Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Porn Dealer Says Street Tax Paid for Mob Protection

William "Red" Wemette, dressed like a prosperous small-town banker, told jurors Monday how reputed top mobster Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo shook him down for thousands of dollars so Wemette could keep his pornography shop open.

When Wemette threatened to stop paying the "street tax" of $250 a week, a collector told him, in a congenial way, that he "could have an accident," Wemette testified in the federal trial of five alleged mob figures. "My building could be burned down. Anything could happen," Wemette said he was told.

While Lombardo allegedly required the payments, Wemette said he never put any money in Lombardo's hands -- only those of underlings, including reputed hitman Frank "The German" Schweihs, who would visit Wemette at his porn shop in Chicago's Old Town neighborhood.

Schweihs is too sick to stand trial, but Wemette identified Lombardo, both in court and from a photograph taken decades ago. "He looked a lot better then than he does now," Wemette said Monday. A wry smile spread across Lombardo's face.

Earlier in the day, an attorney for another man on trial, Anthony "Twan" Doyle, a retired Chicago police officer, punctuated the end of his opening statement by dismissively throwing the indictment in the case into an old-fashioned street sweeper's pushcart that the attorney had rolled into the courtroom.

The lawyer, Ralph Meczyk, said his client was a street sweeper not a street thug. Later on, Doyle got a job with the police department.

Doyle had a fierce loyalty to his badge and to his old friend, Frank Calabrese Sr., one of the five defendants, but never to the mob, Meczyk told the jury.

Prosecutors are expected to play secret tape recordings the FBI made of Doyle when he visited Calabrese Sr. in prison.

Calabrese Sr.'s brother Nicholas Calabrese, an admitted mob hitman, came under attack again Monday in the opening statement by the attorney for Paul Schiro. Schiro is accused of taking part in a mob hit on his close friend Emil Vaci, who allegedly was killed because mobsters worried he was testifying against them.

Schiro's attorney, Paul Wagner, said the only man linking his client to the slaying was Nick Calabrese, who will be the government's star witness. Wagner said it was Nick Calabrese who killed Vaci.

Thanks to Steve Warmbir

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