Chicago attorneys and experts said the colorful nicknames often associated with crime bosses are most often invented by authorities or the media.
Michael Gillespie, a defense attorney for Michael "Big Mike" Sarno, who is alleged to be behind a jewelry theft and illegal gambling ring, said one juror was dropped from the case after telling U.S. Judge Ronald Guzman the repeated use of nicknames would bias him, the Chicago Tribune reported Friday.
However, Gillespie said he wasn't worried about his client's relatively benign nickname.
"There's nothing nefarious about that nickname," Gillespie said. "But I do think (federal prosecutors) put the nickname in there for a reason. They could've just charged him as 'Michael Sarno.'"
Joseph Lopez, an attorney for convicted loan shark Frank Calabrese Sr., said the media gave his client his nickname, "The Breeze."
"That's a media nickname. No one ever called him that. He was 'Cheech,'" said Lopez. "Cheech is 'Frank' in Italian. It's a neighborhood thing. These guys get their nicknames like anyone else, as young kids in the neighborhood."
Gus Russo, author of "The Outfit," said longtime Chicago FBI chief William Roemer would often assign nicknames to suspected mobsters as a way of antagonizing them.
Roemer "was the one that referred to (Outfit Vegas boss) Anthony Spilotro as 'The Ant,'" Russo said. "That was (Roemer's) way of infuriating these guys."
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