Father Eugene Klein is accused of helping convicted mobster Frank Calabrese send messages to the outside world.
The attorney representing a Roman Catholic priest accused of consorting with a notorious mobster in jail called the government's prosecution of his client a "stupid" case.
Lawyer Thomas Durkin on Wednesday declared the charges against Father Eugene Klein were "absurd."
"This is a great day for the northern district of Illinois," Durkin said. "Apparently Patrick Fitzgerald, having run out of governors to prosecute, has now decided to prosecute the clergy!"
"Apparently he couldn't find any rabbis or nuns. Today we have a priest!"
Klein, the chaplain at a Missouri correctional facility, is accused of helping convicted mobster Frank Calabrese send messages to the outside world, in violation of prison rules. The government also alleges that Klein took part in an elaborate scheme to recover a valuable violin, which Calabrese had hidden at a Wisconsin residence.
The government has been engaged in tracking down all of the mobster's assets, to satisfy over $4 million in restitution.
After receiving information from Calabrese about where the violin was hidden, prosecutors allege Klein and other Calabrese associates posed as potential buyers of the house. As part of the scheme, one of those individuals was to distract the realtor, while the others recovered the violin.
Durkin called the charges preposterous and said that Klein maintained a "priest-penitent" relationship with the infamous mobster, and nothing more.
"This is over-reaching at its finest," Durkin said. "I would assume this is an effort to somehow convince father Klein that he should cooperate against mobsters. I don't know what they want, but this is a stupid, stupid case!"
Klein entered a plea of not guilty in front of a federal magistrate. He was freed on $20,000 bond.