Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Lombardo Claims Alibi for Murder

Friends of ours: Joey "the Clown" Lombardo

Reputed mob boss Joey “The Clown" Lombardo told a packed courtroom Wednesday that he had an alibi for the morning a federal witness was executed by ski-masked gunmen: He was in a Chicago police station miles away complaining that someone had stolen his wallet.

Curiosity seekers jammed U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel's court for a second day, eager to see the now-frail, gravel-voiced 78-year-old who has been tied for years to the top echelons of the mob. Also Wednesday, a juror was dismissed for personal reasons.

Delivered to the witness stand in a wheel chair by a federal marshal, Lombardo gripped his cane as he testified, and at times seemed slightly absent minded as he was questioned by chief defense attorney Rick Halprin.

As CBS 2’s John “Bulldog” Drummond reports, most significant charges against Lombardo stem from the September 1974 of Daniel Seifert, a government witness. Seifert was gunned down outside of his Bensenville factory.

Seifert's widow, Emma, testified earlier in the trial that she believes Lombardo was one of the gunmen.

Lombardo, however, testified that he got up early on that September morning and went out to buy an electric garage door opener. He said the store was closed and he stopped at a pancake house for some breakfast. Returning to his car, he found that his glove compartment had been opened and his wallet taken from it, Lombardo testified.

Lombardo said he returned to the restaurant and told his story to two police officers who were having breakfast there. He said they took him to the Shakespeare Avenue stationhouse on Chicago's North Side, where he filled out a complaint about his stolen wallet.

Emerging from the station afterward, he was surprised, he said. "Then I got the news about Danny Seifert," he testified.

Immediately on taking the stand Tuesday, Lombardo denied that he had anything to do with the Seifert murder.

Sources say the district commander at Shakespeare was later convicted of masterminding a stolen jewelry ring.

On Tuesday Lombardo denied killing Seifert and Wednesday his lawyer asked Lombardo, “What was your relationship with Daniel Seifert?” Lombardo replied, “Very friendly.”

Lombardo explained to the court why he was in the famous “last supper” picture where a number of mob heavyweights had gathered in 1976 to pay tribute to a dying colleague. Lombardo said he had just happened to stop at the restaurant for ice cream when, by chance, he joined the group.

The topic of his 1986 conviction was skimming money from Las Vegas casinos. When Halprin asked Lombardo if he’d ever received any skim money he answered, ”I have to tell the truth. I’m under oath. Not a red penny.”

“The Clown” became a fugitive in April 2005 when he was indicted in the Family Secrets case, but he testified that when he was on the lam for 9 months, he never left Illinois.

Halprin asked him if he believed he committed a federal crime, to which Lombardo replied “Absolutely not.”

Lombardo has admitted that he was a "hustler" who ran a floating crap game and associated with numerous members of the Chicago Outfit, as the city's organized crime family calls itself. But he denies that he has ever been a full-fledged mobster.

Lombardo is one of five alleged mob members on trial, charged with a racketeering conspiracy that included gambling, extortion, loan sharking and 18 murders. Prosecutors say he is responsible for the shooting of Seifert, who was a witness against him in a federal investigation.

After his 1992 release from prison, Lombardo took out an ad in the Chicago Tribune, denying that he had ever taken part in the secret ceremonies by which mob members are initiated as "made guys." The ad invited anyone hearing of criminal activity on his part to call the FBI. But Lombardo did acknowledge on the witness stand Wednesday that he once posed as a mobster to pressure a St. Louis lawyer to pay old debts he owed to Allen Dorfman, the Chicago insurance man who ran the mammoth Teamsters Central States Pension Fund.

The fund was riddled with corruption in the era when it was operated by Dorfman, who himself was gunned down in gangland fashion shortly after he and Lombardo were convicted in the 1986 bribery conspiracy case.

Thanks to John Drummond

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