Compare his punishment to all the other lawyers who have lost their licenses for worse behavior but got them back. He got a raw deal ... there are no two ways about it."
Daniel Blinka, a Marquette University law professor, testified for Balistrieri "to make the point that our standard has always been good moral character today."
Blinka, a former assistant district attorney who worked in the organized crime unit, said that in the years since Balistrieri's release he appears to have shown the good moral character required to hold a law license.
"A felony conviction is a salient factor to consider, but so is the passage of time," said Blinka, who is not a friend of Balistrieri's but agreed to research and testify in the case.

Lawyers' support

Other lawyers supporting Balistrieri include former federal prosecutor Mark Cameli, now with Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren; defense lawyers Stephen Glynn, who represented Balistrieri in the 1980s and James Shellow, who represented Frank Balistrieri; William Steinmetz, formerly with Reinhart, now with Shellow's law firm; and Kenosha attorney Joseph Madrigrano Jr.
In a letter to Ninneman, Cannon listed nearly two dozen lawyers who got their licenses back after being suspended or disbarred for serious unethical behavior — including pocketing client funds — or being convicted of felonies.
In his recommendation to the Supreme Court supporting Balistrieri, Ninneman cited cases involving former state Sen. Gary George and David Jennings III, both of whom got their law licenses back after serving prison sentences.
George was convicted in 2004 for accepting kickbacks of about $270,000. He was without a law license for about six years. Jennings went more than 19 years without a law license after being convicted of embezzling more than $600,000 from his mother's trust and from companies he represented.
"In Wisconsin, the conviction of a felony is no absolute bar to the reinstatement of an attorney's license to practice law," wrote Ninneman, a retired Quarles & Brady partner.
The Journal Sentinel reported in 2011 that more than 135 people with criminal records had Wisconsin law licenses. Some kept their law licenses while they were serving time or were on probation, the paper reported.
In its objection to Balistrieri's reinstatement, the Office of Lawyer Regulation raised questions about Balistrieri's income tax filings; argued that he left out important information on his reinstatement application, blamed others for his mistakes and has not accepted responsibility for his actions.
"Once again, more than 25 years after his conviction for the crime of extortion and attempted extortion of an undercover FBI agent, Balistrieri continues in failing to accept responsibility for his conduct," Denis Vogel, attorney for the regulators, wrote in a brief.
Vogel said Balistrieri "attempts to cast himself in the role of a pawn of his father and victim of his family's culture."
Vogel argued that Balistrieri continues to shift blame to others "especially where Balistrieri has been confronted with conflicts between his statements and actual facts."
Ninnemann, however, said Balistrieri has earned the right to practice law again.
"After 28 years, whether for his family or for his own self-esteem, the time has come to reinstate Balistrieri's law license," Ninneman wrote. "Accordingly, I strongly recommend that Balistrieri's petition be granted."
The recommendation has been pending with the Supreme Court for a year. Terry Johnson, Balistrieri's attorney, said he hoped the court would decide the matter soon. Balistrieri declined to comment.
During his testimony at his reinstatement hearing, Balistrieri said, he wanted his law license back "primarily to rehabilitate my reputation, rehabilitate my name, rehabilitate my character."

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Obituary of a Mafia Don's Son

A short, sad story of a life that could have been so much different. Frank Balistrieri was an evil man who dragged his two sons into the "business" His boys had talent, education and could have been real assets to their community. Instead they lived under a law enforcement microscope all of their lives, went to prison and lost their law licenses for it. Joe died in Oct of 2010 at the age of 70.

Balistrieri tugged at family crime ties

Thanks to Amy Rabideau Silvers of the Journal Sentinel. Link provided below:

Above Picture: Frank P. Balistrieri (center) was accompanied by his sons, John J. (left) and Joseph P., at the Federal Building in 1981. Balistrieri and his sons were convicted of extortion in 1984. 

Journal Sentinel Files

Joe rejected father, reputed boss

Oct. 26, 2010  The sins of the father became the sins of the son, in sharp contrast to what friends and colleagues say Joseph P. Balistrieri was like in his personal life.
Balistrieri died Monday. He was 70.
His father, of course, was the late Frank P. Balistrieri, long considered the Mafia boss of Milwaukee by federal authorities. Frank Balistrieri and his sons, attorneys Joseph and John, were convicted of extortion in 1984. Frank was sentenced to 13 years. His sons were sentenced to eight years and released after serving 39 months in prison.
The sons later publicly repudiated their father as an "evil force" who dragged them into his world and public ruin.
"He had made our births a scandal," Joe once said.
The convictions came after long years of investigation and sometimes charges by authorities. The 1984 conviction was the one that stuck. In addition to prison, neither practiced law again.
The legal evidence included FBI wiretap conversations between the two brothers.
"Brother John," Joe said at one point on the tape, "any hope of being legitimate is automatically erased  . . . the time to make our move was in 1975 when we were absolutely clean."
"We had to do it his way," Joe added bitterly, "(and) we were absolutely corrupted."
On the surface, the details of his life seemed normal and even exemplary. He went to Catholic grade school and Marquette University High School. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame, lettering twice in track, before earning a law degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1965.
"I remember the first time I saw Joey after he became an attorney," said William Janz, who wrote about the Balistrieri family for the old Milwaukee Sentinel and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "He walked out of the judge's chambers and a state agent was sitting in the back of the courtroom and took pictures of him."
Journal Sentinel files
It was a harbinger of things to come.
He was a suave man, with a subdued sense of elegance and style. He loved the arts, especially opera, traveling overseas for concerts and even teaching classes on the subject.
By all accounts, Joe Balistrieri was also a gifted attorney.
"He was one of the brightest guys I've ever known," said attorney Gerald P. Boyle. "He was a first-rate lawyer . . .  and he was very much a gentleman. Unfortunately, he was born into a culture that, I think, caused him to do things he might not otherwise have done."
Others agreed.
"I think it was a consequence of culture, rather than greed or a need for power," said James Shellow, a criminal defense lawyer who represented Frank Balistrieri.
"If you listen to the wiretaps, Joe was the one who recognized that," Shellow said. "He was trapped  . . .  He didn't feel he could escape his destiny."
Janz recalled asking him how he was doing - "The dumbest question I ever asked him" - while Balistrieri stood alone outside during his trial.
Balistrieri answered with quiet gallows humor.
"As the man said after he jumped from the Empire State Building and passed the 76th floor, 'So far, so good,' " Balistrieri replied.
Contacted Tuesday, his brother declined to discuss any cause of his older brother's death - or any aspect of the criminal cases.
"He was a gentleman of exceptionally good character," John said. "He had a brilliant mind. He was respected and admired by his friends, not only in the legal community but the Italian community."
After prison, both returned to a life largely out of the news. Their father died in 1993. Joe Balistrieri remained an owner and operator of the Shorecrest Hotel, where he also lived.
Visitation will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday at the Suminski Family Funeral Home, 1901 N. Farwell Ave. The funeral will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at Old St. Mary's Church, 876 N. Broadway.