A former Chicago police officer accused of several extortion plots took the stand in his own defense Thursday.
Steven Mandell, 62, is accused of masterminding an elaborate plan to abduct suburban businessman Steve Campbell and take him to a fake business at 5803 West Devon Avenue where he would be tortured and forced to sign over real estate deeds and other items.
The prosecution rested its case Thursday morning, and Mandell took the stand before lunch.
For defense lawyers, it was a major gamble to put Mandell on the stand, but they had promised that their client would take the stand in his own defense.
On the stand, Mandell claimed the elaborate plan to kill Campbell and others was just an act to impress George Michael, the real estate developer who he did not know was cooperating with the FBI.
Mandell told the jury that Michael was obsessed with the Polekatz strip club in Bridgeview, and somehow felt cheated out of control of the lucrative business.
"I was BS'ing this man for a three-month period," Mandell said about the research he said he was doing for Michael.
When questioned by his attorney about the phone conversations and video recorded by the FBI showing him and alleged accomplice Gary Engel planning a series of grisly crimes, Mandell said it was all made up.
"Did I say that? I spoke those words," Mandell said.
But when his attorney asked if he intended to do that, Mandell said "no way."
As for the alleged torture chamber outfitted with reinforced tables and a special sink, Mandell told the jury "they were all props for a supposed killing that was never going to take place."
Prosecutors say Campbell's killing was to be the first in a series of murders that would allow Mandell to take over the strip club.
"Did you ever intend to kidnap Steven Campbell?," defense attorney Kieth Spielfogel asked.
"No way in the world. No how. No way," Mandell responded.
Campbell took the stand Wednesday and testified about a suspicious note he received from Mandell in 2011 inquiring about his properties, but he said he passed the note on to police because it raised alarms.
Prosecutors say Mandell and Gary Engel planned to kill Campbell and dismember his body, and also planned to do the same to Campbell's daughter and Anthony Quaranto, a consultant to the Polekats strip club.
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