Six members of a Chicago film projectionists union have pled guilty to arson, with the lead defendant set to go on trial on Mar. 1. All nine were either members or prospective members of the Motion Picture Projectionists, Operators & Video Technicians, Local 110 of the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. They were indicted on Nov. 7 for allegedly setting fire to 20 theatres in 10 states — Ill., N.Y., Ind., Iowa, Kan., Ky., N.J., Oh., Tex. and Wisc. — in 1998 and 99. The fires were set while the theatres were open and showing movies.
Allegedly, the lead defendant, Local 110 bus. mgr. Albin Brenkus, orchestrated the arsons in order to force the theatres’ owners into signing agreements with the union. He and members Peter Lipa and Gregory Tortorello are set to go on trial Mar. 1 in the U.S. Dist. Ct. for Nor. Ill. On Jan. 30, Local members Joseph Marjan and Keith Dutton, and negotiating cmte. member Kent Dickinson pled guilty for their roles in the arson campaign. Then on Feb. 9, another member, Carl Covelli, admitted to recruiting Michael Rossi and Peter Macari, to beat the mgr. of a Chicago-area theatre in 1999. Macario admitted beating the mgr. with a baseball bat, while Rossi admitted being a lookout during the attack. [Chicago Tribune, 1/31/04, 2/10/04]