The “Peer Pressure” Defense

Last week saw the end of the first phase of a mob trial that has captivated Chicago throughout the summer. A jury returned guilty verdicts on every count of murder, extortion and racketeering against four aging mafia hoods and a former Chicago cop. Some say this trial—the culmination of “Operation: Family Secrets”—will be the last “old school” mafia trial this city will ever see. (For you out-of-towners who want to know more on the Chicago Outfit and the “Family Secrets” trial, check out Trib columnist John Kass.)

Although the charges are ugly (among them, 18 murder charges), some aspects of the trial have had high entertainment value. For starters, reporters have felt compelled to describe what the elderly defendants were wearing on the witness stand. With the white suits, yellow ties, black shirts, and the rest of it, it’s impossible to keep pictures of Paulie Walnuts out of your head.

One of the most interesting elements was the defense put forward by three of the reputed crooks. Taped conversations recorded them speaking in a convoluted code with their friends in prison. When asked what they meant by the code, the defendants have said they were just playing along to impress their associates and relatives. Along with being mobbed up, they’ve also denied they understood the code, even though the conversations were lengthy.

“I gave him lip service,” former cop Anthony Doyle said from the witness stand. “I didn’t know what he was talking about. I don’t wanna look like a chumbalone, an idiot, stupid.”

(Note to self: start using “chumbalone” frequently in conversation and while cursing out other drivers.)

Could this peer-pressure defense—“I just wanted to look like one of the guys”—be used successfully in any other pariahs currently in the news?

Senator Larry Craig: “I heard sleazy anonymous hook-up in the airport john were all the rage with commuters, like having an Admiral’s Club membership. Just because I’m trendy doesn’t mean I’m gay. And I pleaded guilty because the prosecutors said it was the best solution. But I take it all back. I still want to serve the people of Idaho, who need a strong senator who can stand up to pressure and think for himself. Unless I’m talked out of it again. What do you think?”

Alberto Gonzales: “I only pretended to have terrible memory lapses when I testified before Congress. So many other aides ‘couldn’t recollect’ when they testified, I thought it would be bad manners to actually remember what I’d done. Hell, does anyone really think I’m THAT absent-minded?”

Nuri al-Maliki: “I didn’t want to go on vacation for the entire month of August, but everyone in the Iraqi Parliament seemed to have their plans already set up and I didn’t want any of them to lose their deposits. They told me the break would make the people think we knew what we were doing. More pictures of us on the golf course equals more confidence in the government.”

Michael Vick:
“If a guy asks you whether or not you’ve got a ‘dog rape machine’ at home, what are you gonna do, act like you don’t know what he’s talking about?”

OJ Simpson: “My buddies just said they wanted to ‘raid the mini-bar’. I never bothered to ask why we needed guns for that, or needed to kick down the door. And there on the bed, was all my stuff! You could’ve knocked me over with a feather. Gosh golly.”

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